Armistice Day

This is the gray time in New England, when even the daylight is dull. Gone are the spring days of blue squill, the early morning birdsong.

After dinner, we walk in the dark.

My daughter and I read for hours. Later, she disappears for a run, while I proceed with my persistent thread of work. In all this, Marlboro College, where I was an undergraduate, appears (truly, this time) on the precipice of closing. All weekend, I follow the alumni FB thread — grief, anger, plotting — while I keep thinking of Marlboro and how much this tiny college gave me. I’m not alone in that, I see, listening to alumni after alumni.

November. Our house is warm. I open the curtains and let in the daylight. At 4 p.m., the noisy cat comes and yowls over my book, demanding his dinner. My daughter puts on her ski boots and walks around the house, listening to snow in the forecast. November: life churns on.

The rain had been falling with a pounding meanness, without ceasing for two days, and then the water rose all at once in the middle of the night, a brutal rush so fast Asher thought at first a dam might have broken somewhere upstream. The ground had simply become so saturated it could not hold any more water.

(The opening lines of Southernmost, by Silas House)

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Our November Rose

So long, arrivederci, to green grass.

Snow day for the school kids. My 13-year-old cut up paint swatches from the hardware store — a variety of rose and crimson and pink peony — and I had taped last week on the living room walls. We’re not a pink-oriented family, the three of us females, but somehow pink seemed just what that room — and maybe what the three of us — needed.

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Freckled Jack O’Lantern

November is the season of mortality. Driving along the southern side of Morristown this late afternoon, the silage fields were harrowed up, dark earth and stone and pieces of corn stalk laid open and fallow for the winter.

Tonight, while the girls carved pumpkins and listened to music, I sat at my desk in the corner upstairs and called one of my oldest friends. We talked about frozen chickens in my freezer, pork, beets, carrots, cabbage. What do you need? I asked. I offered to make soup from beef bones and marrow. He hasn’t long to live, his life caught up quicker to him than he might have imagined. So many years ago, I met his pregnant wife for the first time. She wore a new dress the color of buttercups. That was in the house of many windows and myriad rooms, surrounded by fields of wildflowers. At a wedding one summer, I climbed rickety ladders in my bare feet to the hay barn’s cupola. That marriage ended. My friends’ marriage ended. Strangers to me now live in that house.

Downstairs, my children hunted for stubs of candles. My older daughter had carved flowers and vines and an earthworm on her jack o’lantern. The younger girl’s pumpkin had ears and eyelashes, smiling lips, hearts for hair, and freckles – freckles! – over bumpy orange cheeks. I struck a match and carefully put my hand in the pumpkins. We turned out the lights. The girls’ jack 0’lanterns glowed.

Abandoned house on a
mountainside.

Garden gone to
weeds.

No one home
anymore.

– David Budbill

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Morristown, Vermont, November