March

The winter my youngest daughter was two, I remember lying in bed one night with her after we had been in our sugarhouse all day. The washing machine churned with the children’s wet snowsuits, grimed with mud and ashes. I was worn out with working, my hair laced with the scents of wood smoke and maple, infinitely pleased that we had made a barrel of syrup.

As my little daughter fell asleep, I read Louise Glück’s poem “March” in the newest New Yorker, beginning:

The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter…

A year into the pandemic, I feel as though we’re mired in an eternal Vermont March. I am now old in ways I have never been old before; all three of us have bent and changed this year, as has everyone I know.

When my daughter gives me this photo she took, I cringe for a moment, with a definite glass-half-full fear. But she doesn’t. Infinite possibilities…. surely, spring is there.

Photo by Gabriela S.

14 Years Ago… On a Hot Day…

Nearly 14 years ago, my friend and I drove to Burlington to shop for a baby carseat. I was pregnant; she was pregnant. In the backseat, our two  6-year-olds chattered and ate snacks. Somewhere in the midst of our errands in Burlington, we discovered it was Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day.

What’s 14 years in the scope of human history? A nearly nothing. But for us, two baby girls, one death, five jobs, one book, a rabbit, two cats, one divorce, and a whole lot of living later — 14 might as well be a trip around the moon and back.

No free cones on this trip. We returned with four boxes of Narcan, oodles of info, and even more talk….

Why love what you will lose?
There is nothing else to love.

— Louise Glück

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Spring, 5:58 p.m., Wednesday

My 13-year-old’s bouncing like her once-beloved Tigger. After school, she’s ecstatic, with no particular reason. All through the afternoon, through cooking dinner together, hopping on one foot from the kitchen to the dining room, setting the table….

What’s up? I think. And then I know. I force myself to drop the adult crabbiness, forswear off my intention to adhere to my list.

It’s spring fever, and there is no cure. There’s only revelry.

11 years ago, give or take a few weeks, I dragged myself in from a long sugarhouse day, got my two and eight year old daughters to sleep, picked up The New Yorker, and read this poem by Louise Gluck.

Still one of my favorite poems, these lines remind me of how this harsh season reflects not only Vermont but the long seasons of a human life. Spring is hard-earned here. We savor it more for that.

It’s a little early for all this.
Everything’s still very bare—
nevertheless, something’s different today from yesterday.

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February Yields To March

The snow lies so deeply around our house I might be wrong about that slender path, first through the transplanted hydrangeas from Susan and then along the milkweed behind the garden. Down the hill, through the wild tangle of pine and boxelder, I see a single porch light every night. Come spring, I imagine, I’ll walk in my boots through the melting snow, stand at the edge of the forest, and see whose light that is.

The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter….

(The earth) says begin again, you begin again.

— Louise Gluck, from “March”

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The cats — models of serenity.

Running Away

James Joyce’s “The Dead” is one of my favorite short stories, with that remarkable line about falling snow general all over Ireland. In my corner of Vermont, these days, the sentiment generally is enough with the snow for this year. April: season of rain, of snow and ice and, somewhere, beneath all that, struggling green.

I stopped in at the Woodbury school, leaning against the foyer wall while a man who grew up on a farm in the area told me the red-winged blackbirds reminded him of childhood. When he snuck away from farm chores, he headed down to the creek where those dark birds with their signature crimson mark sang.

Ridiculously visually inclined, I rely too heavily on my vision: really, as all my photos attest, the landscape here is yet the monochrome of winter. I’m wrong about this, of course, although I won’t point to any sign of spring at my friend’s request. Too cruel, she says, when sleet falls.

And yet — dumping coffee grounds around blueberry plants, fingering their branches and imagining small, perfect white blossoms, I then close my eyes and listen to the birdsong all around, their rising, sweet melodies.

I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil…

— Louise Glück

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Woodbury, Vermont

Marvelous March Madness

Spring may be fêted with pastel bunnies and pale eggs in the Hallmark and Nestle worlds, but Vermont’s spring must be brutally strong to break winter’s back.

Thaw, and the ice pounds back. Melt, and freeze steals into the night.

The hardest I’ve ever worked in my life is sugaring season. When my younger daughter was two, I remember lying with her under the skylight over our bed, completely spent, reading Louse Gluck’s poem in The New Yorker. I had little time for reading in that season, and this poem always reminds me of this season’s pithiness, the stubborn desire to press on through mud and ice, toward the blossom season.

The sea doesn’t change as the earth changes; it doesn’t lie. You ask the sea, what can you promise me and it speaks the truth; it says erasure

Nothing can be forced to live.The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away, a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you. It says forget, you forget. It says begin again, you begin again.

From March by Louise Gluck

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