October 1.

I spend the better part of Saturday stacking wood, beginning bundled in a sweatshirt and hat, and quickly stripping to a tank top and shorts. A black cat wanders by and appraises my work which, admittedly, is uneven but certainly sufficient. I breathe in fresh sap, wet earth, dusty bark crumbles.

The month of September — all thirty days — disappeared in a few heartbeats. I’m still pulling in frost-choked parts of my garden, the dead lily stalks, putting away the clay fairy house in the rock garden my daughter made so many years ago.

Friday, I’m at a summit all day that brought together people, who, in one way or another, are enmeshed in healing from addiction. Here’s the thing: a few years ago, I never would have attended a summit like this, let alone speak to a large group. For years, I said nothing about my own struggles with addiction. But publishing Unstitched acknowledged in a very public way my own miserable struggles with drinking. Because I had written the book, I had to answer questions publicly about this, and I needed a surprising amount of time to acknowledge this, to really accept what this meant. But I heard — and I kept hearing — from people I both knew and complete strangers — about their struggles, or a friend or family member’s struggles.

The Rumi line I quote in Unstitched is “the wound is the place where light enters.” When I returned Friday evening, my daughter asked me why I go to these sad things. And it’s true; there’s such grief that’s shared. But now I understand that there’s my own grief — still much of it in a private place in my heart — but grief is our human commonality, too. The wound is what renders the light possible.

When I step out, three hot air balloons are rising.

Nearby the expo where the summit is held is a hair salon named The Rusty Clipper where I dropped off maple syrup wedding favors about twenty years ago. The father of the bride gave me a check. When the bride opened a box, she told me I had given her the wrong bottle — hearts instead of leaves, or leaves instead of hearts. I gave the check back to the father. I put the boxes back in my car. I buckled in my three-year-old and drove home. At home, I redid all the favors and drove back the next day. When I got the check again.

I stand there under the hot air balloons and wonder about that bride whose name I’ve long since forgotten. Then I follow the crescent moon home over the mountains as the light gives way to twilight.

Gifts.

Before I leave for the North Danville Library on Tuesday, I sit for a moment with my daughter at our kitchen table. She eats a quesadilla, and we talk about things that matter — who’s behaving in what way and why that might be. The rain has knocked off for a bit, and I drive the way I often knit, more by feel and memory than anything else.

At this time of year, the farm fields are their deepest green. Sunflowers appear in gardens and along houses, their yellow leaves weathered by cold nights. I passed the house where my former sister-in-law lived when her four children were little. In the backyard, we built a playhouse. Her oldest daughter slept in the upstairs bedroom, and milk trucks rumbled down the road in the very early mornings.

The Brainerd library is housed in a former schoolhouse. I parked and stood for a moment in the lot shared by the library and a church. Cows ambled in the field behind the parking lot. Across the street, children pushed each other in a swing hung in an enormous tree. I imagined these were a few after-dinner moments gleaned in the falling twilight before bedtime.

I had been generously invited to talk and read a little about my book Unstitched. Driving over, I remembered the two years I spent writing this book, much of these hours at my kitchen table. Writing a book can be such a long and lonely process. So these moments of connection and resonance, of meeting readers and other writers, are manna to my soul. The library was well-cared for and had a real sense of so much living that had happened in those walls.

Unstitched is about hard things — addiction and guilt, poverty and illness. But I left that night and drove back home along the roads that had no traffic with my heart full of happiness kindled by an evening of literature and discussion and homemade cookies in a beautiful library with kind people. At home, the stars sprinkled over the sky, and the night was still warm enough that I could pretend winter was not in the near offing. Inside, my daughter and I picked up our conversation where we had left off.

Lost, Not Lost.

Tuesday afternoon finds me somewhat lost on the way to a soccer game. In a rush, I glance briefly at the map, take a mental note, and head off. My cell phone has given up its ghost, and I know I have a paper atlas in the back of my Subaru, jammed beneath a box of oil, if need be. I drive the way I knit — by feel — and generally that gets me there. In this case, driving by feel gets me to Hazen’s Notch, a twisty dirt road climb. The road has been recently graded; it’s slick with falling rain.

