Found Sign: Enjoy this life.

Late on a Friday night, I’m reading on the couch when my oldest calls. There’s no heat, yet, in her apartment. The evening is tinged with near frostiness. I’ve returned home from an interstate drive in the darkness, thinking over the pieces of my manuscript. In my imagination, I see Lena, my main character, with her emerald green haircut.

A half-moon rises in the darkness as I drive along the Connecticut River. These days — long days — I’m grateful for these imposed breaks, for the opportunity to see the moon rise along an unfamiliar horizon, to stop before a church and read the congregation’s exhortation: Enjoy this life.

My dear cats are sprawled before our glowing wood stove. Listening to my daughter reminds me of my mother — our spunk and sassy irreverence and love of flowers — but my daughter is utterly herself. I close Beth Macy’s Raising Lazarus, and our conversation unfolds over the few miles between us. September, and the swimming season has passed. I hope for decades ahead to see what my daughter makes of her life. For now, this September evening.

... I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet...
Hayden Carruth

January Dreaming.

The cats and I write in the mornings, ski in the late afternoons. In the middle part of the day, on these cold weekends, I paint the downstairs walls yellow. The yellow approximates the hue and consistently of vanilla cake batter. If this is my way of keeping sane in a pandemic winter, I suppose it’s holding firm enough.

While I paint, I listen to stories about Sidney Poitier, about the teachers’ union strike in Chicago, about Ginni Thomas — spouse of Clarence Thomas. If nothing else, the words remind me that the world goes on. The first room I ever painted by myself was a room I rented in a house on High Street in Brattleboro, Vermont. I was 21. It was July, and the windows were open. I was drinking gin and tonics. Now, water has replaced the G&Ts. I have two daughters, two books, and I’m imagining a little orchard I’m going to plant this spring. Maybe it’s just the yellow paint (or the fumes) but more and more, I dig down into my imagination, into its deep reserves.

Our cats dream of good cat things: cardinals and tuna on a little flowered plates and sunlight before the wood stove. A loving hand on their furry heads.

Words from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“We have the tendency to run away from suffering and to look for happiness. But, in fact, if you have not suffered, you have no chance to experience real happiness.”

Vermont’s Version of Singing Over Balconies

The little boys across our dead-end street invite another little boy to visit. My neighbor and I stand with the visiting mother at the end of our road, talking, my hands dirty from weeding. Although I’ve now lived in this house for four years, and the book I wrote about living here is heading towards fall publication, I’m still happily surprised to live in this tiny neighborhood.

The boys, none of whom are even in grade school, discovered each other. During the pandemic, the boys began calling to each other from their yards. The visiting child lives on my neighbors’ other side, across a fairly busy road. The children called, What are you doing? Could you come play?

The visiting parent shares her story of moving to Vermont last fall, her family life jumbled up and rearranged in the pandemic, too, now jammed in a one-room apartment and struggling with the dearth of housing in Vermont.

The boys rake last fall’s leaves and bury themselves, bursting out of piles, laughing.

Bouquet of flowering violets spread around our house. Little bits of green buds burst at the ends of lilac branches. For this moment, happy children.

Our Perpetual Holiday

To practice night driving, my daughter and I set off after dinner, delivering a book and knitting needles to a friend. We’re laughing on the way there, and my daughter remarks, Why is it so dark?

I answer that I’m going to let that question lie.

At our friends’ house, we can see through the windows where the family is around the wood stove, talking, the walls painted yellow. I have a sudden flash of envy at the intactness of mother, father, two children, and then that passes quickly, too. At our house, warm and well-lit, with interior walls painted limoncello, we’re as intact as any family, too.

With my friend’s book in my lap, my daughter drives up the back roads, over ice and sand, through all that darkness. We reach the crest of hillside. There, as she drives and talks, I see across the valley to where a barn is lit in a long string of lights on the opposite hillside. Sporadic houses glow in the cold night, and not much more.

She drives down, then along the S curves along the river where I remember a terrible accident years ago. We stop and fill the gas tank. Beneath the bright gas station lights, it’s just us. I walk around the car, washing windows. In the driver’s seat, she watches me, and then I step back and bow. She shakes her head at me, amused.

Middle of February. Cold. A little chit in our collage.

More Summer

Every month might as well be a whole entire season in Vermont. August is the month of the best things — wood stacking and pickle canning, tart made from the first fruit from our tree, whipped cream, purring cats, and all this sunlight. Sure, we need rain, but in Vermont I can’t help but relish these days after days of sunlight. Early mornings, I work outside on the deck, the air chilly, drinking coffee, watching the rising sun pinken the horizon.

For a brief bit of time, I’m ignoring the math of counting down to autumn.

Saturday afternoon, my older daughter suggests eating tart before dinner. Why not? Really, why not?

So we do.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
— Seamus Heaney, from “Blackberry-Picking”

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Early June

June is the time to remember why it’s good to live in Vermont. These little bits — fresh greens from the garden, twilights hazy with lilac blossoms, a breeze through the open windows at night, swimming in water so cold your elbows hurt.

Happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

— Jane Kenyon
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