Goodness

This morning, hearing news of the Trumps’ positive test results, I think of where I was just a few hours ago, on a hillside in Greensboro.

The Nature Conservancy owns pieces of land all around where we live, some unmarked, others with a trailhead and sign, beckoning in the curious foot traveler.

At Barr Hill yesterday, I didn’t have time to walk that short loop, but paused to admire the view, the little crickets leaping over my shoes. A couple, seeing me, put on their masks, got into their car, and drove away. So for a little while, it was just me and the postcard-stunning autumn — yellow and red mountains, the shining patch of lake, the sky.

The land was donated years ago by a local family. In Greensboro, there’s deep channels of money, its origins often hidden — “old money” — and in Greensboro, too, there’s runnels of poverty, far away from the lake’s summer wonderland, but just as real and alive.

Whatever happens with the Trumps, the virus will go on, until it’s finished, one way or another. But all through this time, these long months and what will inevitably stretch ahead, my daughters and I have gone into the wilderness around us. At the library where I work, often these days I walk along the wetlands, even just for a handful of minutes, breathing in.

Try to do some good in this life, I think. Keep land open. Write a book. Teach a kid to read. Use what’s at hand…

“If you want to live, it’s good to be friendly.” 

― Art Spiegelman, Maus

The Physical Good

My 13-year-old’s wild to travel. I see in her eyes, in her schemes, as she wonders where her life will go, which way she can push her boundaries. I understand this sentiment. At 22, I gave little thought to a 9,000 mile cross country trek, save swapping a gas-fueled Toyota for a diesel Rabbit. This was during the first Gulf War, when the price of gas soared.

But now? Maybe it’s the early onset of snow that’s choked so much of Vermont’s roads or — more likely — simply that I’m at the place in life where I think, heck, remain rooted. Figure out this one particular place.

Walking after dark — darkness falls so early, early these days, before I pull out my cutting board to begin preparing supper — I think of Chris Hedges’ line: faith is the belief that the good draws to it the good. I read this good as a verb and not a noun. What a notion — that goodness is a physical force in the universe. I know violence begets violence, that using drugs leads to more drug use, that civility in a house tempers anger, knocks down the edges, and bends dialogue towards decency — and that the inverse of this is true, too.

On our back porch, the wind chimes call in a scatting of cold breeze this morning. Later, in the rising light, cardinals will appear, flashy red against all this white.

IMG_4065