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

Wildflowers. String.

Five Aprils ago, I was looking for a house for my daughters and me. In a nearby town, on a weekday afternoon, I climbed over a chainlink fence separating an empty house from a town cemetery. The fence spikes ripped the back of my leggings. I was on my way to the library where I was working, and I wore those torn leggings for the remainder of the day. I still have those leggings. I wear them when I paint, and they’re now stained with patches of lemon yellow.

When I walked behind the house, I discovered tiny blue quill — spring flowers I didn’t know. The house was surrounded by those flowers and the promise of profuse lilacs in June.

I bought the house in 2017, although it wasn’t until the pandemic nailed down that the house began to feel truly ours. We are not a rowdy family of nine. We are a family of three and now two housecats.

The thing about spring is — turn around and it’s there, quietly, blooming in some unexpected way.

Look at the silver lining, they say.

But what if, instead,

I pluck it off

and use that tensile strand to bind

myself to those things I do not 

want to lose sight of.

“Notions” by Paula Gordon Lepp

Mixing Memory and Desire.

Note the wood smoke from our chimney….

Note this photo was taken yesterday afternoon, when I walked outside and nearly froze the soles of my feet. Note snow surrounded our house this morning….

Note that spring comes hard, hard, in Vermont. Jumping the starting block a few days, I keep thinking of T.S. Eliot’s lines:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

memory and desire, stirring

dull roots with spring rain.”

The first time I read these lines was in high school, digging into the poetry stacks in the school library, mesmerized by lines like Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky….

Later, later, spring will bloom in all its tender-petal beauty. But for now…. T.S. Eliot knows the score in Vermont.