On the most perfect spring morning, I’m driving along route 107, a stretch of highway I’ve always loved that curves along the river. I’m listening to a This American Life story about two boys (and if you listen, listen all the way to the end, please), when the revision path for my novel abruptly unfolds before me, like a Jacob’s Ladder toy.

I’m in somewhat familiar territory, and so I pull over and scrawl down a few sentences. The day is suffused with dandelions and violets. I get a little lost to where I’m going, but not too lost. Later, I take a different road home, up route 100 along the White River Valley. Last year’s corn stubble patterns black fields that stretch to mountains where leaves freshen the gray with new green. The fruit trees are blossoming. I stop and finish the remains of my sandwich —pickles and sprouts and a coarse sharp mustard — keeping company with pink petals and pollinators.

My lunch companion remarked how a forest will do what a forest will. As I eat, I remember how poet David Budbill railed against writers taking themselves too seriously. He wrote, wrote hard, wrote productively, and revered the mystery of the imagination, the murkiness of creativity. His advice to writers, “Don’t think. Listen.”

On my way home, I listen to another This American Life story about a bird who sang to itself. I’m not making this up.

The Mail is a Real Thing.

Our post office box is crammed with mail. It’s been a few days, and I tug the mail out to see what’s there. Late afternoon, the PO has a steady stream of locals, some shuffling, others rushing. I take my turn at the table in the corner, chucking away what I didn’t request and don’t want, the sale flyers and offers. I keep a holiday card and the electric bill, The New Yorker. While I wait in line for two packages, the woman beside me strikes up a conversation about knitting hats and then we’re in the world of cables and color and yarn weight.

The PO is in the post office’s standard squat brick building, not at all quaint or cutesy. When staff changed over a few years ago, someone planted a flower garden in the front bed. By late summer, I kept admiring the flowering elecampane, taller than my head, bristly and mighty, a flower after my own heart. Late July is a long way off, but still. Elecampane is lodged in my garden plan.

“No two people knit alike, look alike, think alike; why should their projects be alike? Your sweater should be like your own favorite original recipes – like nobody else’s on earth. 
And a good thing too.” 

— Elizabeth Zimmerman

A few garden words…

Calendula, such a pretty word, such a marvelous little flower, still blossoming beneath the frost-killed sunflowers in my garden.

Late Sunday afternoon finds me piling fallen maple leaves around these beauties in my garden, tucking in the soil for a winter’s hibernation. There’s celery, yet, too, among the Brussels sprouts. As I work, I snip off celery leaves, dusting off sandy soil on the hem of my shorts. The leaves are slightly grainy in my teeth, but when push comes to shove (as life inevitably goes), I’d rather have tried my teeth on a little grit than none at all.

Here’s what happens in New England’s October: the shadows creep in before the day has finished. We all know these shadows are edged with cold, with the intimation of winter and wind, of snow and more snow, and the always surprising dazzlement of winter’s glistening beauty. I bake an apple crisp, listen to election debates on public radio, comb my cat. October.

At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth…

— Rilke

Voyages, Tiny & Massive.

As has been noted repeatedly in our house — the cats live in their own sleeping and dreaming schedule, small world within our world. My daughter, heading out early to work, remarks about this again.

October, and the days shorten daily. I’m awake in the dark with the full moon and a radiance of clouds passing over our house. The cats appreciate their full bowls, and I stir the wood stove’s ashes, grateful for the bone-dry wood I lay on the embers.

As I make coffee, I remember strands of a conversation I had yesterday with someone I’ve known peripherally for years. His parents met in Eastern Europe at the end of World War II. We swap stories for a bit, and I tell him about my grandparents who immigrated from Romania. He spoke Hungarian as a child and later returned to the country and relearned, to an extent, his original language.

My cats oversee what I’m doing with the wood stove (proprietary as always about their heat source). The acquaintance and I mused for a bit about the loss of language in the Great American Empire, the great push for conformity. But that’s facile, too. Our ancestors lived in harder times and sought reasonable things — a steadier life, a solid home, maybe even peace.

All afternoon, I pull up frost-killed flower stalks and bury hard knots of bulbs — narcissus and crocus. My hands stain with soil. The sunlight is radiant but thin now, scant. The fatness of spring looms so distantly that these bulbs I plant don’t even seem a promise. Walking around, appraising, I note the barn needs painting. Next spring, I think. Get on it then.

…. And a quote from Laurence Bergreen’s phenomenal book Columbus: The Four Voyages.

To his Sovereigns and their ministers, it was intended as a landgrab and a way to plunder gold. Instead, it became, through forces Columbus inadvertently set in motion and only dimly understood, the most important voyage of its kind ever made.


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…