June is the time to remember why it’s good to live in Vermont. These little bits — fresh greens from the garden, twilights hazy with lilac blossoms, a breeze through the open windows at night, swimming in water so cold your elbows hurt.
Happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
— Jane Kenyon
We fell asleep last night with the running of little cat paws from bedroom to bedroom and beneath the silence of falling snow. The cats this morning are sleepy, purring and hungry, and the snow falls yet. Where the grass beneath the mock orange had reappeared last weekend, fresh white has smoothed that over again. One year, eight inches of snow bent down my pea shoots. The peas survived. We ate them in June.
When my daughters were two, three, even five or six, I would have despaired: not more of snowsuit weather, tussling over winter boots, soggy mittens, the creeping pace walking from woodpile to back door with armfuls of wood and a small-legged toddler.
In the way of life ever-changing, here’s a morning spread with white beauty, soundless with falling snow, temporal as anything else.
How long the winter has lasted — like a Mahler
symphony, or an hour in the dentist’s chair.
In the fields the grasses are matted
and gray, making me think of June, when hay
and vetch burgeon in the heat, and warm rain
swells the globed buds of the peony…
— Jane Kenyon
This apple tree lives along our road. I pass it every day, along with the Vermont plethora of maples and ash and poplars, many more wild apple trees, blackberry brambles. All winter long, this tree has been dormant, sleeping its hard and quiet sleep. Then today, mid-May, I discover effusive green from a broken branch of all places. Apple wood is dense, a good solid fuel for wood stoves (as Annie Proulx wrote), but the leaves are as tender as a child’s skin, and the delicate blossoms are not far behind.
Working on my second novel today, I thought of this apple branch, as I labored through a complex scene. Then I thought: Do something different. Have a character do something I would never expect, or fly a bird through an open window and knock over a drinking glass. Mix it up. Sprout a whole leaf ensemble from a broken branch. Use up all that sap.
Jane Kenyon’s poem February: Thinking of Flowers has this lovely line. “A single green sprouting thing would restore me….” And here I am in May, in Vermont, in opulent beauty, and the black flies aren’t yet biting.