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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Red Yarn Quest

The thing about winter is its beauty.

Very early this morning, I start my daughter’s car before she heads to work. Beneath the stars, it’s cold, and dawn is pushing away the night. The winter dawn is pale blue, like the edge of the ocean.

Inside, our house is warm, the cats fed and sleeping. I have piles of work to do and that makes me happy because it’s all hard but all worth doing.

My teenager is deeply immersed in a book series — and I’m insanely happy about that, too. She’s lusting after a driver’s license, a relocation to California, but, in the meantime, she’s still here, and, willingly or not, has agreed to come with me on a small expedition I’ve conjured, to discover the headwaters of a local river. Her older sister advises, It’s easier just to do those kind of things…

It’s somewhere in November. Time to knit to red sweater. If I use fingerling yarn, this project could last me months…..

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Losing Our Leaves

Here’s this in my sometimes too-much-adult world: my 14-year-old and her friends have been diligently doing odd jobs for weeks now — stacking wood, planting bulbs, painting, and raking leaves.

She showed me a photo today of herself and the friend she’s known for years leaping backwards into an enormous pile of leaves they’d raked. I sure hope the homeowner laughed as hard as I did.

We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots;
Like mad poets captured by the Moors,
Men who live out
A second life.

— Robert Bly

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