Digging Deeply, Vermont Cold Soil

Returning home in the dark, much later in the night than we usually do, my 19-year-old grabs her camera and insists on walking through the dark. She wants a picture of the little white lights she sees from her window at night — where, she’s not exactly sure.

All afternoon, we’ve been in and out of the house and barn in the thin autumn sunlight, shoveling compost and carrying buckets of potatoes and beets. The 13-year-old and I played soccer in bare feet on the cool grass. The 19-year-old baked a cake. Her younger sister gave her curious cat a bath in the kitchen sink.

Like many people I know, my life is jammed with scrawled lists, with dates on the calendar, with attention given to work and money and house and cars — with gardening, with worrying about kids, seeing friends, making sure my desk has a pile of library books. Much of this is pleasant and joy-giving, and some of it — particularly the middle-of-the-night angst of what the hell am I doing with my mortal life — just erodes your soul.

As an antidote, simply this.

In the late afternoon, I snap off kale leaves. Overhead, geese honk — eight birds, followed by five more — calling, arranging themselves in flight, flying so low I hear the whoosh of their wings, as they press on their journey, south and away.

Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.

— Barbara Kingsolver