Little Walk.

Our basement door art.

When my daughter and I return from a walk tonight, we stand for a moment outside our house in the dark. The moon is a bit of a creamy curl over our roof. Mighty Orion stands at his guard in the constellations. Whoever dug this house’s foundation in the sandy soil, carefully set the fieldstones, and built this home has long since passed out of this world. People have lived and fought and loved and died in this house. It’s March and Mud Season hovers over us, freezing, thawing, freezing, and eventually the thaw will win out for the summer. Upstairs, my youngest daughter puts her face to a window. We go in, leaving the stars and the night to their own particular magic.

“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.” 

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Q&A.

My teen and I are in an office filling out paperwork and the last question asks her how apprehensive she is about dental work.

She stares at me. “Why on earth,” she asks me in her reasonable way, “would I reveal anything like that?”

I note it’s a standard question. Her answer: that’s a ridiculous question.

It’s another cold afternoon — a mostly sunny day in Northern Vermont — in a winter where cold has now dragged on well beyond its welcome. We’ve driven a little distance and taken a detour along a river whose middle has thawed. Only its shores are frozen.

A couple of decades now into parenting, I’ve observed children are formed by their parents’ lives — and not, too. She’s driving, and I seem to have taken up residence permanently in her passenger seat — a place I inhabit uneasily and definitely gracelessly. We drive and talk. Youth, I think, repeating the word soundlessly, like a mantra; I’m drawn to its utter ebullience and brashness, like the sunlight we all desperately need.

We remark on the price of gas. Our sheer luck at the happenstance of living in the Shire of Vermont right now. Of the war in cities and villages and homes on the other side of the globe.

At our house, the icicles on our covered porch are exceptionally skinny and long this year. In the early morning, the ice begins falling in spires that break on the wooden porch. So many questions, and my answers are so poor. Keep asking.

Psalm for the Ordinary.

Ordinary Life, by Barbara Crooker

This was a day when nothing happened, 
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves. 
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor. 
And lunch blended into naptime, 
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards, 
one of those jobs that never gets done, 
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea, 
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps. 
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow, 
preened and flashed his jeweled head. 
Now a chicken roasts in the pan, 
and the children return, 
the murmur of their stories dappling the air. 
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb. 
We listen together for your wheels on the drive. 
Grace before bread. 
And at the table, actual conversation, 
no bickering or pokes. 
And then, the drift into homework. 
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa’s ridges and hills. 
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss, 
tasting of coffee and cream. 
The chicken’s diminished to skin & skeleton, 
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white, 
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter, 
the hard cold knuckle of the year, 
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift, 
and the stars turn on, 
order themselves
into the winter night.

Breezy Walk. A Stranger.

March in February — the fields are beginning to open, at least for this afternoon, for this particular moment. I park by the side of the road and take the long way where I’m going, by foot, my hat off, jacket unzipped, letting the wind pull at my hair.

I’m snapping a photo of a field and the sky when a car pulls over at the side of the road. There’s no one else around, and for a moment I wonder if he’s a landowner, angry or just curious what I’m doing. Wednesday afternoon, and no one is around.

He gets out of his mud-splattered white car, laughing, and asks for directions back to a paved road. He was visiting someone and took “the other way.” I laugh back, and we joke about where the other way in Vermont leads someone.

We stand there, joking, the dirt road both melting and already beginning to freeze again as we speak.

When he gets in his car and disappears down the road, I stand for a moment longer. I’d wanted nothing more than wind in my eyes, sunlight on my face. Fait accompli. Then it’s back to civilization for me, too.

“I feel my life start up again, 

like a cutting when it grows

the first pale and tentative

root hair in a glass of water.” 

— Jane Kenyon

Holy Language.

Montpelier, Vermont

On a rainy day last week, I parked on a Montpelier side street and walked into town to attend an opioid summit as a writer.

The last time I had been in the conference space in the Plaza Hotel was nearly precisely two years ago, when I attended a conference as a journalist, charged by my editor to “make connections,” and spent most of it drinking coffee and eating sugar cookies and talking with a para-educator at my daughter’s high school about his experiences. Like darn near everyone else in Vermont, he has a side gig for income, and runs a seasonal bakery.

I sat at a table with people I admire who I’ve met through writing. For those few hours, I had the nearly heady experience of meeting new people; I had remember that deep pleasure. Years ago, I traveled on a train from Charlottesville, VA, to Chicago, and sat beside a man from West Virginia. We talked off and on for those hours. It’s been so long since I had that experience of just listening and talking with people.

For a few hours, I listened to stories about addiction and struggle, about suffering and redemption, about profound loss and grief. Listening, my heart grew full. Our stories and words, the act of telling and listening, of sharing the hard and the beautiful things in our lives, bound us together. The summit began and ended with singing. I’ve never been one for group activities, for open sharing, but at that moment, I utterly understood; I got it. The melody of our language and experiences pulled us together, acknowledging both the beautiful and the terrible about human life, and made our world shine brighter.

…. Grateful to have a terrific piece about Unstitched run in the Brattleboro Reformer and the Manchester Journal by Gena Mangiaratti. And The Rumpus included my essay about the backstory of Unstitched in their Voices On Addiction column this month.

Book Rec.

By chance, I start reading a book of letters exchanged between a photographer and a prisoner, an exchange in 2020 that opens a view into these two men, into our country, and into art. I devour the book. The book’s title is The Parameters of Our Cage, and I keep thinking about the cages culture constructs and we construct in our own lives. It’s a question I’ve returned to, over and over in my life. So much of my life’s hours have been devoted, in one way or another, to writing. As the pandemic has created higher walls and sturdier cages, writing, art, human imagination, are increasingly powerful. Utterly necessary.

I wake to a perfect zero degrees this morning. Our house is thankfully warm and pleasant, but the cold is ever present. There’s immense snow south of here, but again the storm has sheered off to sea.

The most profound art is generated out of the depths of a personal place, then becomes an entity in its own right thus developing a different layer of function that requires a social aspect or nature.

C. Fausto Cabrera