December Thaw

Early Friday morning, finished with my few weekly minutes of food co-op working member hours, I stand at the window with an employee, watching the rain.

Rain in December. At home, my daughters are eating breakfast and complaining about the coal-colored day. Then yesterday, about the time I’m folding up my laptop and thinking of chopping a cabbage for dinner, my daughters return home, full of joy about a long run and exploring the edge of Lake Champlain.

End of December: I’d hung the laundered Christmas tablecloth on the clothesline to dry. December thaw in Vermont. Here’s a piece I wrote in State 14 about working for the census, long ago when I was a brand-new mama.

This cold winter night,
that old wooden-head buddha
would make a nice fire.

—Buson

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First Sledding

In the dusk, children screamed as they sledded down a hill — so screechingly at first I worried they were injured. When I stepped around the garage, though, two children in  raggedy snowsuits were laughing at the foot of a very short hill. The kids ran up, holding orange sleds.

I know I posted this last fall — but, again, here’s one of my favorite poems.

Although there is the road,
The child walks
In the snow.

— Murakami Kijo

And here’s my big kid, taking a holiday photo and begging me to please, try to smile!

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Drinking Water Beneath the Moon

After a day of one thing after another, we suddenly arrive back at home together — my older daughter returning from a 12-hour shift, my teenager and a friend dropped off by another mother. I stand in the driveway talking with this mother, while my daughter runs in the house and hurries back with a gift of eggs from her chickens.

The little neighbor boys, munching dropped apples, wander over full of pleasure and wonder at seeing us, as only four- and two-year-old are. What are you doing? they ask. An existential question, I whisper to my friend. The teenagers are ravenous and cannot stop talking. Leftovers, I suggest. Put the leftovers in the oven for dinner.

Later, the girls have disappeared into the dark. I leave a sinkfull of dirty dishes and sit outside beneath the crescent moon. The neighbors have put their children to bed. It’s just me and the crickets and that autumn chill creeping in. Over the horizon, the sky turns a dark-turquoise shade of blue to impermeable black. Beneath this, the girls run up the road, out of breath, laughing.

In this autumn,
Why I get older?
The clouds and birds.

—Basho

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Photo by Molly S.

May!

Hurray! May!

The May I was pregnant with my second child, rain fell every one of those 31 days — from a few sprinkles to all-day, shiver-inducing soakers. There’s an old adage, or so I’m told, that the rainier the May, the hotter the summer. That year, at least, was so.

Silage corn pushed through the black earth in the days after her birth, tiny nubs of green.

Under cherry trees
there are
no strangers.

— Issa

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Above Freezing

Thaw. First thing, when I step outside the kitchen, I smell melting snow, the slightly sweet and fecund scent of the earth in just a few patches—the flower pot I’ve left outside on the deck all winter.

Some days, we have long days, beginning before dawn and packed full of so much. Some afternoons linger, but those are few now, sparse, far beyond those countless hours of nursing, when time was swallowed in baby care.

After dinner, the 13-year-old walks down our road with me, not far at all. Waiting for her while she puts her chickens away for the night, I lean against the barn door, gazing through the twilight. I’ve never lived in a house with the sky so open overhead. On a ridge, we look down into the shallow, mist-covered valley, where the town, at dusk, is beautiful, flickering bits of lights.

We’re so many months yet from working outside on the deck, me and the chittering birds, the sunlight on my keyboard and hands. But it’ll come: this reprieve is a reminder of spring, a certain promise of evening swims again.

Never forget:
we walk on hell,
gazing at flowers.

—Kobayashi Issa

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