Sunset, Skunk, State Police

Before I leave work yesterday afternoon, I stack piles of papers labeled with stickies in my scrawled handwriting — a roadmap for myself for the next day’s work.

Outside, the sunset is crazy beautiful.

I drive home, listening to VPR. The governor has sent the state police to lodging establishments, in an attempt to crack down on quarantine requirements. My brother, in New Hampshire, appears to be sealed off from us, in a sea of Covid.

At home, my 15-year-old dreads the thought of another lock-down, like last spring. But it’s not April 2020 in Hardwick, Vermont. In November, unlike in April, Covid is among us, in the schools, among people we know.

In the evening, my friend and I walk around town in the dark. The long bar in Positive Pie is empty, save for the barkeep at the far end, his head bent over his phone. At the high school, we walk down a wooden flight of stairs to the soccer field that a group of volunteers recently built. In the field’s center, we gaze up at all those stars, the Milky Way arched over the firmament.

Back at my house, we stand in the driveway, talking, talking, in the unusually warm November evening. A skunk ambles around the neighbors’ house — a normality I can embrace — although, after a few moments, I back up and head into my house for the night, where my daughters are planning to make tiramisu for Thanksgiving.

I wish I could invite all of you…..

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.” 


― John Steinbeck

Photo by Gabriela

Walking

Rural Vermont is often (and embarrassingly) a car culture. So walking along the railbed yesterday, it was a pleasure to walk from one village to another — a great big expedition from Hardwick to East Hardwick, along the river and through the forest.

It was a reminder for me that walking from one world to another is an ancient method, and that slowing down and looking at the sky and the river current are meaningful parts of life, too, especially in good company.

We’re somewhere in October, the days marching along towards the election and winter. Take the time to lift up a curious stone and see what’s beneath — a centipede, a tiny pebble, or the loose and sweet-smelling dirt.

Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.


― Rebecca Solnit

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Homework

In the evening, with the windows open to the crickets’ songs, my daughters sit on the couch, doing homework together, while I read about the 1918 pandemic and knit.

Half-listening, I hear my daughters figure out the answer to a chemistry question, googling definitions. Decades beyond my own high school science classes, I’m no good here. Inevitably, these discussions always remind me of my adolescent years — well before google — when my father was the in-house reference for anything from trigonometry to weird geography questions.

Not so, in this house. I advise the girls to call my brother.

But as I listen, I realize they’re piecing through an interesting problem about change on the molecular level, and my youngest notes that change is the one constant.

It’s a particularly poignant observation for a 15-year-old, and I lay down my knitting and take a walk in the darkness around our house.

This week — heck, these months — seem filled with stories of people around me whose lives are in upheaval. These are all people I know and care about, in varying degrees. I keep thinking how, on a political level, so much misery is caused by exploiting the weakness of others. So, too, in our own personal levels, where so much of our energy often jockeys for a position of strength, betraying a marriage, a confidence, a professional relationship.

Meanwhile, change is the one constant. Surely, if nothing else, that could be a theme for 2020.

And yet, perhaps, it’s not.

In the darkness, I stand near the woodpile, breathing in the scent of sap and fresh wood, of damp soil turned up. Our cat sits on the windowsill, peering out at me. Overhead, the Milky Way spreads across the sky. My daughters’ voices drift through the screen, figuring out their answers, laughing a little — for the moment — happy.