I began planting mammoth sunflowers years ago because I wanted flowers in my garden to tower over my children. There’s an old photo I have of my toddler walking barefoot among enormous stalks. I planted a veritable swath of sunflowers this spring. Late summer is the pay-off season, when the first of these blossoms open. The first head is so enormous it can’t really do its follow-the-sun heliotrope deal — but its flower siblings shift all day.

One fall, a number of years back, I had just two of these beauties, so much taller than myself. After the snow fell and the birds cleaned every scrap of seed, I cut off the dried blossom and propped it on a ceiling beam. The sunflower remained there all winter.

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower…

Galway Kinnell

4th on the 2nd.

In the town’s Funky Fourth parade on July 2, tractors joined with antique cars. A man stood on a tractor with a red I Dissent shirt. I stood at the edge of the town green, watching, filled with my own kind of dissent. And yet… the morning unfolded into an afternoon of free ice cream and cookies, an auction to raise funds for Ukrainian children, and hours of chatting outside.

That, perhaps, sums up where we are now. At the end of the day, I came home with local cheese — gratis — and a fresh list of stories.

Happy Independence Day weekend, for whatever that means these days…

Succor of Apple Trees.

Five years ago I sold a house with an old apple tree in the front yard. The house I bought had a young small apple tree that not even a child could climb. This morning, five years later, I climbed into the tree. The hot day is cool there, the leaves rippling in a breeze, the unripe apples hard knots.

A week of such national chaos. However your political affinities lie, the reversal of Roe V. Wade and the January 6 hearings inevitably trickle to all of us, shaking what seems like a national consciousness utterly unified, unmoored, adrift.

Hence, my apple tree. I’ll just leave this here.

“What seems real one moment is fiction the next and gone out of existence the moment after that. Nostalgia is the greatest enemy of truth, and change our only constancy.”

— David Budbill

Gardening and Letting It Garden.

I’ve given over sections of my garden to seed this year — or blossoms more accurately. Carrots left unharvested from last year’s crop sprout into green feathers. These remain, overshadowing this year’s celery. Forgotten onions turn stalky, their tiptops bristly with imminent seeds.

In this year, perhaps, why not?

Our family of four is now two. The constant meals I once made are different now, with the two of us working and busy in our own ways. The Jonny-jump-ups take over the paths. Forget-me-nots have finally rooted in a corner. Cucumbers nestle beneath sunflowers. Tomatoes and basil and onions, Love Lies Bleeding, sweet peas and Sugar Anns.

Birds dart in and out, settle among the leafy chamomile, perch on the garden fence. The foxes have not devoured all the groundhogs, but the groundhog has not devoured my garden — at least not yet. Stray cats wander through. The man with the scary dog remains on the cemetery side of the fence. The turkey vultures, of course, adhere to no boundaries, save their own.

The short summer night.

The dream and real

Are same things.

~ Takahama Kyoshi

Odd Call.

My phone rings with a number I don’t recognize. On the other end, the caller and I begin to piece together a message I may or may not have left, tracing an odd connection between two people with the same common name.

It’s late afternoon. I’m home from work, bacon sizzling in the oven, my daughter washing her hands at the sink. The cats are pawing their bowls, finishing their early dinner, wondering what might be next.

For a moment, I’m suspended in this interesting conversation with a pleasant voice, remarking on the strange coincidences in our small town world.

It seems to be nothing more. Afterwards, when I’ve hung up and headed out to my garden to cover against possible frost, I keep thinking about that call. In an odd way, the pandemic suspended the once normal world. There’s plenty of just lousy stuff that’s happening and still happening in our world (and likely always will). Then, this: random bits of politeness. Sunshine in May. Blossoms.


Driving down the heart of Vermont today, I hear an ecologist on public radio explaining how trapping beavers altered our landscape. Something that seems so simple and petty — a craze for beaver hats — changed the flow of water, the flora and fauna, and human transportation, too. As a kid, we made tiny birch bark canoes in grade school. Birch bark canoes were once a kind of Volkswagen for people who lived in Vermont. Serious water flowed over this landscape then.

I drive along the Connecticut River. Eventually, I just pull over and admire where I am. So much green. Such an infinity of shades, and all that water, flowing steadily to the sea.

Our world smells of lilac these sweet days.

I’m parked near an abandoned brick mill, in a town that has seen more vibrant days. The temperature may hit 90 this weekend — in May! in Vermont! — and no one in a rational frame of mind can claim this is right.

But yet….. here I am by the side of this great river, the mountains rising on the other side, the leaves leafing out in summer beauty. I’m in a shifting place in my own tiny life, my youngest nearly grown. Which way this will go, I have no idea, but I’m here, breathing in the humid lilac air, for this moment at least in no rush at all.

Lilacs in dooryards

Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;

Lilacs watching a deserted house

Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom

Above a cellar dug into a hill.

You are everywhere

~ Amy Lowell