June

Hello, roses!

The day I bought this house, I realized roses bloomed beneath the dining room windows. Of all the things I scrutinized when house buying — location and purchase price and paint — I never considered these old, overgrown rose bushes. So early in the season, Japanese beetles haven’t yet set in with their hunger. The blossoms emit the sweetest fragrance, drifting around the back of the house.

Hello, gorgeous and ineffable summer.

There will never be more of summer
than there is now.

Alex Dimitrov

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Not-So-Secret Crush

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 11 a.m., like clockwork, I turn on Vermont Public Radio for the governor’s address. Sometimes my daughter takes a break from whatever high school endeavor she’s engaged in, and stops in the kitchen.

Are you actually listening? she asks.

Sometimes, raptly. Sometimes, I simply sink back into whatever email or work I’m doing. But I generally listen — and particularly listen to the commissioner of health, whom my daughters have taken to calling That Dr. Levine. Sometimes the press conference is jammed with news I’d rather not hear; the state’s unemployment rate is astronomical; Covid-19 seeped into a state prison.

But sometimes I laugh out loud — such as when Dr. Levine does a weekend shopping spot-check (although not frivolous, as he always buys an undisclosed item) and provides his estimated data about mask compliance by staff and shoppers. How much I’d love to see our state’s health commissioner standing in line with, say, a bag of oatmeal, calmly asking questions and dispersing info to fellow Vermonters.

Laugh on, daughters, but my older daughter shares that the doctors in the clinic where she works are all devoted Levine fans, too. Or maybe simply fans of adherence to science, honesty, calm in the face of despair and near panic, and steadfastness.

Here’s an article about free milk, farmers, and the Secretary of Agriculture — another reason I’m grateful to live in the Green Mountain State — despite the two inches of snow this morning.

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu.

This Offering

After a day of high school kids reciting poetry, I hold up in the Barre public library. Not far from me, a man unscrews a plastic bottle of sweet tea and mutters to himself. Abruptly, I pause my frantic emailing and wonder if I’m speaking to myself, too.

It’s March and sunny, and the snow has melted — not entirely, but a noticeable amount — since this morning. I’ve left my jacket in the car, as if daring myself to complain about this breeziness-with-a-promise-of-spring in my thin dress.

My head is still filled with poetry, and with the people I’ve met today who, in one way or another, bend their lives around writing and art — people who fashion meaning from the sometimes jagged stuff of this world.

Like libraries, poetry has always been a home to me, filled with the things of the world that both amuse and enchant me — like the man laughing at some secret only he might understand, and myself, staring out the window at a little girl in muddy black boots, digging through the soggy snow with a snapped-off stick, searching for treasure.

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you…

— Jimmy Santiago Baca

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Barre, Vermont

February: Light

Entirely out of keeping with the season, I’m thinking of spring. Save for houseplants, the Vermont world is entirely without a single leaf of tender green leaf — in utter hibernation — but the days are lengthening.

Groundhog’s Day holds no suspense here — that garden-eater always turns around and burrows back down for more winter. In the meantime, a spring haiku.

The spring breeze.
Being pulled by a cow
To the Zenkoji temple.

— Issa

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After School Snacks

My 14-year-old meets me at the coffee shop in town on her way home from school. I close up my laptop and clear the table of my papers. She sits in the window drinking hot chocolate and talks and talks.

She’s making a phone call that afternoon with a stranger for a program reference, and I see she’s been thinking about that phone call all day. She’s not someone who likes talking on the phone. And to someone she doesn’t know?

In a complete non sequitur, she lifts the gingerbread cookie she’s eating and says that’s exactly the kind of cookie she wants to bake.

Looking at her, I marvel at how she’s all teen — both worrying and taking pleasure in that worrying — in a this is my thing, my life, what I’m doing kind of way.

Her grandparents have a sent her a small box with a card. When she lifts the lid, the box opens into a pop-up Christmas tree, and she laughs and laughs.

A group of teenagers come in the door, stomping snow from their boots. The barista says, Here’s the future.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Cat Joy

When I returned from a school board meeting last night, so tired I might actually have been sleepwalking, the kids had taken the trusty yardstick, swept out the toy mice from under the couch, and the cats were ecstatic. Our house was reveling in utter joy.

I write this, because I admire those cats so much, epitomizing the be here now bliss of existence. But, bless them, these are cats.

After Vicki wrote in about the fires in Australia, my older daughter and I kept reading and reading about these fires. Our globe is literally in flames. Like just about everyone else on the planet, I’m lacking an answer, a real solution. I know just how privileged I am to live in what often seems like the Shire of Vermont, this particularly sweet spot.

When I was a young woman in the 1980s and 90s, the sentiment I was given was pretty much an all for yourself one. But for my kids, that’s not even an option. I didn’t think adults were particularly bright when I was young, but they were just adults, neither more nor less. Now, listening to my daughters and their friends, I know they’re thinking what a mess you’ve left us.

If only there was a yardstick solution to this…

Maybe learning how to be out in the big world isn’t the epic journey everyone thinks it is. Maybe that’s actually the easy part. The hard part is what’s right in front of you. The hard part is learning how to hold the title to your very existence, to own not only property, but also your life.

Meghan Daum

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