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

Night Driving.

I had dinner with six other adults last night at a restaurant beneath a tent. Across the table from me, one man said he didn’t think he’d eaten with that number of people in, well, what seemed like forever.

Ditto, me.

I’d driven down I-91 along the Connecticut River to meet the team at Steerforth Press and talk about my book Unstitched that will be published in a month.

On my way home, I drove out of New Hampshire in the dark that had fallen while we were talking and telling stories. I drove away from the congestion of Dartmouth, and then north again, into the deepness of Vermont. The day was still humid and sticky with summer, and I left the windows open, while I listened to The New Yorker‘s Atul Gawande talk about the Delta Variant.

I remembered driving in the dark in my mid-twenties, alone, over the Continental Divide. At the top, I parked and stretched. Although it was summer then, too, the elevation’s chill made me shiver in my t-shirt and shorts. In the women’s room, drying my hands under a stream of hot air, I chatted with an elderly woman. Where she was going, and what she was doing, I’ve long since forgotten, but I remember stepping outside the little building with her and admiring the stars.

So many years later, I sped through the warm and velvety night.

At home, my daughters had left the little string of lights on in the living room, and the back porch lamp glowed. Our house, freshly painted white, glimmered a little as the clapboards rose above the woodpile and purple echinacea. The cats sat at the door, watching moths, or maybe waiting for me.

A few minutes early to New Hampshire yesterday, I walked through a park and discovered a community garden devoted almost exclusively to flowers. A woman and her dog paused and watched me admire the blossoms. The poodle suddenly stood up on its hind legs and barked a hello. I laughed. The woman nodded. Then she went her way, and I went mine.

‘This is what you shall do…’

Planting rudbeckia this afternoon, my shovel hits something hard in the sandy soil. I scrape and unearth a brick and then several pieces, all in surprisingly good shape. How useful, I think.

I dig harder, wondering, who buries bricks? and then discover a drill bit, too.

With my fingers, I unearth that and ponder. I know a carpenter who worked here a number of years ago, and I wonder if the tool is his.

For a moment, my eyes sweep the perennials in the front yard — forsythia and roses and lilies and peonies — and wonder what else lies buried in all that soil.

I plant the rudbeckia, stack the bricks in the barn, and hide the drill bit in a secret place.

Oh, sweet July and all your forty shades of green. Keep on surprising me.

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families…”

— Walt Whitman

Road Tripping in the Back Seat

Yesterday, standing in a parking lot in the summer sun, waiting for daughter who had gone back to the car for her wallet, I started thinking how many pivotal scenes in my life have taken place in parking lots around the country, and how much just everyday living has taken place in these innocuous roadside places, too.

I remembered my father drinking kefir in a parking lot in Boulder, Colorado, and passing the bottle around to me and my siblings. Kefir was not then a common product in the New Hampshire village where we lived, and my brother and sister and I had never tried it.

With my first pregnancy, I labored in a parking lot.

In my twenties, I wrote about road trips because I took a lot of road trips, and road trips inevitably contain those fascinating moments where you step outside the car in an unknown place and look around, wondering where you are.

Now, in my early fifties, I’m sometimes in the backseat of a daughter’s car, still looking around and wondering where I am. The view is different here — I’m going to readily note that — but it’s a view worth having, nonetheless.

Happy Sunday, all.

(And, I’m still having trouble with WordPress’s updates. Send me an email, please, if you notice anything off, or have advice to give, too.)

A Little Green.

An acquaintance stops into work. I’m jammed to the point of frazzled with a list of what needs to be done, but I quit for a bit and shoot the breeze, ask what’s up in his world, and how his very large (by Vermont standards) business is faring.

We’re Vermonters, so our conversation naturally bends towards the weather. We’re dry — not New Mexico dry, where my parents live — but so dry in Vermont wells are going dry. Listening, I think how much of the summer is yet to come. Then he heads off to his day, and I head back into mine.

In the evening, I’m in a meeting at the town offices when the rain begins. The town offices are in a 100-year-old schoolhouse. It’s a well-made building of wood and walls of pressed-tin over, now shabby in places and in need of TLC, but endearing with history and craft. By then, the day has stretched out quite long for me, but I’m happy to be in this building, with jovial people who are doing their community part.

When I step outside in the dark, cold has moved in with the rain. But the rain falls steadily, at least for some amount of time. The next morning, the hillsides are vibrant green in a way I haven’t seen for some time.

We’re dry, but not as dry as we were before.

July 1.

This photo snapshots summer for me.

I snapped this photo of my beloved daughter’s bare feet at a gas station, just before I had a conversation with a couple who had left Tennessee (brutally hot, they repeated) for the romantic life in Vermont. I kept thinking, but you haven’t meet Vermont’s January yet….

After so long, we finally had a full dinner table on our back porch yesterday, myself and the daughters and the boyfriend and my brother and his partner, all of us together with summer’s greenery pressing in — the domesticity of my potted plants and the wildness of box elder and cardinals interwoven.

Rain sprinkled, and we grilled steak and vegetables. Our conversation wound through drought, the pandemic and the Delta variant, QAnon, and my teenager’s job in a general store this summer.

Over the valley, I saw clouds darken, and rain broke again. Plate by chair by glass we carried in what needed to be covered, and kept talking.