Moon Rise

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.

–– Patrick White

Photo by Molly S.
Photo by Molly S.

This Child I Nursed

Sixteen summers ago, I was selling maple syrup and homemade ice cream at the little Hardwick Farmers Market. The market was so small then, sometime we had just a few vendors. One lovely Vermont July afternoon I sold a bowl of ice cream to a woman in her fifties who ate the ice cream while chatting with me. Just me and the baby had come in the old pickup, and when she began to fuss, I sat on a cooler and nursed her. The woman and I kept talking, and she finally said, I’m so glad you can do that. When I had babies, women had to hide away when we nursed.

I think back now on my scrappy self then, in cut-offs and a t-shirt faded from infinite washings, my absolutely gorgeous red-cheeked baby in my arms, so young I believed my youth would last forever, and I realize that was the first time I had seen my personal life as political.

Tonight, this girl all stretched out into her own lengthy self, dressed up in new black boots and dangling earrings she bought with baby-sitting money, drove my car to her first high school dance.

Where did all that go, I sometimes wonder, my le leche league fervor, my farmers market zest? But if anything, my energy has intensified and strengthened, as a stream running down a mountain gains force, momentum, might. The channel of my force has diverted – to writing a book, keeping a small school open, guiding my oldest toward adulthood. The shadow of that much younger woman is yet deep within me, and someday, when my girls have their own beloveds, I intend to offer my daughters a bowl of ice cream while they nurse.

the lost baby poem

the time i dropped your almost body down
down to meet the waters under the city
and run one with the sewage to the sea
what did i know about waters rushing back
what did i know about drowning
or being drowned

you would have been born into winter
in the year of the disconnected gas
and no car we would have made the thin
walk over genesee hill into the canada wind
to watch you slip like ice into strangers’ hands
you would have fallen naked as snow into winter
if you were here i could tell you these
and some other things

if i am ever less than a mountain
for your definite brothers and sisters
let the rivers pour over my head
let the sea take me for a spiller
of seas let black men call me stranger
always for your never named sake

–– Lucille Clifton