I’m headed to a town where I haven’t been in nearly 25 years. The last I was here, my then-husband and I were following a lead on a vacuum pump for maple sap. We pulled into a two-story house that was recently built. A pregnant woman dialed her husband at the town garage, and he drove up in a moment. That afternoon, I wanted to be pregnant. While our husbands talked about the pump, I asked her about the pregnancy. She wanted to buy a crib with the money from the sap pump.

We paid in cash. The pump remained one of the most reliable pieces of equipment in our sugarhouse. It became my nemesis, too, with the absence of housing around the belt. I feared for my hair and scalp, my fingers. It drank oil like crazy. It worked hard.

This Tuesday, I’m not really lost. I know, enough, where I’m headed, how to read the sky and rivers, the mountains, to get me in the right direction. I pull over near a swamp where maples are in full red already. What do you know, I think to myself, that sight is worth the drive.

Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

Sunday, we drive across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. There, the mountains are much taller and rugged than Vermont’s shorn down ridges. I grew up (mostly) in New Hampshire, and granite in boulders and quarried slabs is as familiar to me as my kitchen knives.

I sit in the backseat, knitting, and all the way there and all the way back, I have the strangest sensation of a sewing needle linking these two states and the pieces of my life — girlhood and young motherhood and the cusp I’m on again as my fledglings head off gleefully into the wild. In New Hamsphire, we meet my brother for lunch in a leisurely way, nothing serious, batting around trips and ideas, family stories. We sit outside in the shade. As we leave, he tips back his head and says, What perfect weather.

We return home with tiny cheesecakes in jars, a few groceries, a kind of sleepiness and fullness from the drive. We’re back in time to feed the hungry housecats their early dinner. In the garden, I pull up some gone-by marigolds and cucumber vines. Working, I think of all these little bits and pieces of our lives, how I often struggle to put these together. And yet, sometimes, how our lives are sewn together, as if miraculously. End of August. And now onto what I hope is a long sweet autumn.

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman’s laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children’s voices in bright air–these things will never change.

— Thomas Wolfe

Washing Up.

Greensboro, Vermont

Late Friday afternoon, I swing by work for a few things and bring a friend. The day has cooled, and the evening is perfect in an August storybook way. Afterward, we stop by the beach where a few families are lingering with kids. The parents are clearly ready to head home. The children reluctantly leave the warm lake.

My friend and I sit on enormous pieces of donated granite that function as benches, admiring the spill of sunset over the serene lake, when an acquaintance drives up. He’s there for his daily swim. We kick around a few random exchanges, and somehow the conversation bends around to money. He tells us that his brother was a golf caddy in high school. Every night, he washed his tips in the sink and then ironed the bills.

We laugh and then swim. But later, driving home, I think about the teenage boy, decades ago, scrubbing up his tips, making them new. What was he thinking? And where did that take him?

Home again, the crickets sing mightily around my house. A moon hangs in the sky, and the constellations emerge. All that shadowy summer night, so much infinity.

A few lines from Brad Kessler’s novel North:

The Noonday Demon was invented at the monastery. You had to plumb the depths to reach the heights… Depression [at the monastery] is impossible to avoid; it’s where God enters — through the wound.

— Brad Kessler

Keep Walking.

The summer people are still summering it up around the lake. In a few more weeks, these noontime walks will be me and the goldenrod. The kids will be back in school, the adults back in the adult world.

Walking, I can’t help but take stock of the summer. In a quiet way, this has been a summer of learning for me. Perhaps more than anything else, I’ve started to let go of how hard I hold onto time. I stop and talk to the gardener who often seems to be mowing under a wooden split rail fence. I see him just as he’s turned off the motor, and we talk for a while about phlox and coreopsis, milkweed and butterflies. He’s been gardening around this lake for over forty years, and he’s in no particular rush for anything.

The day has warmed since the cool of the early morning when I left my house. I’ve had plenty of coffee and there’s a long stretch of day ahead. With the toe of his boot, he brushes grass clippings from the mower. He asks how far I intend to walk.

Not far, I answer.

He says he’ll offer me a piece of advice: go further than my plan. Walk around the next curve in the path.

In his mirrored sunglasses I see myself, a small woman in a blue dress. I agree, All right.

He nods and starts the mower again.