One Word.

Yesterday, I kept remembering when we took our youngest camping beside a pond when she was two. She pointed to a purple flower growing in the water and learned to say pickerel. For days, she practiced that word, pick-er-el, saying it slowly and carefully, over and over.

Fourteen years later, she’s mastered that name and much more, working for days last spring at what appeared to me to be pages of math. She won’t remember one bit of that trip, but it’s in her, still.

In the evening, my daughters disappear to go running. I wash up dishes, then sit outside near the garden and where the wilderness edges up behind our world, with milkweed and raspberry brambles. As the dusk filters in, I read. The late summer crickets chirp their songs, and the world keeps moving on and on at what it does.

Sunflowers. Japanese beetles in the green beans. Tomatoes red on the vine. The rich scent of the promise of rain moving in.


Let us dine on barley grain

On a journey nowhere

— Bashō

Sweet August…

August. On a run after work, I remind myself August would be a good month to step away from work and the revolving paddlewheel of our daily lives. I’ve pretty much always failed at vacations, but I fold that idea somewhere away in my memory. As I walk home and cut across a little league field, I have a sudden memory of eating grass as a young child. I remember pulling long, slightly sharp-edged blades and nibbling on these, like a goat or a cow, eating straight from the earth.

In my garden, green beans are fattening on the vines in force. We eat those in the sunlight, straight from the vine. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Wild blackberries and the few lingering raspberries we’ll find as stragglers for weeks yet.

August is good eating.

And a few lines from poet Hayden Carruth…

“The sky

is hot dark summer, neither

moon nor stars, air unstirring,

darkness complete; and the brook

sounds low, a discourse fumbling

among obstinate stones…”

— Hayden Carruth, “August First”

Burlington, Vermont

A Year Ago

…. A year ago, the date was looming near where I had that wretched dental procedure. On the 21st, as the oral surgeon brought a scalpel near my face, he said nicely, You might want to close your eyes for this.

This December, after weeks of virtual schooling — whatever that may be — I knock off work Friday afternoon, so the 15-year-old can drive. My oldest asked us to bring coffee. She steps out behind the doctors’ office where she works, dressed in scrubs, with a stethoscope around her neck.

Then she heads back in, jazzed for the afternoon challenge of of families and fears, from earaches to coronavirus.

In the village, my youngest parks behind the famous Stowe church, and we walk along the bike path. The path winds along the river, not at all iced over yet. We pass a few dog walkers. Behind a restaurant, the scent of dinner cooking follows us as we walk in the thin December sunlight. The savory smell reminds me of when I lived in Brattleboro, so many years ago, above a Korean restaurant.

The smell is delicious, and it follows us for a long way across a field. Stowe reminds us of those summers and falls when we sold maple syrup and ice cream at the farmers market. As we walk, my youngest tells me what she remembers of the market. These are good memories, and we share snippets of the vendors we knew in those years.

Back at the Subaru, it’s nearly four, and the sun is sinking towards the mountains’ horizon. We’ve been gone from Hardwick just a few hours and filled these hours with coffee, a scattering of snow beneath our boots, the sky overhead, the smell of dinner, and the narrow December sunlight between our words.

Carefully, she backs out of the parking space and heads for Route 100. She reminds me my brother told her to enjoy the small victories.

She pauses at the stop sign and looks at me. This is a big victory, she says.

December, 2020.


By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows...

Pandemic Pause

When I was a young newlywed, I read Green Mountain Farm by Elliot Merrick — a nonfiction account of a Quaker family. At the very end, Merrick ends with a short section saying that World War II changed their lives, as it changed so many lives.

Last evening, after supper and dishes, I was outside, moving stacks of library books from one car to another, waiting for my daughters. Although it wasn’t late, the stars were already spread across the sky. I was waiting for my daughters to come out and join me for a walk.

Finished, I leaned against my car, waiting, remembering how I had walked around this house before I bought it. I had wanted to see how bright the stars were, and if the property had a good view of the moonrise.

My daughters came out. Lit by the porch light, I saw they were both wearing black jackets and scarves. Watching them, I realized my oldest daughter was all grown up. And my youngest? Rapidly heading there.

Scars, Somewhere in November, 2020

Every morning, a hard frost sugarcoats our world.

Before the snow falls in earnest, my daughter drives, logging in hours and experience with her driver’s permit. We head out one way and take a different road back home.

Inadvertently, wandering, we end up on a road in Elmore that I haven’t traveled in years. While she and her sister talk, I remember the last time I had traveled that road was with my mother and the girls, who were so much younger then. The forest drops away on either side of the backroad. Farm fields, shaved down to corn stubble, surround us.

The girls’ father was away then, visiting his father who was recovering from a heart attack. When he returned, I believed we had a new beginning, a jumpstart to what we were doing as a family. Now, with my youngest in the driver’s seat of our Subaru, I have a sudden realization that there’s never any beginning, never any fresh start, the world always unfolding and transforming — from harrowed up fields to spring shoots to the fatness of August’s harvest.

This girl — all of her, stoic and disciplined and sometimes radiantly joyful — is becoming a young adult in these strange pandemic days. I imagine she’ll carry these months (maybe years?) forever with her, sewn into her soul like a scar.

The road winds around the rural hospital where both my daughters were born by caesarian, leaving my own body with indelible scars. I wouldn’t trade those scars for the world.

Photo of Teapot by Diane Grenkow


When I return home from work in the evening, one cat is stretched on the rug before the wood stove, the other lies on the coffee table, front paws draped over the table’s edge. It’s a scene of utter cat joy.

My daughters are laughing on the couch about something foreign to me — some kind of iPhone. I pull over a chair and sit down with a bowl of potatoes and vegetables and meat.

While they share a story about their negotiations over dinner dishes and compost and wood chores, I soak in the warmth of our living room.

All around us rages the virus, a rising irritability, utter uncertainty over the future. For years, I’ve relied on my ability to figure out a plan. Listening to my girls, I decide this is the heart of my plan: be like the cats. Drink in where we are now. Let that nourish us. And, for God’s sake, laugh at the jokes the kids tell.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” 

— James Baldwin