Sunday morning, a light rain falls. The rain is a gardener’s dream, a light but steady enough drizzle, interspersed with sunlight. Our world grows. I stayed up late the night before, reading The Year of the Horses, and maybe it’s nothing but exhaustion — and who isn’t exhausted these days, anyway, but the kids — but I keep wandering around, in and out of the house. To the garden to move this or that. Then back inside to wash a window or sweep away some winter cobwebs.
Washed by rain, the colors in my garden are vibrant. I have this strange feeling that I’m inhabiting the Middle Ages, the realm of chivalry and honor, a time when art is justly valued.
All day long, I work at this, back and forth, making some kind of order in my raggedly life. Before too long, I know, the weeds and the black flies will swarm me. I might be overwhelmed with the messiness of gardening. But for now… just this potential. Just this moment. A single tulip, blooming.
My daughter and I drive around in the evenings. It’s a teen/parent compromise I suppose — a walk in the town forest where I gush over blooming trout lilies and spring beauties and trilliums as if ephemerals have never done this amazing show before. My daughter is cool and tough, utterly on that rugged cusp of childhood and womanhood. It makes my heart ache. It makes my heart swell.
We drive around in what might appear to anyone else as aimless nothingness, checking out geese and listening to the peepers. In our driveway again, I slip off my sandals and lean back in the carseat. Goddamn, I could sleep in her car, that the slip of moon would rise over us, and then we’d just begin again in the morning. Maybe we’d drive to Nebraska. Maybe to her high school. Maybe we’d just keep sitting here, talking, or not.
Meanwhile — spring goes on. Leaves unfurl.
My wrists and eyes and heart are baggy with wrinkles. That is how old I am. Meanwhile, I keep thinking of a line about doubt by Søren Kierkegaard. As a young woman, I thought this doubt thing was for the weak and the foolish. I believed in striking out, holding firm, sucking up the consequences of my actions. Now, it’s a koan that keeps rattling around in my late night, my early morning, my stray driving thoughts: “Doubt is conquered by faith….” I think, take heart from from that. Then, when I look up the line, I realize I’d forgotten the second half: “… just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.”
In my bank account appears $250 from the IRS. I could spend this money six ways to Sunday. What I do is order more firewood. For years, the only expenses we had for firewood were chainsaws and fuel, property taxes, and the our own labor.
Living in town now, I buy firewood. There’s nothing else like the wet-sap scent of freshly cut and split wood. I buy from a man who lives in the next town over. When he delivers, we have an annual check-in about what’s happening, standing beside a great pile of split wood, talking about the weather or what’s happening in Washington or sweeter things, like his baby granddaughter.
The thing about burning wood is all the steps — tree, woodpile, glowing fire and happiness, ash that I spread in my garden.
Last night, as I turned off the lights and headed upstairs, I spied one of our cats lying on the rug before the wood stove, wistfully staring. It’s sultry July, and many days off (I hope) from kneeling before the wood stove.
Vermont’s summer mugginess settles in, and I lie awake at night, remembering the much stickier summers of my childhood in southern New Hampshire, a thousand days of no school and bike riding and eating salted cucumber and playing Acquire with my brother and the neighbor — the ultimate game of capitalism.
But those were likely much less than a thousand days.
My youngest texts me at work. She and her friend explore different swimming holes and go hiking. Together, as new drivers, they match route numbers with roads, beginning to master maps. I worry about her — my youngest navigating the world on her own — this place of such ineffable beauty and real badness. This is the summer she’s learning the price of a tank of gas — a transaction between labor and coin. But it’s also the summer she’s beginning to realize the phrase girls travel in packs has much more meaning than looking for the women’s room.
This is the summer of phenomenal sunsets and sunsets, of studying the sky, wondering if rain might move in.
Quit counting, I counsel myself. The hot days unwind into hotter nights, but the dawn is cool, the dew lush over my toes.
Unexpectedly, I end up with a short period of time in Montpelier, and, rather than work in the library as I once did (for years), I open my laptop on a bench. I set up beside the city’s old train roundhouse, marked now by a sign but nearly hidden under foliage.
It’s fitting, in these days of change.
In our family life, my youngest daughter’s birthday approaches. Last night, I watched my daughter and her friends laughing in the flickering campfire. What a change from last year.
In the world-at-large, the world changes, too. Our town canceled the annual Memorial Day parade, but set off fireworks at the high school. This is now, I kept reminding myself as we watched the fireworks from our yard, not a memory, but now.
The temperature sank. We wondered about frost warnings. I remembered how Peak Oil was the buzz right after this daughter’s birth. But here we are, sixteen years later, young girls on the cusp of womanhood.
Sweet, I thought as I gathered the dinner’s dirty plates. An actual potluck again. Sweet, sweet sixteen.
Walking early this morning in the garden, the dew chilly over my bare feet, the thrush sings. The lilacs are opening, blossom by blossom, the deepest violet still closed tightly, not yet ready to reveal.
This is good news I remind myself. I look back at my house where our cat sits in my daughter’s bedroom window. She’s sleeping yet, a whole day of sunlight and apple blossoms yet to come.
May. Spring in Vermont. The air this morning is sweet.