Poetry, For Now.

Talking with friends by the side of a road, I notice a flock of Canada geese in the field across the road.

My friends tell me hunting season is just a few days away. The geese should move along.

My friends leave, too, one by one, and I linger with one woman, talking about farming in Vermont, an acquaintance we believe may have gone down the rat hole of QAnon, our elderly parents who live thousands of miles away. We branch into motherhood and gardening.

At the end of August, my youngest starts 11th grade today. The cats and I are up long before dawn this morning, the days dwindling at each end rapidly now. Next spring, with its promises of coltsfoot and trilliums seems forever away. I stand at our kitchen counter, drinking coffee, reading the New York Times.

Here’s a poem, not offered as an antidote to so many families, all over the globe, just solidarity.

Hope has holes

in its pockets. 

It leaves little

crumb trails

so that we, 

when anxious,

can follow it.

Hope’s secret: 

it doesn’t know

the destination–

it knows only

that all roads

begin with one 

foot in front

of the other.”

–Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Hardwick, Vermont

Wildflowers.

Last summer, my neighbors put a Black Lives Matter sign in their front yard. The sign was stolen. They purchased another. The second sign was stolen. The patten repeated. Our neighbors brought the sign in at night. They placed the sign between our two houses. They kept at it.

Earlier this summer, I noticed a sign had appeared on their lawn again, above a tarp spread out near the sidewalk. I didn’t note much of that. It’s a way I don’t usually walk in the non-snowy months. I nearly always cut through the cemetery or take a different side street.

But last night, walking home in a faint rain, I saw they had planted a row of wildflowers where that tarp had been. The flowers are about knee-high, festooned with delicate blooms. Their sign remains.

Hardwick, Vermont

Changing Worlds

The cold, my old familiar friend, sweeps back.

Carrying out a bucket of hot ashes from the woodstove in the early morning, I stand for a moment in the gusting wind. Is snow falling or merely blowing?

Inside, the cats pace, hungry, then hunker before the stove, waiting for warmth.

Midwinter, our days unfold in an unusual patience, a kind of dreamy standstill, fluctuating between work and home for my older daughter and myself, and the new version of school for my youngest.

In Vermont, the Agency of Ed aims to fully reopen schools by the end of April. My high schooler asks me, while we make spicy egg rolls, what that means. Among all the things she doesn’t like about this mixed-up world, she’s come to relish the kind of collegesque schedule she’s managed at the high school, coming and going at her own will.

At fifteen, she’s composed and level-headed, determined to get done what’s necessary.

I tell her what I believe — that the world will not revert to the way it was, that our future is already unfolding around us, in ways we don’t yet understand.

I can’t tell her what I’m thinking — seize the reins you’re already holding and steer your own fate — because I know she doesn’t want my advice. Maybe she doesn’t even need my advice.

Instead, I scrape out the last of the cabbage from the pan and say, “Do what you need to do. This is your life.”

Outside, this morning, the wind chimes bang in the wind.

In the bleak Winter
When the World is one color
Is the Sound of Wind

— Bashō

Hardwick, Vermont, January

Sunday Rescue

I’m reading on the couch Sunday afternoon when my daughter calls from her cell phone.

She’s walking on a nearby trail system and met a woman who lost her dog. The woman gave my daughter her cell phone number, in hopes that my daughter might find her dog.

My daughter says excitedly, I found the dog!

Good going, I say.

The dog, however, keeps rolling around on its back and begging for rubs. The dog won’t walk. What do I do?

Good lord, I think. I close my book.

The afternoon is rapidly heading towards dark. I take the leftover soup from the refrigerator and set it on the woodstove to begin heating. My younger daughter, excited to be doing something, knocks off her homework and offers to drive, nothing that her sister needs assistance.

As we head through the village in the twilight, I say, Hey, look at you. At fifteen, you’re already on your first dog rescue mission.

She asks, You’ve done this before?

Nope….

It’s dark by the time we find the elderly woman, wearing a mask, in her car in the dark by the side of the road, talking on her cell phone with my daughter.

I tell the woman my daughter is in the field, on the other side of the ruins of an old house, marked by maple trees. My youngest goes ahead, and I walk with the woman, lifting strands of electric fence that have been turned off for the season. In a break in the parting clouds, the sunset appears briefly as a dark bruise in the sky, before the night swallows it up. It’s balmy yet, for December; but it is early winter, and I know our house will be warm when we return.

My oldest — who cares not at all for dogs — has remained with the dog. At home, she washes away the scent of dog under her cat’s serious scrutiny.

Her sister says, You kept the dog’s person from getting lost, too…

A Year Ago

…. A year ago, the date was looming near where I had that wretched dental procedure. On the 21st, as the oral surgeon brought a scalpel near my face, he said nicely, You might want to close your eyes for this.

This December, after weeks of virtual schooling — whatever that may be — I knock off work Friday afternoon, so the 15-year-old can drive. My oldest asked us to bring coffee. She steps out behind the doctors’ office where she works, dressed in scrubs, with a stethoscope around her neck.

Then she heads back in, jazzed for the afternoon challenge of of families and fears, from earaches to coronavirus.

In the village, my youngest parks behind the famous Stowe church, and we walk along the bike path. The path winds along the river, not at all iced over yet. We pass a few dog walkers. Behind a restaurant, the scent of dinner cooking follows us as we walk in the thin December sunlight. The savory smell reminds me of when I lived in Brattleboro, so many years ago, above a Korean restaurant.

The smell is delicious, and it follows us for a long way across a field. Stowe reminds us of those summers and falls when we sold maple syrup and ice cream at the farmers market. As we walk, my youngest tells me what she remembers of the market. These are good memories, and we share snippets of the vendors we knew in those years.

Back at the Subaru, it’s nearly four, and the sun is sinking towards the mountains’ horizon. We’ve been gone from Hardwick just a few hours and filled these hours with coffee, a scattering of snow beneath our boots, the sky overhead, the smell of dinner, and the narrow December sunlight between our words.

Carefully, she backs out of the parking space and heads for Route 100. She reminds me my brother told her to enjoy the small victories.

She pauses at the stop sign and looks at me. This is a big victory, she says.

December, 2020.

Leisure”

By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows...

Wild

December: cold, a scattering of snow, the ice settling into the ground.

In Hardwick, on impulse, I stop into a store and buy a string of white lights with wooden reindeer for my daughters. It’s Sunday morning, and hardly anyone is out.

Walking home with those lights tucked into my backpack with a brown paper bag of rice and a square of cheese, a bottle of sesame oil, I cut through the cemetery. Before long, the cemetery will be snowed in for months.

I’m walking up the path from the piney woods, near last summer’s potato patch, when a bald eagle glides down from a white pine. I stand quietly — yes, white tail feathers, head, its curved beak earthward. Without flapping a wing, the eagle catches an upwind and drifts over my blueberry bushes and garden, then disappears around our white clapboard house.

I grew up in New Hampshire and never saw a loon as a child. We never saw wild turkeys, didn’t dream of bald eagles swooping over a trampoline in a backyard, never heard coyotes except when we were camping in the Rocky Mountains.

When I step into our kitchen where my daughters are baking cookies, they greet my news of the eagle with cool, and keep on with what they’re doing.

While the pandemic reigns, the wilderness hasn’t gone away. Hungry eagle, what did you find for dinner?

On our kitchen wall…