Political Art? Or Just A Lot of Stuff Kicking Around?

A tower of filing cabinets? My 13-year-old is simultaneously entranced and dumbfounded. I don’t get it.

Maybe, I suggest, we shouldn’t think about getting it but just take it in. She gives me that look perhaps unique to only young teenage girls — a combination of you’re not making any sense in my world coupled with I’ll try to humor you. 

In the single degree temperatures, with a frigid wind blowing over Lake Champlain, I offer a quick rundown about bureaucracy, thinking Kafka, Kafka, remembering driving by the tall Bank of New Hampshire building as a kid, wondering how many people worked all day, buried deep in that building. Even at night, the building glowed: cleaning crew shift.

Despite the cold, she’s happy — I can see it — this kid on the cusp of shedding her childhood — her face reflecting that combination of WTF and how cool is that?


Wild and Tame Creatures

On his favorite perch on the dining room windowsill, my daughter’s cat suddenly stiffens his back and presses his nose near the November-cool glass. Beside him, I’m typing, and I rub his back. He mews an inquiry, looking at me.

Through the window, I see eight wild turkeys, nosing through my young asparagus bed, planted just last spring. The turkey nearest us steps toward the window, raising its long odd legs. The cat and the bird stare at each other, the turkey’s head tipped slightly to one side, so its eye gazes at this little furry tiger cat.

The bird’s bigger than you, I murmur.

For the longest time, these two creatures stare at each other. Then the turkey goosesteps on its way, and the cat, true to his nature, curls up on the table beside my laptop and takes a nap.

Midterm elections, 2018.

I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.

— Suffragette Alice Paul


What Remains

In a 21st-century version of a paper airplane, my 19-year-old texts me at work that her younger sister’s favorite chicken was devoured in the night hours.

I step out in the stairway and call home. Yes, I’ll bury the remains.

Every chicken owner I know has lost birds — to hawks, dogs, raccoons, the soup pot. There’s so many feathers on a chicken, or what the fox left of a chicken — golden and soft as milkweed fluff. As I bury the back and feet and the bright red guts, I remember walking my youngest in her stroller along our road, her tiny fingers carefully pulling apart milkweed pods so the fluff would drift away in the sunlight.

That morning at work, in a tiny and windowless room, I’m on the phone with a teacher who’s taught agriculture in a public school for over half a century, gathering some final details for the piece I’m writing about him. When chickens come up in our conversation, I mention my daughter has lost her first. He says one word, just a sympathetic, “Ah…”

My daughter, ever the pragmatist, says simply, “At least it wasn’t my cats. Foxes eat cats.”

As I walked home last evening, rain began falling, just a little mist that, during the night, slowly accumulated into a real summer rainfall. Drink it up, sweet earth, thirsty garden.


Summer, Again

On this first day of summer, mock orange blooms beneath our bedroom windows — an enormous bush that nearly reaches to the second floor — its scent so sweet it’s nearly liquid.

Yesterday, a day that perhaps reflects our summer world: chaos combined with a languid beauty winding through. The chickens fly over their fence. My two jobs clamber for my attention. My oldest daughter coughs. My bank account teeters on dipping into the red.

And yet, a small dog named Dammit wanders through the library. The little children play in the sandbox for hours, digging with bent spoons and old trucks. That evening, I return to the library for a novelist to read. Four kids whose mother is at the food shelf follow me in. They check out books. I give them handfuls of bookmarks and Reading Rocks! tattoos. The youngest plays on the floor with the dollhouse, eating potato chips, sharing her life story with me.

Each summer I bring friends out
to note and share the (garden) display and produce.
Here is life’s habit on grand exhibit
and the hard work hidden.

— Leland Kinsey


White Mountains, New Hampshire


My 12-year-old went wild with the row of tiny icicles along our roof. They’re back! It takes me a moment to figure out what she’s saying. When I do, I jam on my boots, step out, and reach up for two tiny sticks of ice.

Inside our sunny kitchen, I offer her the icicles. She shares them with her kitten. The ice melts quickly – it disappears to wet fur, and then that’s all.

The kitten wraps his paws in stray yarn. Our day moves along. First sprinkles of snow: beautiful.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.

– John Steinbeck


One Word

Texting is like tossing paper airplanes to someone, back and forth, with tiny notes.

My daughter texts me about the usual humdrum of who’s picking up her sister or grocery lists, sometimes bigger issues like financial aid deadlines, but also notes like, Want to know something weird? Well, who wouldn’t?

Some days, nothing. Some days, a veritable JFK International of these flying notes.

The other day, she and her friend shoulder their heavy backpacks and head off to their college classes. I’m at my laptop, working, when a single word comes through: rainbow. Just that.

I type back, Double.

Yes, she returns.

That was all. She was already on her way, having tossed me that sweet missive: see this.

The rainbow stands
In a moment
As if you are here.

– Takahama Kyoshi