Quiet Day

Pea soup with scraps of leftover ham bubbled on our stove all day — a weekday more like a Sunday. Walking through town, I met no one.

At the end of the holiday school break, I head out before dinner to empty the compost pail in the bin. Amazingly, the afternoon is light yet, not dim as the afternoons were not long before the holiday. I stand there for a moment, watching wet snowflakes twirl down, the snow and I heedless of any time.

A radiance rises from the snow-covered town cemetery just behind my garden, bright despite the granite stones.

More so than other years, this holiday my daughters and I seemed to have rounded that bend from the divorce. Maybe it’s nothing more than the distance of time and physical space. Maybe it’s simply that time doesn’t cure, but it does scab over. Oddly this season, I kept thinking of Mary Oliver’s line about her box of darkness, and how that, too, was a gift. Maybe that’s part of this whole holiday season, too: that light does, inevitably, come of darkness, always.

Happy wishes for another decade of living: 2020.

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.

— Mary Oliver


Geographical Balm

We moved two-and-a-half years ago, and only now does our house seem to feel worn in as a house should — both with memories and simply day-to-day use. While I’m a huge fan of tradition — like camping on the same lake every summer — this holiday I had an incredible need to mix it up, do something different. There’s three of us now when there were once four.

We left, just for a night, with a single cat feeding required, and didn’t even go far — a little more east in Vermont where there was even less snow. I was looking for a break from work and school, for talking together in the same darkened room before sleeping, for exploring a different place with no looming deadline of time.

Interestingly, the unexpected part was the pleasure in returning home, to our warm house and our cats and the patterns we’d left behind. That, perhaps, was worth the trip alone.

… writing is a way of making sense of the world, a way of processing — of possessing — thought and emotion, a way of making something worthwhile out of pain.

— Emilie Pine, Notes to Self



Two parents once came up to me after a school board meeting and thanked me profusely. They felt so much better. At the time, I thought I hadn’t done anything. No decision had been made. But I had done something. I had simply let them talk; I listened; I empathized.

Recently, I emailed my former neighbors — rabidly, on the attack — and asked how dare they employ my ex-husband? How dare they pay him cash when he hasn’t paid child support in years? I expected my former neighbors to be defensive and angry, but, instead, the email I received back was kind and thoughtful and incredibly insightful. They’ll likely keep employing him, but at that point, I didn’t even care. Their empathy for me had opened up my heart to be empathetic for their plight, too.

What makes me remember this on a breezy autumn is maybe nothing but my own unhappiness about the adult world, both in general and in particular. Recently, I realized with the work I’m doing now, I could actually pack up and take a geographical cure from my immediate adult world, head somewhere else to work for the next four months. Like, perhaps, a desert cave.

Bad idea, I think. Those former neighbors and I have finally made our peace, and this one is likely to be lasting.

On a withered branch
A crow has alighted:
Nightfall in autumn

— Basho


Spring in the Body

After a day inside, a flock of geese flies north over my head while I’m at a gas station, standing in a few sprinkles of rain, breathing the damp, soon-to-snow air.


The birds flap steadily. I’m too near the interstate and Route 100, crazy with commuter traffic, to listen for honking. But for that immeasurable moment, it’s just me and the geese — none of what so often consumes me: the steady thrum of work, the wild sprawl of my family’s emotions, the incessant chatter of my own thoughts.

River valley, snow-crested mountains, those little tepid raindrops falling on my face, wet breeze, myself: the collective body of us beckon spring. The geese wing over the river, imperturbably.

This dewdrop world
Is a dewdrop world,
And yet, and yet . . .

— Issa

Photo by Molly B.



February Yields To March

The snow lies so deeply around our house I might be wrong about that slender path, first through the transplanted hydrangeas from Susan and then along the milkweed behind the garden. Down the hill, through the wild tangle of pine and boxelder, I see a single porch light every night. Come spring, I imagine, I’ll walk in my boots through the melting snow, stand at the edge of the forest, and see whose light that is.

The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter….

(The earth) says begin again, you begin again.

— Louise Gluck, from “March”

The cats — models of serenity.

Why Read?

February — surely the freaking longest month of the year in Vermont.

Unable to endure the unremittingness of winter, I’ve taken over the couch with my laptop and Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. Unableto tell my friends and library patrons about this book — as then I might be forced to hurry, hurry and read, read, to pass this novel along — I’m sunk down deep in this story. What to love? The book is the American road trip (and I’m a sucker for road trip stories, a veteran of innumerable mishaps along my own blue highway adventures), told by a mother who understands the importance of buying coffee for grownups and cookies for the kids, of unrequited lust, of a marriage bending, of the thrust of creative work, of how all those pieces fit and don’t fit together.

I slept on this couch for over a year after my husband left, unable to sleep in our former bed, the room we built with the balcony and double glass doors, the windows on three sides, the moon rising over my prolific garden. The couch, I discovered, was enormously comfortable, and the (former) marriage bed a possible remnant from the Middle Ages.

I purchased this book with library funds, with actual property tax dollars from the taxpayers in Woodbury, many of whom I know. When I’m finished with the novel, I’ll pass it along, happy to hand it over to my reading friends. But in the meantime, I spy many February days on the calendar remaining. I’m in no particular rush to finish. The brighter and warmer days of spring are most likely an illusion — and I’m hoping for a breathtaking ending to this novel…..

But the sea
which no one tends
is also a garden…

William Carlos Williams