Gardening and Letting It Garden.

I’ve given over sections of my garden to seed this year — or blossoms more accurately. Carrots left unharvested from last year’s crop sprout into green feathers. These remain, overshadowing this year’s celery. Forgotten onions turn stalky, their tiptops bristly with imminent seeds.

In this year, perhaps, why not?

Our family of four is now two. The constant meals I once made are different now, with the two of us working and busy in our own ways. The Jonny-jump-ups take over the paths. Forget-me-nots have finally rooted in a corner. Cucumbers nestle beneath sunflowers. Tomatoes and basil and onions, Love Lies Bleeding, sweet peas and Sugar Anns.

Birds dart in and out, settle among the leafy chamomile, perch on the garden fence. The foxes have not devoured all the groundhogs, but the groundhog has not devoured my garden — at least not yet. Stray cats wander through. The man with the scary dog remains on the cemetery side of the fence. The turkey vultures, of course, adhere to no boundaries, save their own.

The short summer night.

The dream and real

Are same things.

~ Takahama Kyoshi

What Nourishes Us.

On my way home from Bookstock — a terrific book festival in Woodstock, Vermont — I stop at a farmstand for strawberries. I’m a little dizzy with heat, with talking, with the sheer writingness of the day. No one’s around, and I admire the lake across the road.

The farm owner backs up his truck. End of the day, he’s pulling in what remains in the wooden stand. We talk for a little about the pontoon boats and how the lake is surprisingly deep at his shoreline across the road, a perfect temperature for swimming.

He tells me about the alarm that sounded in his greenhouse recently when the overnight temperature dipped near to forty. We’re standing in near-90 degree heat but Vermont weather is fickle. The farm owner was a patron in the library where I worked. I bought political books for him that maybe no one else but he and I read. Cold winter days, he’d sometimes appear and read silently for an afternoon and then leave with a stack of books.

This day I’ve driven on blue highways down the heart of Vermont, along rivers and through narrow valleys, past homesteads with fat gardens, through classic white clapboard villages and a town center dominated by a post office and a rusting flag pole. On one farm, TRUMP is painted on a metal storage box beside the farmhouse where the roof is bitten out in pieces. Lilac bushes cover the first floor windows. An RV in the side yard appears to be the occupied space.

I buy two pints of strawberries. The farmer loads up his truck. I stand at dusty roadside in the hot breeze. Bring it on, I think. Summer. The strawberries are the sweetest I’ve tasted in years. Nourishment from the goddesses.

Words and Stale Bread.

Where I am these days…

I’m standing in front of the town office where I work when a Subaru swings in, and the driver pulls up beside me. I’d been eating the stale focaccia and watching a swiftly moving rainstorm moving across the lake. The driver is someone I’ve know off and on for years, through school board and select board meetings, through the connections that unite people in Vermont towns.

We share a conversation about a resident who’s using his parcel of land hard, hard, so unnecessarily. Rain spits a bit. I gnaw at the side of the focaccia, worried about stressing my tooth with its repeated root canal work.

Of all the many things I’ve learned or observed in the pandemic, our collective need for these small moments has surfaced repeatedly. We’ll come to no plan of action, no change, but for this moment in a breezy June midday, there’s one more stitch in my life, tugging me back in the community life.

On my drive home, a deer leaps before my own Subaru — all long legs, glancing over its shoulder as it disappears into the woods. I take the long way home on the ridge above the Black River valley that twists along Route 14. The two-lane blue highway passes a highway that flows two ways — north and south.

… Today the fields are rich in grass, 
And buttercups in thousands grow; 
I’ll show the world where I have been– 
With gold-dust seen on either shoe. 

Till to my garden back I come, 
Where bumble-bees for hours and hours 
Sit on their soft, fat, velvet bums, 
To wriggle out of hollow flowers….

~ William Henry Davies

Foxes. Friends.

June, and I work in the garden or the outside tables as much as possible, countering my indoors job and the pandemic years that have thrown me (and humankind) off-balance. Despite the unusual cold and wind, I often read outside in the evenings while the neighbors’ boys bike on our dead-end road, calling out my name.

Just beyond the pin cherry trees, the foxes come and go, reddish-brown, their front legs black. They’re not disturbed in the least by the man who walks his leashed dog in the cemetery, both man and dog head down, preoccupied with what, I have no guess. Across the milkweed and lupine, the foxes and I stare at each other, before I silently head my way, or they head theirs.

They go about their lives of hunting and playing, their ears and eyes alert to the world around them. I go about my human life of language and thought — a life that sometimes seems fixated on lists and transactions. For these moments, coming and going like the sun through clouds, this relationship feels like one of the realest in my life, devoid of our human tendencies towards deceit and self-absorption. I’m not about to become a fox, but I might become a slightly better human for these true friends.

The gods, we are taught, created humankind in their own image. Everyone has an urge to create. Its expression may flow through many channels: through writing, art, or music or through the inventiveness of work or in any number of ways unique to all of us, whether it be cooking, gardening, or the art of social discourse. The point is to honor the urge. To do so is healing for ourselves and for others; not to do so deadens our bodies and our spirits.

~ Dr. Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

On the Road.

On a rainy Saturday, I pause on an empty road and snap a photo. I’d been listening to NPR’s coverage of the January 6 insurrection, one more plot point along the disintegration of the American Empire.

For June in Vermont, it’s darn cold. I’m wearing a winter hat, and the damp wind reminds me of the ocean, how the salt air cuts into you. Listening, I remembered August 1974 when Nixon resigned. My family was moving that day, and my father, fixated, insisted on setting up our tiny black-and-white television. My sister and I asked what the word resignation meant. My father, dealing with movers and three little children and a curious pack of new neighbors, paused to teach us the meaning of that word and gave a comedic impression of I am not a crook, and then explained what that meant, too.

Decades later, and a whole lot of crooked politics later, I still think of the open road as my family’s version of Huck Finn’s Mississippi River. Not long after we moved that August, my parents drove their three little kids in our green Jeep to the ocean. We had lived in the southwest and never seen the ocean — so much water, so much sky, the impossible proved possible. My father taught us how to fly a kite, its long tail fluttering in the wind.

...Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist...
— Hayden Carruth, "The Cows at Night"

Peony Metaphor.

A few years back, owners of a stellar nursery gave me a cardboard box with a twisted root inside, tangled ends clotted with dirt. I planted as directed, and then the bartzella was at the mercy of nature and its own self whether it would grow, or not.

This June, the irises have flooded a purple pond around the lilacs. The mock orange is opening its snowy petals. And these yellow peonies with their ugly name — a few days of inimitable beauty.

A day of cold rain in the forecast today. A Saturday of writing and catch-up chores and my determination to do something about the mold on the bathroom ceiling. It’s mid-June. We’ve lived in this house for five years. The blossoms are rampart. I’ve added my own gifted dull root. For a few days, heart-pausing beauty.

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready

to break my heart

as the sun rises, 

as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers…

— Mary Oliver, “Peonies”