Me, the Mother, Grimacing

Sunday morning, my daughter drives on icy roads to meet a friend to ski. In the passenger seat, I grimace. There’s no more polite way to reveal my actions: I’m grimacing. My daughter — perfectly capable, but my God, she’s 15, driving on icy roads.

She intends to be driving thus for decades to come, without me, of course, grimacing away in the passenger seat.

We head over the mountain and down along the river where the roads improve. Driving, she talks to me, as if the steering wheel has loosened her natural reticence. She laughs and confides, there’s just so much you don’t need to know.

Oh, my Queen of Economy. Wise and experienced beyond your years.

On the way home, we stop for coffee, and I drive while she eats and talks and plays country music that, good lord again, I’m becoming quite fond of.

Who knows will happen next year, this summer, this spring, this very week — goodness, even this afternoon with so much yet spread out before us? For this moment, here we are.

On the way home, I pull over, hand her the keys, and knock off the grimacing.

Coyotes feed themselves on gaunt dreams of spring. 

— David Budbill, “March”

East Burke, Vermont


Coyotes howled along the brook by the log yard last night as I walked home in the dark, hurrying in the cold that gnawed my face.

Ten below zero this morning. In the deep cold, smoke curls up from our neighbors’ chimney. My long love affair with Vermont strangely deepens in these days as friends fly out for school break to other places: warm Caribbean waters or hot Florida sands.

Inexorably, the days lengthen on either end, the palest of blue in the mornings, shades of violet and rose in the evenings. At dinner, we think of those tulip and crocus bulbs buried deep in the earth, secreted beneath snow, patient, patient, even as the earth spins its slow way toward March.

I thought that there was only ever a thing and its opposite, and nothing in between. In writing this book I have come to believe in this far less than I did when I started. Unraveling and unlearning this split logic is crucial to justice, I think, and it is crucial to love — loving a person, community, or most of all perhaps, a place, which may turn out to be the same thing.

— Emma Copely Eisenberg, The Third Rainbow Girl


Photo by Molly S.

Autumn: Coyotes Howling

Last night, reading in bed with the windows open, I heard a pack of coyotes yipping 0n the forested hill behind our house. Abandoning my book, I lay with my eyes closed, listening to the way those wild creatures howled, throaty and jagged, as if biting each other’s calls.

Slipping downstairs, I passed my younger daughter’s room where she slept with her friend, the two of them twined in one bed, their breathing a whispery draw and release. I walked out into the Vermont rural dark, so heavy I saw the lights of the neighbors across the road as a handful of pearly light in tree branches. The hydrangeas, fragrant, faintly glowed in my window’s diffuse light. The coyotes cut into the night, two packs in the wooded hill behind the house and garden, the beasts wholly bodiless to me in the night, my heartstrings thrumming with their calls.

This evening, my older daughter returned from walking in the dusk and said the packs were howling again, not down in the valley where we’ve heard them for years,  but far closer to our house. I asked if she was afraid. She said, It’s a little scary to hear the coyotes so close, but at the same time, I can’t help listening.

We talked a little about the back and forth calling, the mystery of sound from these hidden creatures, and then she said, It’s beautiful.

We shall not cease from exploration
And then end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

–– T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

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Burlington, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

Coyote Song

My book is headed to galley printing on Wednesday; hence, the last minute flurry of rereading and tweaking — is this quite right?  Can I hone this better?  This chapter, here in its entirety, is Fern one Christmas morning, about as far from this day as possible.  Tonight, so near the solstice, the windows are wide open, a breeze tossing in the maple leaves, the chittering robins presumably sleeping.  There’s an awful lot of snow in this novel.  I mean, an awful lot.  A Vermont book.  Tomorrow, back to my garden.

Chapter 6

Late in the night, I woke.

Tansy cried.

I lifted my sobbing child from her crib and pressed her against my shoulder, humming a tuneless wordless ditty. Her body shook fiercely with distress. Hal’s feet clumped down the stairs. A light glowed from the living room below, and, caressing my daughter’s silky head, I thought of the heat from the woodstove whooshing up the staircase, fleeing into the frozen night through the ceiling of this plank-built uninsulated second floor. Through the window, stars hung in the nightsky, forever distant.

The little girl calmed, wrapped in a blanket and my arms. Her shuttering, gasping breath gradually quieted into sleep. Then I heard a sound I thought at first was an orchestra broadcast from outdoor speakers, as if a DJ had arrived: a trumpeting I mistook on this Christmas morning for Handel’s religious music. Then I thought perhaps it was the ancient sea, dolphins or whales, their voices raised in holy harmony. None of this was so: coyotes howled down the hill, somewhere near the sugarhouse. In the great ocean of night, I couldn’t see them, but I sensed their muzzles were raised to the cold sky, howling in long chimes, one into another and another, and another. With only the little bit of light trickling up the stairs and the stars icy bits, my slumbering child growing heavy in my tired arms, I leaned our weight back on my heels, entranced by the loveliness of this Christmas morning wild serenade.  And like that, the coyotes ceased, and the farmhouse was mute again.

Photo by Molly S.

Photo by Molly S.