Autumn, Now

Talking to my brother while frying sausages with garden greens for dinner, I mention the girls and I have just gone swimming, with the temperature high in the 80s. He says, The climate isn’t changing; the days are just getting warmer. I immediately take the phase and turn it around to reflect something inane in my own life. We’re going to use that joke for years to come.

At a soccer game, another parent mentions he’s been watching Ken Burns’ Vietnam series, and he offers that his dad served a tour in Vietnam. I share my memories of my father watching Walter Cronkite every night and drinking bourbon, fiercely opposed to that war.

Collectively, as a parent group, we wonder what our kids will remember about these years; as adults now, we sense tension rising in our own rural Vermont. But these September days are balmy and beautiful. We cease talking and admire dragonflies nipping by, fat shafts of sunlight between us filled with dust. Even when the girls have hit the locker room, and then scamper around us, hungry, we keep on admiring, filled with the great good luck of being alive on such a day, mothers and fathers of healthy strong girls, at a leisurely, end-of-the-day soccer game.

The summer moon.
There are a lot of paper lanterns
On the street.

– Buson


Flowering Knotweed

Biking in Stowe this afternoon, my daughter and I passed enormously large thickets of Japanese knotweed, blooming with tiny, delicate flowers – an invasive I studiously avoid. No knotweed rooting on my terrain!

I was reminded of a line from Sophocles my father mentioned this summer: Nothing great enters the life of mortals without a curse. Biking fast to keep up with my 11-year-old, darting around tykes on training wheels and a contingency of strollers, I thought of that phrase’s inverse. I’ve always been particularly annoyed by the adage to squeeze lemons into lemonade, as if an impromptu tea party solves anything, but might a curse also have a slender thread of goodness?

Poor Japanese knotweed: so maligned and despised in my Vermont world. In a profusion of flowers, I bent near and inhaled its sweet fragrance, the petals trembling with pollinators.

Poverty’s child –
he starts to grind the rice,
and gazes at the moon.

– Matsu Bashō


Stowe, Vermont


A Mouse Passing

This will likely reveal the sad state of housekeeping around here, but the other morning I found a dead mouse in the living room. The little creature must have folded itself against the chimney in the night and passed along into the next realm for small rodents, leaving behind a gray and a very long-tailed body. I swept it into the dustpan and laid it outside beneath a maple tree. Still early in the morning, the grass was cool beneath my bare feet, and the children were sleeping, wreathed in their world of dreams.

Ill, injured, or simply old? I don’t know. The leaves flipped up their undersides, preparing for rain. I knew the little body wouldn’t remain there long. These shells of creatures never do, scavenged up by some other animal, turned into someone else.

Oddly, as I walked back into the house and picked up my laptop on the couch again, I thought of an Issa haiku I first read when I was a teenager, more resonant, stronger, than ever. Ah, little mouse…

Don’t kill that fly!
Look–it’s wringing its hands,
wringing its feet.

– Kobayashi Issa