Water. Ice. Rain. Cold. Mud.

The light is slowly returning; I repeat this to myself in defiance of the gray and brown. How bright a fresh sparkle of snow would feel.

Is it mud season? Sugaring season? Has winter barely begun? One thing that does seem evident is that cabin fever has set in extraordinarily early this year. At work, a stranger phones in and asks for info. I offer the facts, just the facts, and then the stranger remarks, What I’d really like is a small piece of good news to start the new year. I can’t resist; I laugh. I note his bar is pretty darn low. I tell him about seeing a flock of evening grosbeaks Christmas morning in the box elders behind our porch.

That’s something, he agrees. He asks me a few more questions, then remarks that he doesn’t even need to care about these questions, anyway. He could let this go. He says thank you, goodbye, and hangs up. In a strange circumstantial way, I realize I was his good news.

“Caring for each other is a form of radical survival that we don’t always take into account.” 

― Ada Limon

In the Garden.

Sunday morning, a light rain falls. The rain is a gardener’s dream, a light but steady enough drizzle, interspersed with sunlight. Our world grows. I stayed up late the night before, reading The Year of the Horses, and maybe it’s nothing but exhaustion — and who isn’t exhausted these days, anyway, but the kids — but I keep wandering around, in and out of the house. To the garden to move this or that. Then back inside to wash a window or sweep away some winter cobwebs.

Washed by rain, the colors in my garden are vibrant. I have this strange feeling that I’m inhabiting the Middle Ages, the realm of chivalry and honor, a time when art is justly valued.

All day long, I work at this, back and forth, making some kind of order in my raggedly life. Before too long, I know, the weeds and the black flies will swarm me. I might be overwhelmed with the messiness of gardening. But for now… just this potential. Just this moment. A single tulip, blooming.

Daffodils: Verb?

I’ve been a patient at numerous Planned Parenthoods, in three different states, since I was a young woman. These days, I keep remembering a nurse practitioner I met in Bellingham’s Planned Parenthood. I had waited a long time. It was a very hot afternoon. Dust blew in through the open window. She apologized as she washed her hands and simply said it had been a busy day.

I was in my early twenties, had brought a book to read, and I didn’t care.

The staff at Planned Parenthood gave me information I needed when no one else did. This was information and advice that shaped my entire adult life. I was never turned away — even when I had nothing to offer as payment — never denigrated, never treated coldly. My oldest daughter is now the age I was that afternoon. In those young optimistic days, I believed inherently in progression. I didn’t see then that history repeats itself, turns back and bites the same wounds.

In this sunny, hopeful month of May — daffodils. Maybe I’ll think of this as a verb, not a noun: daffodilling.

Gloves. Rain. A Few Sentences.

I spend some phone time with a woman who works for Delta Airlines, straightening out a cancelled ticket I need refunded. While she does whatever she needs to do on her end, I lean my head against the glass kitchen door. A light rain falls. I’ve just come in from moving firewood from our stacks to the porch, and my sweatshirt is sprinkled with damp bark shavings. I’ve forgotten my gloves on the back step.

I guess this woman is working at home as the phone line is quiet around her voice. She takes her time, sorting through my request and answering the questions I keep asking about airports and taxes and if she has any suggestions for better flight prices. (Nope.)

We exchange a mutual thanking each other for our patience, and inevitably our conversation tips over into the world’s instability. She tells me about her son, a college student majoring in history, and reminds me that human history is infinitely complicated. Finished, she’s on her way to some other phone call, with someone who might be impatient and angry, or perhaps someone funnier or more eloquent than me.

Through the glass, rain falls steadily on my gloves.

March in Vermont is wet and cold. This morning, stepping out for kindling, I stood in the dark listening to robins singing in the day. I remembered to bring in my sodden gloves.

Dirty Mud Puddle.

The old yellow house where my daughter attended preschool and, one afternoon, gave me a purple pansy she had potted herself. In the scheme of our lives, such a tiny sweet thing.

In the face of such hard news overseas, this splash of sky reflected in a dirty mud puddle is all I can offer. Be well, friends. Savor sweetness, where you stumble upon it.


On a day of yet more snow, of wind and cold, I’m reminded that people still keep on with their lives. Living doesn’t wait for convenience.

At the post office, I mail off a copy of my book. The woman who weighs my small package insists this is “sugar snow,” an early spring snowfall that will lengthen the maple syrup season. We sugared for years, and this kind of snow always meant a break in boiling and a chance to wash filthy snowsuits. The upcoming forecast is for as near-perfect sugaring weather as possible. Sugaring is the epitome of day-to-dayness — be smart, keep your eyes open, do the best you can — with no guarantees of a good or even decent season.

We talk for a few more minutes about shoveling snow, and then I head back out into the town’s Saturday morning. On my walk home, I stop in at the coffee shop and stand in the window drinking an espresso and staring out at the traffic struggling on snowy Main Street. There’s the usual confusion of the three-way intersection so many don’t understand — two stop signs and a blinking yellow light — as if the calculus of two stops and one yield doesn’t make sense. Standing there, I wonder if it makes sense mostly to those who use these streets day after day.

A year ago, the coffee shop’s tables and chairs were closed for seating, and I wondered if I would ever bring my laptop back here, to my favorite table where I once wrote a book. A year later, here I am, drinking coffee, surrounded by maskless people laughing and talking, writing notecards, going on about their lives. On this inclement Saturday morning, that seems nothing shy of a miracle.

“The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” 

~ Annie Dillard