August 1

This morning, the mist lies in the valley. Through the open windows, a coolness steals in with the dawn. For this summer, my daughter informs me, the greatest heat has passed.

July gave us thirty-one gorgeous, sun-drenched beautiful days. Now, on the first of August, I’m wearing jeans near my open window, as my daughters’ cat keeps a hungry eye on a darting goldfinch.

My teenager aches for September and school; I think, slow this down. School may not open its doors this September, maybe not in October, maybe not at all this year. In our little Vermont oasis, that seems theoretical at times. On this first of August, I think again of Hayden Carruth’s poetry.

The world is a
complex fatigue.

Indeed. For this day, green bean picking, handfuls of zinnias, the cosmos as tall as my shoulders, the nasturtiums nestled in the tomatoes. For this day, flowers.

Hayden Carruth



One advantage to the days I work at home is the option to close up my laptop and head out for more baking chocolate when the girls – intent on chocolate cake – run shy of this crucial ingredient. The kids used an amount of chocolate that amazed me. A confirmed Michael Pollan fan, I refused to buy corn syrup, so they googled a substitute option.

All that sunny afternoon, the girls were busy with flour and chat, serving me the leftover coffee they brewed – so strong  I winced.

Skeptical? Yeah. But at least I was silent.

I made my recipe-less part of the meal, using what I found at hand: onions, kale, parsley, and sage in the garden, sausage, tomatoes from the neighbor: a decent, passable stew.

But the kids? Their cake rose both light and rich. A delicacy I’ve never accomplished – and the kids sweetly teased me so.

Here’s the opening lines from Hayden Carruth’s wonderful “Birthday Cake” poem:

For breakfast I have eaten the last of your birthday cake that you
had left uneaten for five days
and would have left five more before throwing it away.