Resilience.

There’s few folks at the high school on a rainy late afternoon I appear. The November rain is soot-gray and cold as river stones. I haven’t been to a teacher conference in years now.

For a moment, I step into my life, six years ago, when my oldest daughter was in this same exact classroom, with this same teacher. He’s a parent now. I’m divorced, and I’ve published another book.

The majority of my daughter’s and her peers’ high school years have now been immersed in the pandemic. Her teacher reiterates, These kids are resilient.

I walk back out in an early twilight, removing my mask and breathing in the wet air. This is the strange, otherworldly time of year — twilight at four. There’s plenty of waking hours yet ahead of me — those games of Uno my daughter and I will play while she shares seagull-sized snippets of her day. We’ll cook bacon and eggs for dinner. In the dark, I’ll leave her to her homework, and I’ll drive to another town for a Development Review Board hearing. That night, I know it will be myself, alone, in that three-story former schoolhouse, fulfilling the state’s in-person requirement, while everyone else is in their living room. I know the meeting will be civil and pleasant and full of the open kindness I expect from these people. When we’re finished, I’ll fold up my laptop and stand for a moment outside again, beneath the door’s overhang, the rain pouring down, sparkling in that single outdoor light, small bits in the unbreakable darkness.

My own resilience is like a river stone, a worn-down, solid thing. Rain, darkness, the breeze from the lake hidden in the cedars. Kids, I think, kids. I carry that word kids home in my heart.

Postcard I received in the mail yesterday from Vermont Almanac — a second collection of Vermont writers due out shortly. How great is that?

Book Recs. Messy Democracy.

I’ve been on a reading binge on the Anthony Swofford/Christa Parravani husband and wife author duo, jumping around their memoirs. I picked up Parravani’s most recent book, Loved and Wanted, and then interlibrary-loaned others. Swofford wrote Jarhead — the marine memoir that just about everyone was reading a number of years ago, and I never did.

Yesterday morning, my oldest daughter got up at three to make her flights to visit my parents in New Mexico. In those murky depths of the night, I got up at three, too. When she left, a cat and I lay on the couch, reading Hotels, Hospitals and Jails. Ending with a father and son RV journey, the book’s ending did that miraculous thing, spinning not just that book but how I look at literature in a wider, more powerful light.

Hotels ends with the beginning of the couple’s marriage. Parravani’s Loved and Wanted takes place years into marriage and baby-raising. That, perhaps, is about all I’ll say about that.

My papers and notebooks were scattered around the couch from the virtual select board meeting I attended the night before. Nearly four hours long, the Selectboard discussed darn near everything in town, from federal Covid money to the sheriff’s update regarding a shooting to whether the board should consider moving a road. While democracy may be struggling in much of the country, in rural Vermont, messy democracy still rules.

Autumn is nearly over

that person dressed in fine silk

has borrowed everything.

— Buson

#10 Pond, Calais, Vermont

Sunday Morning Reading.

On my drive a few weeks ago to New Hampshire, I listened to Donald Antrim’s essay in The New Yorker about his hospitalization shortly before he published a memoir about his mother’s death. He was eventually treated with electroconvulsive therapy, partly at the urging of David Foster Wallace.

In this sticky August weekend, I’m reading that memoir, The Afterlife.

Here’s a line from this fiercely written book:

People are fond of saying that the truth will make you free. But what happens when the truth is not one simple, brutal thing?”

— Donald Antrim
Greensboro, Vermont