Stacked Deck.

In the evening, we play cards. For years, I had this inner narrative unspooling, about living on the edge of the wilderness, the cold a near constant companion for a good portion of the year. Now, returning from work to a chilly but not cold house, I remember keenly how that narrative began when I was a young woman, living in an uninsulated apartment, reading about polar expeditions.

The cold, indeed, makes us more alive. Too much cold, however, deadens us, too.

Our deck of cards has a few duplicates — additional sixes and eights and two Jacks of Diamonds. We have another, unpadded deck, but I have a particular fondness for this one that bends the rules and mixes our games in funny ways.

January. My inner narratives keep unwinding. Cold. Kids. Cats. Writing that nourishes my soul.

William Carlos Williams’ lines about this winter month:

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
                                  Play louder.
You will not succeed.

Happenstance. Here.

Greensboro, Vermont

Christmas Day, in a light, almost-a-cold-mist rain over a few inches of old snow, we took one of our favorite walks in Greensboro, on Nature Conservancy Land at Barr Hill. Flanked by old sugar maples, the path goes through former farm fields and among 19th century stone walls. So this walk feeds my desire for history and also for the cold rawness of today in our faces. We meet not a single soul, not even a crow.

At the top, the view is obscured by clouds, the lake with its summer pleasures of kayaking and swimming occluded by winter.

We may be at the edge of the world, but what does that mean anymore? In our family, we’ve had both wonderful and terrible Christmases. As we drive, we say, remember the time…?

On Christmas evening, we drive, my teenager at the wheel, in search of colored lights. I keep my own entirely adult cynicism to myself, my snarky thoughts about the crumbling American Empire and how long will the boondoggle of electricity keep flowing for us. Instead, I tease my oldest daughter about her headlights. Are the headlights even on? I ask.

In my book interviews, this fall and winter, I’ve repeated over and over, that, by happenstance, each of us arrive in a time and place. The few us walk a downtown street, beneath glowing lights. We pass a gleaming white BMW, its engine running, no sign of a driver. A little further, I stop and read a sign at a creche, acknowledging the small figurines are on unceded Abenaki land.

The rain keeps falling in little bits. The youngest navigates us home, through mist and darkness, despite the poor headlights.

(And thank you, Barre Montpelier Times Argus, for the great interview.)

The night is so cold

even in bed it keeps me

wide awake.”

— Buson

Tasting Snow.

Where we are now….

In fresh snow, I walk through the little neighborhoods around us. One man shovels snow. A few plow trucks hurry through. It’s nearing dinner, and streetlights are turning on, one by one, in the December twilight.

It’s been a week of phone calls and problems with no clear solutions, simply the inevitable change that comes to all our earthly doings. I’ve wandered on this walk without real intention, drifting away from chopping firewood and shoveling paths.

I turn a corner and see a house where I once bought sugaring equipment from a man who lived there. He’s passed on, and his wife sold the house and moved away. A family lives there now. Two little boys call at each other in the street. There’s no traffic about, and they’re standing beneath the streetlight. As I walk closer, I see their heads are back, and they’re catching falling snowflakes in their open mouths. Their voices are loud and excited about this small thing.

A man comes out and says, Get in the car. They get in the backseat of an idling car, and he drives away. Back at my house, my daughters have brought in the night’s firewood and swept the floor.

And because bell hooks was so amazing, another line from her:

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?

Auto Parts Store Revelation.

Photo by Molly S.

On my way home from work, I stop in at the auto parts store down the road from house and buy a set of wiper blades. I’ve known the manager there for years, in the way you know often someone in a small town, in bits and pieces. He must know me the same way, in snippets.

He disappears into the back, getting my parts. I stand there, looking thorough the plexiglass at the open shelves of boxes of parts. It’s a quiet moment in a long day. In that moment, I feel surrounded by utter opulence — the twinkling Christmas lights in the window, the balmy December air, and the simpleness of heading home to daughters and cats and home after a day at work.

When he returns, he asks if I want him to put on the blades. I glance out the window. The December rain has briefly paused. It’s nearing five, and pitch dark.

You mind? I ask.

He doesn’t. He has a young man working there, too, and asks him to come outside. This, he says, as he pulls off my ripped wiper, is how you do this.

And a few lines from bell hooks….

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” 

No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”… No woman has ever written enough.” 

Winter Things.

On the cow shed

A hard winter rain;

Cock crowing.”

— Buson

My daughter “relocates” a plastic pink flamingo. The prank is insanely refreshing to me. I’m on a long string of evening meetings, negotiating the adult world in all its complexities, and I surface now and then, checking back into the kid realm. She makes hot chocolate, complains about a lengthy reading assignment.

Early winter: ice over the compost bin. A red cardinal noshing at the feeder. The hard whack of an ax through firewood.

Here’s a link to my commentary in VTDigger.

Elmore, Vermont

Bits of Colored Glass.

Hardwick, Vermont

I step out in the morning dark to get kindling from the barn. I’m grateful for many things, but a hot hearth is high on my gratitude list. The sprawling cats concur.

In the night, snow has fallen, a cold wind blows, and winter has spread out her garments. She’s here to stay.

At Thanksgiving, my daughters asked why I didn’t stay in the Pacific Northwest, where I went to graduate school. One reason was that I missed the drama of New England’s seasons. On this late November morning, I remind myself of this love for Vermont, that the need for winter’s stillness and beauty is driven as deeply into my body and soul as May’s blue squill around my house.

Here’s a link to a radio show at WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, I did with my former US Attorney Christina Nolan, who appears in Unstitched — a woman I greatly admire.

And, a few lines from poet Adelaide Crapsey:

‘November Night’

Listen…

With faint dry sound,

Like steps of passing ghosts,

The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees

And fall.”