More Summer

Every month might as well be a whole entire season in Vermont. August is the month of the best things — wood stacking and pickle canning, tart made from the first fruit from our tree, whipped cream, purring cats, and all this sunlight. Sure, we need rain, but in Vermont I can’t help but relish these days after days of sunlight. Early mornings, I work outside on the deck, the air chilly, drinking coffee, watching the rising sun pinken the horizon.

For a brief bit of time, I’m ignoring the math of counting down to autumn.

Saturday afternoon, my older daughter suggests eating tart before dinner. Why not? Really, why not?

So we do.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
— Seamus Heaney, from “Blackberry-Picking”

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And so it goes….

…. What day? What time?

My daughter — finally almost 15 and ready to get a driver’s permit — is marooned in closed-for-now-DMV land. Maybe in June? Meanwhile, DMV employees answer phones for unemployment questions.

Around a campfire in the evening, I step back in the house for a sweater and stand in our dining room. As the days grow longer, I’m losing track of time in the evenings, too. Many years ago, with little children, I was rigorous about bedtime. Now, we simply wear down and go to bed. It’s not all bad, but it comes as a surprise to me, this unmooring. Not at all like a vacation, our world grinds slower and slower, rooting us down into each day.

What will today bring?

On this day — I’m certain this is Sunday — that began with such a rosy sunrise, I’m hopeful for sunlight and gardening. Grape hyacinths are blooming.

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu.

Not-So-Secret Crush

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 11 a.m., like clockwork, I turn on Vermont Public Radio for the governor’s address. Sometimes my daughter takes a break from whatever high school endeavor she’s engaged in, and stops in the kitchen.

Are you actually listening? she asks.

Sometimes, raptly. Sometimes, I simply sink back into whatever email or work I’m doing. But I generally listen — and particularly listen to the commissioner of health, whom my daughters have taken to calling That Dr. Levine. Sometimes the press conference is jammed with news I’d rather not hear; the state’s unemployment rate is astronomical; Covid-19 seeped into a state prison.

But sometimes I laugh out loud — such as when Dr. Levine does a weekend shopping spot-check (although not frivolous, as he always buys an undisclosed item) and provides his estimated data about mask compliance by staff and shoppers. How much I’d love to see our state’s health commissioner standing in line with, say, a bag of oatmeal, calmly asking questions and dispersing info to fellow Vermonters.

Laugh on, daughters, but my older daughter shares that the doctors in the clinic where she works are all devoted Levine fans, too. Or maybe simply fans of adherence to science, honesty, calm in the face of despair and near panic, and steadfastness.

Here’s an article about free milk, farmers, and the Secretary of Agriculture — another reason I’m grateful to live in the Green Mountain State — despite the two inches of snow this morning.

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu.

Where We Are

One week into April, golden coltsfoot flowers — dime-sized — push up through roadside gravel. Every day and then again in the evening, we walk and explore, searching for frog eggs, for ribbons of green shoots pushing up through the forest floor.

The isolation is hardest on my teenager, who gets up every morning, soldiers away at her schoolwork, goes for a long run.

Implicitly, she understands. There’s no attempt to discuss the end of isolation, of the emptied-out town, of her abandoned high school. In these sunny, radiantly spring days, we progress.

Isolation pulled us down — almost immediately — to what matters, and, really, nothing else. Each day, accomplish some work. Share a meal. Pet our cats. Knit a few rows.

Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

— Philip Booth, “First Lesson”

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Growing Girls

Hurray! Youngest child returns from summer camp, tanned and happy — but slightly different, altered, a little older and knowing she’s older without an edgy kind of teenagerness….. She’s grown, simple as that. In the Vermont woods and on a lake, without her family around.

On the way home, her older sister wades into a field of wildflowers.

Weaving back and forth
Through the lines of wheat
A butterfly

— Sora

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Birthing Day

14 years ago I walked down to our sugarhouse in the early morning and leaned against the doors, a piece of me longing to remain there, static, still, until eternity. We never locked anything in those days. I was there to simply close the doors with an eyehook as we expected to be gone for a few days.

Unlike my first pregnancy, I knew at a certain point in my second pregnancy that this child would be born by caesarian. While I was leaning against the rough boards of those doors, my husband and 6-year-old daughter were breakfasting on oatmeal in the kitchen.

I was utterly unprepared to become a mother again. I hadn’t even begun to imagine names for this child — girl or boy, that morning we still didn’t know. But all pregnancies end, one way or another, as everything does in this world. On this 14thanniversary of my second birthing day, I’m always reminded of being on that extremely ancient and utterly contemporary world journey of motherhood, of bringing babes into this world, tending them, raising them, all the while gradually letting go. An infinity of mothers have passed through this earthly realm, and yet, what sacred largesse.

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