Things May Start….

So long, 2020.

2020 might not have been the brightest year on record, but then, say, 1944 might not have been all that rosy, either.

2020 became the year when our house finally became a home. Three years ago, I sold our former house and moved with my daughters. We moved, I realized only later, only out of desperation, to leave a bad scenario for what I hope would be a better life.

2020 showed me that this story — while uniquely ours — is also the human story, of movement and longing, of fear and hope. We’ve now claimed ownership of this house — us three females and our two house cats — through countless meals and nights and early mornings, through arguing about things petty and not-so-petty. We claimed ownership all those spring days when I leaned against the kitchen counter, listening to the governor and wondering what the heck was happening; through my daughter setting up high school in front of the wood stove, through the slow dawning when I realized my employment was no longer viable, and I would need to adapt.

I did. We did.

During this hard year, the ancient moon rose and set over our metal roof, over our neighbor boys’ sandbox, the road sloping down our hill and out into the world, our village, our sweet state of Vermont, the veritable globe.

I’m reading Lauren Redniss’ Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American Midwest — a book both terrible and beautiful. Redniss writes:

If you go back to the beginning,
everything was dark.
You start from nothing.
Things start to come to light.

Hello, 2021.

Laughter

Pandemic notwithstanding, the car I’m selling needs to be inspected. Since who the heck wants to talk through masks, I call the mechanic where I’ve left this car for a week or so. What’s a week, anyway?

The soft-spoken mechanic, who’s been undercharging me for years, quietly explains what needs to be done. Then he asks me, What do you think of that? Is that okay?

I’m leaning over the back deck railings, staring into the tangle of wild raspberry canes. I answer, What I think is it’s 2020, and I don’t like any of this.

He busts out laughing. I hate to say it, Brett, but we’re so fucked. This has only been going on since March.

I know. What’s going to happen in November?

I’m laughing so hard at this point; there’s so nothing funny about any of this — pretty much nothing funny about 2020 at all — but we keep laughing and laughing.

Then I say, It’s just a car. Fix it. I’ll sell it. That’s small potatoes.

And — it’s still Vermont July — with a creamy half-moon and endless cucumbers.

The cool breeze.
With all his strength
The cricket.

— Issa

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Photo by Molly S.

Melting Butter, Hot Rolls

By now, we’ve settled into a string of days, weeks, maybe months, of my work folding into my daughter’s life at home. I work; she does whatever passes for virtual high school. I drink coffee. She eats trail mix. She’s borrowed her sister’s camera, taken a few online mini classes, and then heads out.

Among the many, many strange things about this Stay Home order is that the three of us have managed to get along so well, despite my intermittent weeping woods walks. Crabby me — with my endless laptop hours — my teen who fantasizes about driving to the California coast, and her sister, age 21, who relinquished moving out, to stay with us. As a divorced parent, I don’t take getting along as any given. In all the unexpected silver linings in all of this, there’s this interesting turning inward, back to the home, when so much in our culture has pushed us outward, away from home.

Like everything, I know this time won’t last — and there are many things about it I won’t miss — the utter uncertainty of work and money, the isolation from other adults, a public world of masks and frightened eyes. But baking potato rollswith the teen? That I’m happy to do.

Instant coffee, for example, is a well–deserved punishment for being in a hurry to reach the future.

— Alan Watts

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Marvelous May

Vermont May is a fairytale world — brilliant spring flowers, black manure, green grass — and, this year, the strange lurking demon of coronavirus.

I’ve lived in New England for most of my life, and yet every year, spring never ceases to amaze me with its beauty. Birdsong, a forest floor sprinkled with pink and white spring beauties, gold daffodils. The lilacs are budding — again, this year, we will have lilacs, their fragrance sweetly scented around our house.

The neighbors with their three little boys are home, always home, blowing bubbles to us. I sow pea seeds, pull leaves from the rose beds. Afterward, my arms are covered with scratches as though I have fought a lion. The woodchucks multiply around us. I check my garden fence.

And yet, we seem stuck in some weird pause. Strangely, instead of texting my brother about summer hiking or Maine plans, we text back and forth about trailheads closed, unemployment, printing money.

Day by day, we text. Seed by seed, I sow my garden.

O the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!

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Home — where we are

Heading Home

One week into virtual school, into complete telecommuting for work — save those phone calls. The world, however, is not virtual, but wholly real, even more connected.

Always awake and working first in our house, I fold my laptop shut while my daughter eats her breakfast. The cats brush up against our legs, savoring luxurious rubs beneath their chins. The felines are utterly, fully, radiantly happy.

On our walks — every day, sometimes repeatedly every day — we see people, although always at a distance. Here in my Vermont corner, the world isn’t heavily populated. There’s no one in Hardwick this evening, save for two women walking towards me, who prudently cross the street and then wave at me.

In this world we live in, these days, right now, I wave back. We holler good evening across the empty street.

Then I head home.

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Jan Thaw

Rain pours. My daughters return, full of excitement of the ocean, of staying in a city, of a friend, and — for my younger daughter — driving around with my brother, stepping into his cool life.

They have brought me a wooden box of green tea and a tin of red goji berry tea.

Time seems suspended in the endlessness of January, but it’s not: the rain will slick to a landscape of ice, the days are already lengthening.

Again, from poet Kim Stafford:

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