Mundane Moment

On a sunny spring Friday afternoon, I’m outside a St. Johnsbury car dealership, waiting for a recalled part to be replaced on my car.

A warm breeze blows up and drifts dust over my keyboard.

90 minutes later, I’m finished, and stop in the downtown. The doors of all the businesses are open. I wander into the bookstore, lift a book, and read — a casual gesture in a public space that I may not have done for a year, or more.

I open a book of poetry randomly and read:


You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign

Ellen Bass

I have the strangest rush through my body, a tingling all the way down to my fingers.

On my way home, I stop in at a store and buy mayonnaise and two avocados at my daughter’s request. I walk out holding these things, blinking in the hot sunlight.

In the parking lot, a woman driving a pickup rolls down her window and remarks about the lovely weather, saying how happy she will be to get home. I nod, and we talk for a moment.

When she’s left, I stand with those things in my hands, on this ordinary afternoon, doing this ordinary errand. Someday, not too far off, this daughter will be out sourcing her own mayonnaise.

Our quarantine with Covid has likely turned my hair irretrievably to gray. So be it. Our lives were never meant to stay burnished and unblemished. I stand there, suddenly amazed at my good fortune, and then I head home for BLTs.

Photo by Gabriela S./Barr Hill, Greensboro, VT

Squall Survival

Driving home in the crepuscular light, as I approach Woodbury Lake the sky shimmers violet, dusk refracted through snow squalls. I’m mesmerized by the voices on Vermont Public Radio — I cede two minutes to the gentlewoman from Wherever State — and I don’t turn off the radio as I head into the squalls.

Almost immediately I can’t see the edges of the road. I’m not even sure where to turn off, so I keep driving. Somewhere ahead, in that squall or on the other side of it, my daughters are waiting. As I drive, I keep hoping they’re not driving, that they’re safely home, baking muffins and playing music.

It’s not just me driving slowly — we’re all creeping along. The UPS truck has marooned in a driveway, flashers blinking. That last steep, curving downhill, through the Woodbury gulf, seems to take forever. At the end, there’s just snow, snow, snow. At home, my daughters have the lights on, the Christmas tree sparkling through the window. I gather my backpack and head up the path.

Whirling snow and darkness: that winter mystery.

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

“The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass

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