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In my email inbox this morning, a lovely poem by Raphael Kosek, beginning:

My daughter is driving
across the continent, eating cheddar
in Wisconsin, waking to a cougar’s yellow
rasp, sleeping tentless
in a corn field….

Last night, with the power out, my younger daughter and I walked around town, the Main Street stores either marked closed with a cardboard lettered sign — gone home — or filled with folks simply hanging out, talking.

Later, we’re stuck in traffic, where the highway has washed down into the Lamoille River. We’re driving home from the one lighted town around here, my daughter eating fried rice with chopsticks, talking. We’ve nowhere in particular to go. I’ve let that constant press of time slip away. As we come into the town where we live, the darkness ubiquitous but for a gleaming slip of crescent moon, we’re still talking, just the two of us. She’s no longer the darling five-year-old I once tickled daily — daily tickle? she’d ask. How the world changes, and how it doesn’t. Short as time is, time is also long, too. We stand in the cold November night, beneath the starlight, listening.

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Very Far From Diaper Land

My daughters carry the kayaks through a cluster of serious party-goers — then we’re off, into the kind of pristine wildness so easy to find in Vermont.

At one end of the pond, we drift. The youngest jumps from her kayak and swims off. I leave my kayak on a rock and float on my back, staring up into the clouds. A loon calls.

It’s taken me just about forever to reach this place of parenting, a family life with a kind of togetherness where the girls load up the kayaks while I chat with a young mother about the fish hook she found on the beach.

This sentiment is pure August — like these mornings where the mist lies in the valley again, a harbinger of winter fooling no one.

We are everything, every experience we’ve ever had, and in some of us, a lot of it translates and makes patterns, poems. But, my God, we don’t even began to touch upon it. There’s an enormous amount, but we can touch such a little.

— Ruth Stone

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After Unraveling the Sweater, Not the Mistake

I’ve been knitting the same three balls of yarn over and over in different patterns for months now — perhaps a silly amount of time. I’ve knit half a vest, decided the shaping was off, abandoned that vest, begun a sweater whose gauge I never measured correctly, unraveled that and began again.

Sometimes at night, as I say good night to my daughters, I wonder about this day we’re closing our eyes to — and maybe this illuminates nothing more than my own crazy mind — but that day’s gone, over.

So many of my parenting days when the girls were young, I greeted the night with relief — the chance to close my eyes and be still. But there’s no re-dos on life, no taking apart and casting on again. That’s obvious maybe — that my life is not a ball of yarn to knit and knit — but those obvious things can be so difficult.

Hence, this early morning, gifted with a few more inches of wet white snow, I’m in my bare feet on the back porch, listening to the wind chimes, for the robins’ first clear notes of the long day ahead.

...It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing...

From Jack Gilbert’s “Horses at Midnight Without a Moon” — a short spring poem well worth the read…

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Joyful Interlude

A few years back, I told the man at the dump about an argument I’d had with my now ex. The old man always assessed what I had for garbage and recycling and then suggested what I should pay. Are you okay with that price? he’d always ask me. We had a sugaring and carpentry business then, and I often had strange assortments of things like moldy sap lines or boxes of broken syrup jars or a busted stroller.

The old man — who always spoke to my rowdy toddler daughter — told me to take her swimming for the day. That’s what you need to be doing today.

I think of him every time I go to the dump.

Before my second daughter was born, he suffered a terrible burn accident and died a prolonged and horrific death. I know this because I read his obituary in the newspaper one fall when I was crumpling up newsprint to build a fire in my wood stove. Those days when I pulled into the dump with my lively daughter and the million things I was doing then — syrup and mothering and trying to figure out my life — the day of his death seemed far away.

There’s a lesson in this I repeat to myself, that I must swallow down into the marrow of my bones. Seize joy — the unremarkable days of swimming that make up a life.

… We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left… very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins…. whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

— Mary Oliver

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Not By Light Alone

Darn near every moment these May Vermont days, the greenery deepens, fattening mightily, rushing headlong in the chlorophyll world as if making up for winter’s lengthy dormancy.

Walking in the dusky, gently falling rain last night? How could we not love this? All that growth – leaf, blossom, peepers, owls – chorusing around us.

Likely the most unresolvable argument of my life was about darkness, with a person who insisted I not embrace the darkness, not press it near my heart. Every one of my days for nearly the past 19 years has been filled with growing babies and children, teenagers now, with beeswax crayons and playhouses made from sheets, and an endless round of apple slices; at the same time, I’ve also lived through the planting, harvest, and demise of many gardens. Every year, I pass the unknown day of my death and the days of the deaths of everyone I love, and I know, even as the thrust of spring is so mightily powerful and unstoppable, all this will change, too. Our world holds both courage and cowardice, generosity and betrayal.

I’d rather know that, too, than not.

Thanks to State 14 for picking up a blog entry of mine. What a pleasure to be included with their fine writers and photographers.

Don’t be afraid of getting lost. Journey as far as you can. Find the dusk and the gloom. Fill your lungs with it. It’s the only way you’ll negotiate the light. Be worried. That’s okay. The dark is something to sound out too.

Brecht asked if there would be singing in the dark times, and he answered that yes, there would be singing about the dark times.

They are indeed dark times: be thankful. Sing them.

Colum McCann, Letters to a Young Writer

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A Mouse Passing

This will likely reveal the sad state of housekeeping around here, but the other morning I found a dead mouse in the living room. The little creature must have folded itself against the chimney in the night and passed along into the next realm for small rodents, leaving behind a gray and a very long-tailed body. I swept it into the dustpan and laid it outside beneath a maple tree. Still early in the morning, the grass was cool beneath my bare feet, and the children were sleeping, wreathed in their world of dreams.

Ill, injured, or simply old? I don’t know. The leaves flipped up their undersides, preparing for rain. I knew the little body wouldn’t remain there long. These shells of creatures never do, scavenged up by some other animal, turned into someone else.

Oddly, as I walked back into the house and picked up my laptop on the couch again, I thought of an Issa haiku I first read when I was a teenager, more resonant, stronger, than ever. Ah, little mouse…

Don’t kill that fly!
Look–it’s wringing its hands,
wringing its feet.

– Kobayashi Issa

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