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

Travels and Home Again.

Portland, Maine

In the bit of time my brother and I drove through Portland recently, we talked about a few things — where to find a good cup of coffee and that my family grew up in the pandemic. Like that — and somehow, not like that. The next morning, with real regret, I sweep up the few things we’ve left around the apartment I’ve rented for a few days, gathering cherries from the refrigerator and sandy towels from the entryway.

At home later that evening, I wander through my garden. The hydrangeas and blueberry bushes I planted five years ago have now begun to thrive — or some of them. With my fingers, I slip off Japanese beetles.

July in Vermont is the season of utter growth, the one shot to rocket forward to the sun. Each day dawns with possibility — swim or don’t swim. Work long hours with an aim of working less on sunnier days. This is summer’s calculus. Slow down, slow down.

“To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” 

— Galway Kinnell

Nameless Places.

My daughter discovered the foundation of an old mill near where she lives, a fieldstone structure built beside a rushing stream. A grist mill I speculate.

Sunday afternoon, and the day has warmed. The bugs haven’t risen yet. The spring ephemerals haven’t unfolded from the forest floor.

With one daughter grown, my youngest nearly so, my own parents well along in old age, I think about the things I wish I’d done as a parent. I wish we’d traveled more, seen the northern lights, gone to concerts. I wish my daughters’ father had stuck around. That trite phrase — glass half-empty or half-full — comes to mind. But maybe a truer comparison is this foundation, this well-crafted structure that has now morphed into a wilderness home, where birch trees set seeds and grew in improbable places.

We keep walking, and she shows me a small swamp in a hollow far off the road. The peepers are singing. The mud beneath my boots is black and rich. Water runs through it.

Travels through Time. Along the River.

Write a novel and, at some point, you’ll start henscratching or typing notes about when the protagonist moves from reaction to action. Why not think of your life as a novel you’re writing?

I drove down the long center of my Green Mountain State yesterday to return to Brattleboro, where I lived for years as a college student (so long ago). I bought my first car for $500 in Brattleboro.

For the drive, I had one rule: stay off the interstate. I began through the chain of towns I know, Montpelier and down through Northfield and Brookfield, along the Dog River. I headed up through a pass where the snow returned in clots along the road, and where trailers were surrounded by old cars and pickups, the kind of stuff that someday might be used. The forest flattened and gave way to fields where barns were built nearly in the fields. I drove through upscale Woodstock and the burned-out industrial buildings of Springfield.

Southern Vermont was like a magical dream — sunlight streamed over blooming daffodils, forsythia spread bright yellow, emerald green paired with black earth.

I met an old college friend who works at Everyone’s Books on Elliot Street. Thirty years ago, I lived right near that bookstore, and I spent a lot of time there. We exchanged thumbnail stories about our lives and kids and work and exhusbands and books of course. My book was in the front window of the bookstore, and she told me it “had been selling like hotcakes” — utterly gratifying.

In a park, I pulled out my laptop and wrote up a few notes. As I headed back to my Subaru, my friend Sean Prentiss walked towards me. He lives just a handful of minutes from me and was meeting his lovely family for a few days in Brattleboro.

I went to Brattleboro to meet friends from my past, and I met a friend from my present. Put that in as an interesting plot point.

On the way home, I listened to This American Life about babies switched at birth. I’m an TAL devotee, and this episode is especially fascinating.

Breaking Ice.

On a midday walk around the lake, I hear bits of breaking-up ice crash against a cement pier. Vermont spring — ice and green shoots, rain and rouge snow and sometimes sun.

This time of year — school break and tail-end-of-winter doldrums — many folks have flown to warmer and sunnier climates, seeking the old stand-by of the geographical cure. Around the lakes where summer folks own the large houses, hardly anyone is there, save for carpenters and roofers and painters, their pickup trucks clustered in driveways.

But the lake keeps on with its own steady world, the fierce ice gradually giving up its ghost. By the time these summer folks return, the water will have warmed again. For now, though, ice clinks as it breaks apart.

I tie my long hair back with a rubber band I found in my coat pocket. The breeze carries the damp scent of the earth, the dream of unfurling leaves, the memory of children crouched among the cedar tree roots, playing.

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day.”

~ Robert Frost

Mudding Nests.

Heavy snow falls this morning. My little cat sits at the back door, staring up at flakes swirling down through the porch light. The snow is dense and sopping wet and won’t last long. It will drive out the green that is already bursting through the tips of branches. Nonetheless, the damp eats into us. I’ve foolishly let the wood stove go dead. When I kindle a fire, the cats return, satisfied again.

Around us, there’s a raging dissatisfaction. The pandemic continues to unwind, and war rages overseas in the most sickening ways. My teenager asks with adolescent scorn what’s up with the human race, anyway, as if I’ve had a major role in shaping eons of stark unfairness. I toss the conversation back to her: you’re a piece of this human pie, too.

I long for heat and beach sand.

In the meantime, the great world spins on. The snow will melt by midday. We keep on.

Nature teaches nothing is lost.

It’s transmuted.

~ Laura Grace Weldon