When my youngest was born, nearly 18 years ago, my brother had a new cell phone that had a camera. I didn’t own a cell phone then and didn’t predict I ever would. Who wanted to carry a phone around with them?
Turns out, my brother had forgotten his phone, anyway.
I could rhapsodize about how many phones and how many laptops have now passed through our house, the zillions of digital images and words, but really…
This is the most amazing blossom season. In the late afternoons, I read beneath an apple tree while petals fall, the pollinators hum, the spring crickets creak on. The first crop of dandelions has already morphed into gossamer globes of seed. How fast this passes. Sometimes, waking in the night, I get up and read. I am now beyond those baby waking nights, no longer so hungry to rest. Jays bicker over something I’ll never know. The day slips along.
A snow-globe snow flakes down all afternoon. In a meeting, I sit near the window and look over the river. Plenty of listening. Plenty of talking. Ice clings in chunks to the shoreline, but the current runs swiftly. This March day is just at that brink where snow piles on last year’s dead grass, melts on the pavement.
As sometimes happens in this group, the conversation winds around to the world’s wider themes — the pandemic and literacy, disparity of wealth — very big picture things — how the world is broken in places and how these pieces may or may not fit together. There’s plenty of coffee, and sandwiches, too, that someone has brought from somewhere, and I keep drinking the coffee and studying those currents, how the water crashes up over rocks and flows on again, heading that long way to Lake Champlain and north through rivers heading towards the North Atlantic. Someone beside me remarks that he’s not convinced our world can be put back together.
In the very big picture, however, things are always going together, breaking apart, heading together again. I keep watching that dark river and the foamy curls of waves. The coffee is lukewarm and lousy at best. Nonetheless, I keep drinking it and drinking it. We keep talking and listening.
“That’s religion in America, under constant revision.”
Our post office box is crammed with mail. It’s been a few days, and I tug the mail out to see what’s there. Late afternoon, the PO has a steady stream of locals, some shuffling, others rushing. I take my turn at the table in the corner, chucking away what I didn’t request and don’t want, the sale flyers and offers. I keep a holiday card and the electric bill, The New Yorker. While I wait in line for two packages, the woman beside me strikes up a conversation about knitting hats and then we’re in the world of cables and color and yarn weight.
The PO is in the post office’s standard squat brick building, not at all quaint or cutesy. When staff changed over a few years ago, someone planted a flower garden in the front bed. By late summer, I kept admiring the flowering elecampane, taller than my head, bristly and mighty, a flower after my own heart. Late July is a long way off, but still. Elecampane is lodged in my garden plan.
“No two people knit alike, look alike, think alike; why should their projects be alike? Your sweater should be like your own favorite original recipes – like nobody else’s on earth. And a good thing too.”
At night, I knit and read, diligently counting stitches two-by-two before beginning the yoke pattern. I read about witches in 18th century New England, about muddy roads and fieldstone chimneys, about hunger and families and the complicated passions of small communities. About fear and remorse.
Around my house, the wind howls, lifting pine needles and crows’ feathers. November is the season of reckoning and looking towards the new year, of town and school budgets, of placing what you have beside what you want, of financial cost-and-benefit analysis, of a personal reckoning, too.
I remain awake unreasonably late, determined to proceed carefully this time to avoid ripping apart these stitches, anticipating the pattern work, the joining of color to color. Outside, I imagine smoke rising from our chimney, dissipating into the starry sky. A mouse nibbles in the wall. I keep counting.
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”
— Flannery O’Connor
Last the third Vermont Almanac —one of the loveliest (and most useful) print publications — is out. The Almanac folks are virtually kicking off the third edition at Burlington’s Phoenix Books Thursday night, 7 p.m. You should come!
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.
Right at the equinox this year, spring cracks winter’s back in Vermont. The pavement buckles into frost heaves. The dirt roads mush and muddy. Sunday, I find the season’s first coltsfoot, the tiny gems of gold.
A Vermont spring is either a heartbeat — bang, done — or weeks of freeze and thaw, thaw and freeze. Although the days have hit 60 degrees, the nights are still cold, and our wood stove keeps our house warm.
Last evening, we walked by a sugarhouse, its cupola open and steam billowing. The air was tinged with the sweetness of maple, the slight rotting of thawing mud. Instinctively, my upper arms ached. Walking behind my daughters, listening to their chatter, my arms remembered those years when we sugared, and how my arms and gloved hands bent into the woodpile.
Spring is all those things: the radiance of the strengthening sun, the beauty of wildflowers, and how, when the earth thaws, our winter debris of ash pile and last year’s kale stalks emerge.
The bush warbler. The rain wouldn’t let up. The travel clothes.