Small, Good Things.

A friend and I drive to a nursery on a back road in Plainfield, VT, through fields that seem impossibly green. The trees have barely begun to bud. I buy a snowdrift crabapple tree there. The tree is so tall that my friend and I spend some time carefully nudging it into the back of my Subaru.

I’ve met the staff on my annual pilgrimage there. They all speak quietly, as if our words might disturb the rows of potted currents and grapes. I ask again for planting advice. As I listen, I suddenly realize I’ve gone at this tree planting and cultivating thing all wrong. Beneath my trees, I should create a forest garden of duff and broken up straw and that humus-y compost that plants must love like chocolate. Daffodils bloom in the gardens beneath their trees.

I expect the staff has told me this before, but for whatever I reason I didn’t listen, or their advice drifted the way of so many words.

All the way home and all afternoon, I keep thinking about these woodland gardens and about a Raymond Carver story, “A Small Good Thing.” Two years plus into the pandemic, in this jumbled world, a small good thing….

That night, my teenager comes home and suggests we get a creemee. Friday night, and there’s no one out. We stand under the moon, licking ice cream cones, the peeper screeching in the swamp behind the pizza joint. A small good thing.

Daffodils: Verb?

I’ve been a patient at numerous Planned Parenthoods, in three different states, since I was a young woman. These days, I keep remembering a nurse practitioner I met in Bellingham’s Planned Parenthood. I had waited a long time. It was a very hot afternoon. Dust blew in through the open window. She apologized as she washed her hands and simply said it had been a busy day.

I was in my early twenties, had brought a book to read, and I didn’t care.

The staff at Planned Parenthood gave me information I needed when no one else did. This was information and advice that shaped my entire adult life. I was never turned away — even when I had nothing to offer as payment — never denigrated, never treated coldly. My oldest daughter is now the age I was that afternoon. In those young optimistic days, I believed inherently in progression. I didn’t see then that history repeats itself, turns back and bites the same wounds.

In this sunny, hopeful month of May — daffodils. Maybe I’ll think of this as a verb, not a noun: daffodilling.

Running.

Fisher Railroad Bridge, Wolcott, VT

Twice in one Friday, I’ve met acquaintances from long ago — the first at the coffee shop, the second at the transfer station. Now, having lived here for thirty years, I run into people who I’ve known in the past — maybe not well — but I know deep parts of their stories. I wonder what parts of my life they remember — and if I remember my story as they do.

On the way back from the transfer station, I stop along Route 15 and admire the Fisher bridge, the last of the covered railroad bridges in Vermont. Such effort went into building this infrastructure, and it was used for such a comparatively short time.

Because I’m wearing my running shoes, I follow the graveled rail bed. I cross the highway and follow the former track bed behind the lumber yard that smells sweetly of sap and freshly milled boards. There’s no one around on the rail bed at all. I run on the path right beside the river. The river is wide and slow moving, relatively tame for April. We’ve had little rain and less snow. I chance upon a pair of nesting ducks, and the mallard leads me away. I imagine in the heat of July how lovely it might be to swim across this water.

I stop to catch my breath. It’s me and the glossy mallard and the breezy cold afternoon. I wonder if we’re pulling out of the pandemic, truly. The brisk late afternoon takes my wondering and tosses it downstream. Eventually, I turn around and head back to wherever it is I need to be.

“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.” 

~ Mark Twain

Wildflowers. String.

Five Aprils ago, I was looking for a house for my daughters and me. In a nearby town, on a weekday afternoon, I climbed over a chainlink fence separating an empty house from a town cemetery. The fence spikes ripped the back of my leggings. I was on my way to the library where I was working, and I wore those torn leggings for the remainder of the day. I still have those leggings. I wear them when I paint, and they’re now stained with patches of lemon yellow.

When I walked behind the house, I discovered tiny blue quill — spring flowers I didn’t know. The house was surrounded by those flowers and the promise of profuse lilacs in June.

I bought the house in 2017, although it wasn’t until the pandemic nailed down that the house began to feel truly ours. We are not a rowdy family of nine. We are a family of three and now two housecats.

The thing about spring is — turn around and it’s there, quietly, blooming in some unexpected way.

Look at the silver lining, they say.

But what if, instead,

I pluck it off

and use that tensile strand to bind

myself to those things I do not 

want to lose sight of.

“Notions” by Paula Gordon Lepp

Sun. Rain Moving In.

These April days, suddenly full with light rushing back. I’m up early, getting things done, putting order into the messiness of my life. Does it make a difference? Who knows? Still, we need to eat. We wash up. Teen does homework. The songbirds and turkey vultures return in force. Now, blue herons fly over my house every day, from the reservoir to the pond near my friend’s house. I think, what if a heron dropped a note or a homemade donut? How cool would that be? But the herons fly on, way cooler than our little human minds.

Here’s a cool poem, though:

Over the Weather – Naomi Shihab Nye, 

We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds

but it’s up there.The sun’s up there too.

When words we hear don’t fit the day,
when we worry
what we did or didn’t do,
what if we close our eyes,
say any word we love
that makes us feel calm,
slip it into the atmosphere
and rise?

Creamy miles of quiet.
Giant swoop of blue.

Promise.

Hurray! A whole day (Covid card and mask required) devoted to a workshop at Jenna’s Promise. I haven’t been to a full gathering in, well, about two years. The workshop was about the future of recovery in the Green Mountain State.

One of the key speakers lifted a blue vase. Her daughter, now passed away from an overdose, had brought home the vase from India. The vase had broken in her luggage on the return flight, and it had sat on a shelf in pieces. The speaker raised the vase and explained how her grandson had suggested they repair the vase with super glue. Together, they mended the beautiful vessel.

The thing about this audience — the recovery crowd — is that the rose-colored glasses have long since shattered for everyone in the room. Any wet eyes are likely to be from tears — from sorrow or laughter — either is likely. Hardly any rational human would disagree that the pandemic broke our world where it was already ailing. While I’ve long since relinquished any belief in magic, I do know the power of super glue. And I do know what’s broken can sometimes be repaired.

(And, I heard the inimitable Johann Hari read….)

April. Spring. Robins mudding those fat-walled nests.

“It isn’t the drug that causes the harmful behavior—it’s the environment. An isolated rat will almost always become a junkie. A rat with a good life almost never will, no matter how many drugs you make available to him…. Addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you—it’s the cage you live in.” 

— Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream