Small Journey

My younger daughter drives the two of us on a cold January afternoon to Montpelier. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the state capital, although (pre-pandemic) I was in Montpelier at least once a week.

We’re in search of a birthday present for my oldest daughter — a single present, that’s all I’m looking for — and we go into only one store. At the register, the owner tells me how happy she is to see people; the city has been a ghost town for the last week.

In the downtown’s heart, we pass empty storefronts. I’ve never seen so many vacancies in Montpelier before. On one main corner, my daughter notices the bakery where I once bought her chocolate chip cookies is locked, too.

Where I can’t bear to pass by is the library, the beautiful stone building where a year ago I often spread out my laptop and papers and worked for hours. In the large reading room, the well-heeled snapped on lamps and read and wrote. There was a couple who always appeared who seemed to be gambling online. The homeless and college students filled chairs. After school, children ran through.

At my daughter’s request, we walk through Hubbard Park in the cold and up the stone tower to see the city surrounded by mountains.

When we walk down the snowy steps, a mother and her daughter are sitting on the tower’s stone floor. There’s only openings for windows and doors, and the girl is crying with cold. The mother struggles to tie an icy lace on the girl’s ski boot.

Been there, I think, done that.

I no longer have the keys to my own car. My daughter drives past the state house where no one is out. Not a single person on the granite steps. Driving home, she suddenly says, The good thing about living in Vermont is spring. Even if winter seems forever, there’s always spring.

[Kintsugi], the Japanese method of repairing broken pottery [uses] gold to bind the pieces together. In this way, the break becomes what is beautiful, what is valued. It is a way to embrace the flaw, the imperfect. In place of the break, there is now a vein of gold.

— Nick Flynn, This is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire

Photo by Gabriela S.