The moon shines brilliantly tonight as I walk down the street to the co-op for cheese and cauliflower. Lady Moon: round as a dime and luminescent like no earthly thing.
In the best of times, January can rage like a shrieking stranger, a visitor who’s arrived with too many needs.
This year, time has slowed to incomprehensible. We wake; we do our things. Work and email. I paint a room. I endeavor to write another book. I keep Unstitched moving along.
The ordinary happens: snow falls. All day and into the night. When I wake in the morning, there’s inches and inches of fresh, sparkling snow. It’s not a blizzard, not feet upon feet. I have little trouble finding my Subaru in the morning. But the snow sugars our world for this day in utter beauty.
The rest of everything is still there — the pandemic, the crumbling American Empire, the chaos of human relationships in my house and all around — but walking home, the cold is so sharp that the snow squeaks beneath my boots. For a moment, I’m a child again, mystified that fluffy snow can yield a squeak. But there you go. A mystery incarnate.
Here’s an interesting essay emailed in by a reader about growing saffron in Vermont — yes, saffron & Vermont.
On the solstice Monday, I’m standing along a dirt road, bent down, petting a dog.
The recent cold snap has broken, and the midday is nearly balmy. Some winters in Vermont are like this: cold and thaw ricochet back and forth. Each thaw reminds us that we’ll endure the bitter cold. Beneath my boots, mud may not be far away. But I know — and not just by the low declination of light — that plenty of winter remains.
The conversation I’m having bends around again to the observation I’ve gnawed over and over: how human irrationality winds all through these bucolic Vermont villages. Likely, it’s the human condition.
Irrationality or not, for these moments, I’m standing in shallow snow, on a hillside with a view of the valley below and the not-so-far blue mountains in the distance. The little dog’s ears are velvety to my bare fingers. And, for these few midday moments, I soak in these landscape of brown dirt road, pristine snow, pale blue sky, conversation. Spring is an infinity away, but spring always arrives. I’ve been here before.
The other night, my friend and I stand on my back deck, watching the moon rise above the black horizon, a curved sliver at first, then quickly revealing all her radiant round beauty. In the house, my daughters and their friends play a game at the table, eating brownies and laughing. Little white lights sparkle above their heads.
The next night, fever lies me low, and my girls are awake in the wee midnight hours, comforting an oddly crying cat. As I rise out of the fever now, I think of how glad I am to return to our life. Worn out before, as we all get — buried beneath the everyday accrual of putting together work and life and parenting, and the non-everyday weight of am I failing? — I’m simply glad to return to the jumble of our lives, in this somewhat sleep-starved life, keeping the midnight shift, reading in bed or wandering around to the windows to admire the moon. Oh, the autumn moon.
Children grew in their sleep. They were growing now, bones lengthening like bamboo.
Winter moon… in my novel, the Lovely Lady Moon appears from the beginning so frequently I think of her as a character, too. The other night, I lay reading in bed for the longest time, and then my brother started that texting thing again. He has this way of texting like no one else I know: as if he wraps his deepest, pithiest, and often funniest words in a rag, knots it up with twine and rock, and chucks it over the Connecticut River to me. Afterwards, I lay in the cold room under a thick wool blanket, staring through that uncurtained window, thinking of those words of my brother’s, his phrases of what had given him a sweet, rare joy that day.
I learned to follow the moon’s phases all those myriad March nights of sugaring, as I hurried back and forth from the house to the sugarhouse, over treacherous ice and sucking mud, beneath her radiance…. which channeled into all those nights I was awake with nursing or sick children, my eyes watching the moon as she rose and arced and descended through my slender view of the cosmos.
Those nights, in my rural house, I wondered about other women all over the planet who were awake with their babies, feeding and tending these tiny beings, their faces turned up to Lady Moon’s pristine presence – utterly familiar, uncrackably mysterious, infinitely beyond the touch of our hands. Steady as clockwork, infallible, she beams on: a beacon.
after Buson #843
Cold is the bright moon
All those trees
and this vast sky.
Small town post office chatter today centered around last night’s eclipse and the remarkably balmy weather. In the quiet night, I had woken my younger daughter from a sound sleep and taken her upstairs to the balcony in my room, where, half asleep yet, she rubbed her eyes and tipped her face up to the heavens. Years from now, I wonder if her memory of this night and the shadow over the rusty moon will be woven in with those strings of her broken dreaming. In the dark that smelled of cut grass and leaves beginning to rot, we stood under the eternally deep sky, the moon so clear her light spilled over our faces. I held my daughter’s warm hand in mine.
…Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
(the moon) is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.
And the light that used to shine
at night in my father’s study
now shines as late in mine.
–– Louis Simpson
This incredibly fantastic photo was taken by Diane Grenkow of Mackville, Vermont, a 19th century mill village.
This evening, we finished dinner late, and my older daughter hurried out the door, saying she’d wash the dishes as she tugged on her sweatshirt. The younger daughter rushed, too. Let’s go out, she insisted. Twilight descends rapidly now, and even along our nearly untraveled dirt road it’s too dark for a child to bike in the dark. Independent at ten, she nonetheless walked closely beside me, marveling that her older sister was not afraid. I told her I had been afraid of the dark until I was an adult, and only cured myself by walking back and forth from the sugarhouse to the house in very late nights, in snow and rain and sharp cold. I remember quite clearly how utterly impenetrable I found the dark, and how long it was before my fear lessened, and an even greater time before I welcomed the night as a familiar friend.
I assured my younger daughter she wouldn’t be afraid of the dark forever, either. Walking, we talked about why the songbirds aren’t singing now and about her school monarch butterfly project, and then as we ascended an incline, the moon abruptly appeared from behind the trees, so luminously alive it was like gazing into a pail of fresh milk, luscious with cream. We stopped, shivering a little. As the dusk fattened, my older daughter in her white shirt appeared out of the gloaming, laughing at finding us in the dark.
In all the many things of today, here’s the deepest: the almost-full moon rising over a mountain, greeting my daughters and me in this cool Vermont night.
O Nietzsche, how wrong can you be, though
I like the way you sublimated your rage
into the colic of apoplectic, apocalyptic prophecy.
I don’t know if the world’s bad enough to deserve you,
or if chaos has miscarried at the birth of your dancing star,
but blessings on your head and house, anyway, wherever you are.