Lighting the Way

On our evening walk in the dark, we pass by a house where a couch, a love seat, and an ottoman have been sitting in the front yard for nearly two months now. Last night, in the rain, passing by the FREE sign that had fallen on the wet ground, I wondered, What’s the plan here?

These evenings, I often stop by the neighboring house. That small house on Winter Street was built for granite workers around 1900, like the house I bought instead. The Winter Street house was dirty and unkempt, the kitchen not really a kitchen; no one seemed to have cooked in that room for a very long time. The woman who bought that house fixed it up, room by room, but now that house appears to be empty again; I’m hoping she’s found true love and moved elsewhere.

From her free pile, I’ve taken little things — a patterned bowl, a small plate with a fish.

Post-Thanksgiving, I walk with my youngest, who imagines a post-Covid world when she’s ready for college and then wonders about her few high school years remaining. What will that look like?

She knows the future is utterly unknown. Post-holiday, we’re in watch-and-wait, partly to see how the virus surges or not, and partly to see how, collectively, how our behavior will unfold. As always, the kids are at the mercy of adult behavior, for good or for ill.

So, when I hear the governor on the radio yesterday urge Vermonters to light up these long early winter nights, I abandon my usual bah-humbug attitude of not running up the electric bill or burning more fuel.

There’s plenty of winter ahead. The plan might be as simple as day-by-day take a walk in the dark, through the mist and beneath a gauzy moon. Walking across our front yard last night, I remembered where I had planted crocuses and daffodils, that the blue squill will return next spring, that night always passes, too.

“I know how hard this pandemic has been, especially as we make our way through the holidays without the ‘normal’ get-togethers and sense of closeness we all want,” said Governor Scott. “So, in celebration of the coming holiday season, I think it’s time to lift our spirits. Let’s get creative and show the world that Vermonters are here for each other and that even through these dark and difficult times, Vermont Lights the Way…. I hope this effort will spread joy and hope, especially for our kids… there are brighter days ahead.”

Friday Run

Just before dusk, I’m running along the rail trail, where train tracks once lay, when a woman steps out of the brushy woods, puts her hand over her chest, and gasps.

I’ve frightened her. She’s dressed in hunter’s orange and holds a rifle pressed against her body.

I stop. There’s no one else around, and I have the sudden terrible feeling that I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m wearing the ripped blue sweatshirt and knitted cap I always wear.

It’s hunting season, and I should be wearing orange. She looks angrily at me. I nod, edge away, and then keep on with my run. On this run, I’m mostly worried about a skinny dog at the one house I pass — a creature who doubtlessly is harmless. I run through the thick woods between the highway and the Lamoille River, snaking through its bends. It hasn’t escaped me how the wilderness presses right up against the village where I live, in acres upon acres of woods where I hardly ever see anyone.

On my way back, I again meet this woman with a florescent pink mask over her lower face. I’ve seen no one else, save the dog, and I slow to a walk again and apologize for not wearing brighter colors.

Jesus, she says and keeps walking.

Not long after, back in the village, the twilight drifts down like a gray snowstorm. My daughter’s school is closing again, perhaps opening in December, but maybe not. All around us, the pandemic continues to upend lives, through loss of in-person schooling, jobs and childcare, and the widening gulfs of isolation.

Walking back through town, I admire the holiday lights turning on as the darkness filters down — lights of all colors and blown-up snowmen and reindeer. The day has been unseasonably warm for November. Take this in, I think. And next time, bring a mask and wear orange, too.

“Writing often reveals us to ourselves, lets us name what’s important to us and what has been silent or silenced inside us.”


― Gregory Orr

Once in a Blue Moon

Saturday, we were at a jack o’ lantern walk at the elementary school where my youngest graduated a few years ago.

Because it’s rural Vermont, it was dark, and everyone was spread out. I slipped away from the few kids and walked further along the woods path. I know this path well, and it veers down to the wetlands. There, I leaned against a white pine. The moon was nearly full, and the silvery light skipped over the rippled water.

For the longest time, I stood there, knowing my daughter was happily wandering around in the dark with her friends. In the darkness, I remembered the countless times I had admired this lovely lady moon — over fresh snow and icy backroads, in the muggy heat of summer.

At the beginning of this election week, I woke thinking of our beautiful moon, silently orbiting the globe.

The old man of the temple,
Splitting wood
In the winter moonlight.

— Buson

August flowers