The Present, the Forgotten.

Midday or so, I jam on my boots and head out for a walk down to the lake, leaving behind my desk with piles of hard questions. I’ve forgotten my mittens, so I walk with my hands in my pockets while the wind tears over the lake. The summer people are all long gone, houses boarded up against the elements and thieves. Ahead of me on the road, a stranger walks with a little dog who leaps in snowbanks.

The sunlight is clear, sparkling on the snow, the lake white-capped and simultaneously blue and gray and the green that copper turns after rain.

Last winter, the town began plowing the sidewalk that cuts through the old school’s green. A woman had snowshoed a labyrinth in the snowy lawn for years. The sidewalk divides that space. She protested. The plowing continued. I see she’s marked that labyrinth behind the church. Ahead of me, the little brown dog stops in the road that no one else but us is traveling, its head cocked to one side, staring at me. A gust of wind blinds me with snow for a moment, and then drops just as quickly.

As I walk up to the little dog, I bend down and say hello. The man explains that the dog has rules about people walking behind them — not allowed — and then the three of us walk together, the dog now happily flipping itself into snowbanks. “It’s a bit of an inconvenience,” the stranger tells me, “especially when I have work to do.” At the main paved road, traffic is sparse. A lone Subaru passes with salt-streaked windows.

We part ways. I walk along the short stretch of pavement and turn at the old maple tree that I begged the Selectboard not to cut last year, arguing that the breaking branches were falling only on the grass. “Give it one more year,” I asked, secretly hoping the tree-cutting plans would drift into forgotten things.

At the door, I stamp snow off my boots: a walk with a handful of immutable things.


This week, I gave away maple leaves, small shapes of pure maple sugar. For so many years, maple was queen in my life. Maple is all taste and scent, literally the life of the tree boiled into steam or crystallized into sweetness. Both my babies, when I carried them back to the house after long afternoons-into-night of boiling had a satiny patina of maple sugar glazed on their cheeks, from condensation descending through the sugarhouse.

For years, maple was livelihood in our house, but also a gift, particularly sugar which is harder and dearer to make. For numerous reasons, this year queen maple has laid her scepter down in my household – and yet, the other day, eating crumbles of this candy, I remembered this world in a grain of amber sugar: the immense fire’s roar, the billows of steam that stretched across the road, the daughters’  play tea sets and how they chalked on the cement floor and rough wood walls – and the satisfaction in drinking good syrup.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour….
– William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Woodbury, Vermont 2013