A Sweeter Version of Macbeth’s Day to Day

On our back deck yesterday, my 19-year-old and I talk about the crickets, how their songs are lengthening and yet quieting at the same time, their strength slowly leaking away with summer.

The sunflowers are high in our garden.

This summer has been one of the daughters coming and going, and myself mostly staying put. The younger daughter’s suitcase is packed again, as she happily heads to Maine with friends. The older daughter has been working mixed-up nursing home shifts — most recently the graveyard hours. Her bags are packed, too, as she anticipates returning to college.

We’re busy, sure, but not that busy. In the midst of all this, we cook dinner together when we’re all home, and in these long dusky evenings, we go for walks.

Last night, we were in the town’s community gardens, taking photographs in the pink-leaved echinacea. I remembered that very first year I was a mother, and I kept trying to grab some stability — Oh, this is what being a mother is like. This is how our life will go. But my baby kept changing. She slept, or she didn’t sleep. She crawled, and then she ran. She babbled. Sometimes, she cried fiercely. She was radiant and fierce and deeply loving — a babyhood version of who she is as a young woman.

But she grew and changed all the time, which is — and I really don’t know why this came as such a shock to me — the essence of this earthly life. But the deep down elements of our lives haven’t altered: her eyes are the same curious, merry upside-down crescent moons I first saw on the night she was born.

All this, I suppose, means that I intend to swim in the nearby pond as long as possible. The water is warm yet, and the banks are brilliant with goldenrod.

I had to learn that I was a better mother and wife when I was working than when I was not.

— Madeline L’Engle, Walking On Water

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Photo by Molly S.

A Gift of Sticks, Maybe

Here’s a fantastic use of Facebook: a friend and colleague offers hydrangeas — come thin my patch, dig and carry.

I’ve known this woman longer than I’ve had children, so our conversation, while we dig, winds in and out of family and bits of gossip about the local library scene.

We pack the back of my little silver Toyota with boxes of sticks and fibrous roots, black crumbles of soil. I cradle a fat earthworm in one palm while we talk, then gently return this creature to damp earth. The early, misty morning is fragrant with the unmistakable scent of opened-up soil.

In the afternoon, at home, I plant two long rows of these hydrangeas,  separated by a path down to the woods.

My girls are skeptical of planting what they see as sticks. Really?

Act of faith. And not that extreme. These sticks will grow.

We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift.

— Madeline L’Engle, Walking On Water

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Coltsfoot by Molly S.

Kid and Her Cat

Whether the sun will ever appear in the Northeast Kingdom appears a matter of faith. I know the sun will return, likely soon, likely tomorrow, that long days of warmth will quickly melt the snow in the rose bed and bring those tiny grape hyacinths to blossom, but in the meantime….

And then: how could a girl making egg rolls with her cat cutely observing not renew my faith?

Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.

— Madeline L’Engle, Walking On Water

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Free Stuff

Freezing rain last night. An acquaintance from years past walks up the icy driveway this morning to inquire about an old claw foot bathtub. We talk for precisely three minutes about one of the most difficult problems I’m facing now. Three minutes, tops. And yet, somehow, that’s all I need. In a better frame of mind, I’ll return the favor to someone else.

It may be that we have lost our ability to hold a blazing coal, to move unfettered through time, to walk on water, because we have been taught that such things have to be earned; we should deserve them; we must be qualified. We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift. But a child rejoices in presents!

Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water

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Settling In

Years ago, when I sold syrup at the Stowe Farmers Market with my toddler, she spilled water down her dress, and I hung the wet one over the back of a wooden folding chair to dry. Later that day, a customer appraised my booth and noted, You’ve really set up house here.

I had. With a blanket spread on the grass, a jumble of toys and three-year-old art supplies, snacks and the perpetual baby dolls and that drying laundry and likely my camera and notebook, the gypsy blood in me came out those market days and I came prepared.

If you’re raising kids, why not settle in?

In these dim November days, the trampoline is taken down for the season. The neighbor boy arrived to our delighted laughter on his unicycle this afternoon, and the kids have spread out before the wood stove making origami chairs. Warmth, sustenance, art supplies: ingredients for a Sunday near-to-snowing afternoon.

But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.

– Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

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Living Sonnet for this Holiday

In my daughter’s geometry homework, she’s struggling to take a flat diagram and turn it into a three-dimensional object – harder than might be imagined, even for an art-minded kid. In this holiday break, with a teenager and a savvy ten-year-old, we talked with my brother about who we know and how their lives shape out, and the choices people make in their lives. That clarity of hindsight notion…

Sometimes it appears as though our lives unfold into myriad geometrical shapes, complex beyond any imaging. Walking in the garden this afternoon, around the beds banked over with raked leaves, we saw two fluttering moths, blooming johnny jump-ups, and purple ground ivy flowers in the hoop house. Those petals are a dimension not so long ago I would never have imagined in the month of December. What way will this story bend? All around us appears this mighty world, seemingly all-powerful, greater than any of us: and yet, here we are, a handful of people – my family – walking in our kitchen garden. Who is the folder of this shape?

 

Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.

– Madeline L’Engle

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Christmas Eve, December 2015, Woodbury, Vermont