A Little Meal

A 13-year-old or so boy is fishing at the edge of the pond when my friend and I walk down in the evening to swim. He nicely shuffles to one side, and then we’re off.

The evening sky this summer has been especially enchanting — muted in color, pale peach sky with gentle blue.When we’re finished swimming and laughing, we stand for a moment on the weedy shore, and I point out a luna moth dipping and rising — part of the evening charm, like an Impressionist painting. Suddenly, a bird pursues the moth, then swallows it. A ragged wing falls.

And so much for the make-believe world.

Poem for America.

I was pruning the rose bushes along our house, pressed up against the clapboards, when I had the strangest feeling that I had stepped into a snapshot collage of my life: thorn, blood, house, half-hidden, wet moss under my knees, a cat bird screeching in the lilacs. This morning, I’m wearing a bulky sweater. Oh, Vermont July, how I love you.

Every year, my daughters and I end up in some lengthy discussion about the Fourth of July. This year, as if jointly agreeing to avoid words, we ate ice cream and lit sparklers after dark. The fireflies blinked, in their own particular journeys.

Here’s a poem in its entirety from Tony Hoagland’s Twenty Poems That Could Save America:

Even if the geraniums are artificial

Just the same,

In the rear of the Italian café

Under the nimbus of electric light

They are red; no less red

For how they were made. Above

The mirror and the napkins

In the little white pots . . .

. . . In the semi-clean café

Where they have good

Lasagna . . . The red is a wonderful joy

Really, and so are the people

Who like and ignore it. In this place

They also have good bread.”

“The Geraniums” by Genevieve Taggard

Hardwick, Vermont

Chaos, Roses, Life.

Friday morning, I’m washing the breakfast dishes when warm liquid runs over my bare toes. For the briefest moment, I think I’m standing in the edge of a warm ocean, and then I realize my kitchen sink drain has broken apart. Gallons of dishwater flow over the floor. 

I’ve cobbled the drain together before, but this time, I’ll actually need to fix it.

My daughter picks up a worried cat and assures him that, indeed, the drain will be fixed.

Midday, when I’ve finished work at my desk, I drive to the hardware store with a section of PVC. I’ve forgotten a mask; those cloths are at home, drying on the clothesline. I sigh, irritated. I have a six other things I want to do, besides drive around. 

But the thing is, I see a huge sign outside the store: masks are no longer required for the fully vaccinated. For the first time in however long, I walk into a store without a mask.

This has been a week of chaos. We all have these days or weeks, or maybe even decades. Who doesn’t? We’re humans, who live in a material world that’s constantly shifting (even if only incrementally) from well-put-together to chaos. The flip side, I suppose, is that sometimes we manage to arrange chaos back to order.

As in my kitchen sink: after dinner, I wash the dishes, and no flood alarms the cats.

By evening, I haven’t bought to tickets from Vermont to New Mexico to visit my parents, as I’m unable to surmount the chaos of the airline world. I haven’t eradicated my fears about my 16-year-old, driving around, heading into the adult world in what’s practically a heartbeat. The woodchucks are still doggedly determined to rise up around my gardening realm.

From the tangle of rosebushes someone planted long ago, I clip a single blossom. A thorn pricks my thumb, and a thin line of blood wells up. I touch the blossom to my blood and wipe my thumb clean.

Vermont Respite

While the daughters tie their kayaks on roof racks, I sit in the grass, keeping company with hungry bumblebees in the rhododendrons.

This hardy plant is doing its thing now, a visual symphony of color.

Spring crickets, garden soil under my toenails, pond water in my hair. And still, early June.

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.

Gretel Ehrlich

Sweet June

Summer in Vermont is so brief that every day matters — or maybe that’s just me, and my own particular worries.

Early Saturday morning and the day stretches ahead. Planting in the garden before the rain. Work emails to answers. A grant project to review. Read on the porch.

A few lines from the incomparable Walt Whitman:

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,

Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love . . .

Small Growth

Seed by seedling, I plant the garden, using my shovel and trowel, my two well-loved tools. The songbirds and the flickering pollinators keep me company in the garden.

In breaks, I read Jessica Goudeau’s After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America. This well-written book tells the story of two women, and their families, in places faraway from Vermont.

Meanwhile, in Vermont’s sweet spring, the state rushes along to vaccinate its population, taking vaccination buses on the road, meeting people at beaches and schools, offering free ice cream cones.

In the hardware store, I buy sunflower seeds. Standing outside, I chat with an acquaintance who removes her mask and tells me, You know, if you’re vaxxed, you really don’t need these anymore.

She looks at her mask and then puts it back on again. I feel naked, she says.

It’s 80 degrees. I take mine off and head home to plant those flowers.

But the greatest danger Obama identified was a ‘test of our common humanity — whether we give in to suspicion and fear and build walls, or whether we see ourselves in one another.’

— Jessica Goudeau