October 1.

I spend the better part of Saturday stacking wood, beginning bundled in a sweatshirt and hat, and quickly stripping to a tank top and shorts. A black cat wanders by and appraises my work which, admittedly, is uneven but certainly sufficient. I breathe in fresh sap, wet earth, dusty bark crumbles.

The month of September — all thirty days — disappeared in a few heartbeats. I’m still pulling in frost-choked parts of my garden, the dead lily stalks, putting away the clay fairy house in the rock garden my daughter made so many years ago.

Friday, I’m at a summit all day that brought together people, who, in one way or another, are enmeshed in healing from addiction. Here’s the thing: a few years ago, I never would have attended a summit like this, let alone speak to a large group. For years, I said nothing about my own struggles with addiction. But publishing Unstitched acknowledged in a very public way my own miserable struggles with drinking. Because I had written the book, I had to answer questions publicly about this, and I needed a surprising amount of time to acknowledge this, to really accept what this meant. But I heard — and I kept hearing — from people I both knew and complete strangers — about their struggles, or a friend or family member’s struggles.

The Rumi line I quote in Unstitched is “the wound is the place where light enters.” When I returned Friday evening, my daughter asked me why I go to these sad things. And it’s true; there’s such grief that’s shared. But now I understand that there’s my own grief — still much of it in a private place in my heart — but grief is our human commonality, too. The wound is what renders the light possible.

When I step out, three hot air balloons are rising.

Nearby the expo where the summit is held is a hair salon named The Rusty Clipper where I dropped off maple syrup wedding favors about twenty years ago. The father of the bride gave me a check. When the bride opened a box, she told me I had given her the wrong bottle — hearts instead of leaves, or leaves instead of hearts. I gave the check back to the father. I put the boxes back in my car. I buckled in my three-year-old and drove home. At home, I redid all the favors and drove back the next day. When I got the check again.

I stand there under the hot air balloons and wonder about that bride whose name I’ve long since forgotten. Then I follow the crescent moon home over the mountains as the light gives way to twilight.

Here we are…

Above pretty much sums up where we are now. 23 years into this parenting gig, it’s now me and the teen, and if a housecat has moved into a box on the kitchen table for the winter? Well, so be it. And the other cat refuses to drink water except on the kitchen sink? Well, so be that, too.

As a young mother, I read a literal library of parenting advice and made a trillion mistakes. I take my (diminished) reading time much more seriously these days. I continue to make mistakes. And I’ve decided the cats are fine companions, even on the table.

In so many versions of my previous life, this wouldn’t fly. Now, listening to Biden talk about his proclaimed End of the Pandemic, I wonder, What’s all that about? Who gets to decide what, anyway, and why believe anyone else when your experience doesn’t jive?

Rain comes down in buckets. A friend gives us a bucket of apple drops. I cook bacon in the oven and buy the best loaf of bread I can find for our dinner. Our tomato and basil plants are still churning out their delectables. Sure, winter is in the near offing. Much more than winter, too. Our cat is the happiest creature I’ve ever loved. We offer him drops of milk on our fingertips, licks of butter from a smooth silver knife, tender kisses on his head.

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down
into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot

— William Carlos Williams

Found Sign: Enjoy this life.

Late on a Friday night, I’m reading on the couch when my oldest calls. There’s no heat, yet, in her apartment. The evening is tinged with near frostiness. I’ve returned home from an interstate drive in the darkness, thinking over the pieces of my manuscript. In my imagination, I see Lena, my main character, with her emerald green haircut.

A half-moon rises in the darkness as I drive along the Connecticut River. These days — long days — I’m grateful for these imposed breaks, for the opportunity to see the moon rise along an unfamiliar horizon, to stop before a church and read the congregation’s exhortation: Enjoy this life.

My dear cats are sprawled before our glowing wood stove. Listening to my daughter reminds me of my mother — our spunk and sassy irreverence and love of flowers — but my daughter is utterly herself. I close Beth Macy’s Raising Lazarus, and our conversation unfolds over the few miles between us. September, and the swimming season has passed. I hope for decades ahead to see what my daughter makes of her life. For now, this September evening.

... I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet...
Hayden Carruth

Moisture.

Rain begins falling yesterday evening and falls all night. Through the open windows, the wet scent of soil drifts into our house. The cats sit on the sills, a little confused apparently by the breeze and wet.

For whatever reason, I wake remembering a visit to the emergency room with one of my daughters a number of years ago. I had wait for my then-husband to pick me up, and my little girl and I sat in the empty waiting room. It was night by then. My daughter slept in my lap. The nurse on duty was a mother in a parenting group that we had both participated in a few years before. Her daughter was in school then, and she had long ago ceased having any weekday morning free. We spoke for a little while, and she gave me a bottle of cold water to drink. It was June and hot, and the water was delicious. Such a small thing, remembered so many years later. Doubtlessly, she’s forgotten it.

This rain has the same deliciousness — tinged with fall, yes, but watering my dry garden. Summer’s gone. We’re in the season of red maple leaves.

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face…

By Don Paterson

Flight.

In the inky pre-dawn Next Mexico morning, my brother and I head back to the Santa Fe airport. He’s done this thing that somehow never hit my consciousness — rented a car like an Air BNB — which has been incredibly helpful. The sunrise spreads over the horizon, more golden than pink, while the three of us stand talking in the parking lot for just a moment. My brother hands over the keys, and then that’s done. The car’s owner leaves.

My brother and I have time. We can walk through the one-room Santa Fe airport in about three minutes — maybe six, including security. A half moon hangs above us. We kick around words for the phases of the moon, and he teases me, again, about what he claims is my overuse of the word gibbous in my first novel. As the wide Santa Fe sky morphs from black to blue, Orion fades.

On the short flight to Denver, my brother and I are separated by a few rows, each of us peering out the window at the Jemez mountains. We’re back in that enormous flow of airline travel, so many people going so many places, all that fuel and pollution eating up the planet. Not very long ago, people remained on the earth. But for these moments, suspended thousands of miles above the planet, I glimpse my brother and I as separate people but indelibly part of this great human stream, traveling to visit our old parents. Around us, everyone moves through their lives and stories.

The pilot ferries us above the mountains and through the clouds. As I walk into the airport, I say thank you, and I mean it.

Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

Sunday, we drive across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. There, the mountains are much taller and rugged than Vermont’s shorn down ridges. I grew up (mostly) in New Hampshire, and granite in boulders and quarried slabs is as familiar to me as my kitchen knives.

I sit in the backseat, knitting, and all the way there and all the way back, I have the strangest sensation of a sewing needle linking these two states and the pieces of my life — girlhood and young motherhood and the cusp I’m on again as my fledglings head off gleefully into the wild. In New Hamsphire, we meet my brother for lunch in a leisurely way, nothing serious, batting around trips and ideas, family stories. We sit outside in the shade. As we leave, he tips back his head and says, What perfect weather.

We return home with tiny cheesecakes in jars, a few groceries, a kind of sleepiness and fullness from the drive. We’re back in time to feed the hungry housecats their early dinner. In the garden, I pull up some gone-by marigolds and cucumber vines. Working, I think of all these little bits and pieces of our lives, how I often struggle to put these together. And yet, sometimes, how our lives are sewn together, as if miraculously. End of August. And now onto what I hope is a long sweet autumn.

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman’s laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children’s voices in bright air–these things will never change.

— Thomas Wolfe