A Little Meal

A 13-year-old or so boy is fishing at the edge of the pond when my friend and I walk down in the evening to swim. He nicely shuffles to one side, and then we’re off.

The evening sky this summer has been especially enchanting — muted in color, pale peach sky with gentle blue.When we’re finished swimming and laughing, we stand for a moment on the weedy shore, and I point out a luna moth dipping and rising — part of the evening charm, like an Impressionist painting. Suddenly, a bird pursues the moth, then swallows it. A ragged wing falls.

And so much for the make-believe world.

Promises.

A thunderstorm rumbles in early Saturday morning, in that darkest spot before dawn. We’re nearly at the solstice, and the days are long and lovely, full of just the right amount of warmth. Our Vermont world is in bloom.

The rain this morning is welcome. When the downpour passes, I lie in bed beside the open window, listening to the pattering of a gentle rainfall on the leaves of the mock orange below my window. In bloom now, its flowers are white as snow.

In my memory runs a few lines from an Eric Clapton song. The day before, I had driven to St. Johnsbury, a road I had often driven when I was first married. As I crested a mountain, VPR cut out, and that song came over my radio, scratchy. Long ago, we had a second-hand turntable, and a few cast-off records, and that album we played over and over.

The thing is, I didn’t like the album much at all, but I gradually came to like it, maybe simply through habit. That one sweet song had always been my favorite. Now, over the radio, my past returned, fuzzy and unclear, but never forgotten.

A year ago, George Floyd had recently been murdered, his death replayed endlessly around the planet. Riots erupted around the country. Now, under a different administration, Juneteenth is honored.

So much. All that great wash of the past — from immense societal waves to the tiny trickles of our own lives — pushes us along. And yet, sweet rain on this quiet morning. Even the hungry cats press their whiskers against the screen, welcoming in the morning.

Instead of Lunch…

On the solstice Monday, I’m standing along a dirt road, bent down, petting a dog.

The recent cold snap has broken, and the midday is nearly balmy. Some winters in Vermont are like this: cold and thaw ricochet back and forth. Each thaw reminds us that we’ll endure the bitter cold. Beneath my boots, mud may not be far away. But I know — and not just by the low declination of light — that plenty of winter remains.

The conversation I’m having bends around again to the observation I’ve gnawed over and over: how human irrationality winds all through these bucolic Vermont villages. Likely, it’s the human condition.

Irrationality or not, for these moments, I’m standing in shallow snow, on a hillside with a view of the valley below and the not-so-far blue mountains in the distance. The little dog’s ears are velvety to my bare fingers. And, for these few midday moments, I soak in these landscape of brown dirt road, pristine snow, pale blue sky, conversation. Spring is an infinity away, but spring always arrives. I’ve been here before.

Photo by Gabriela S.

Put a Fork in Winter

On a sunny and breezy Friday afternoon, the Transfer Station Guys assure me the back of winter is broke. Their weatherman — who’s never wrong — told snowmobilers and skiers to put a fork in winter. It’s about done in.

I’m on my way from here to there, later changing out of the mud boots I’d worn to the dump, switching to shoes on a sidewalk. A log truck driver, seeing me in sock feet, raises one hand in a thumbs up.

Later, picking up my daughter around five at the high school, the grownups stand around chatting while the kids scale the enormous, dirt-blackened snowbanks flanking the parking lot.

Redwing blackbirds are singing: oh, sweet harbingers of spring.

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Drinking Water Beneath the Moon

After a day of one thing after another, we suddenly arrive back at home together — my older daughter returning from a 12-hour shift, my teenager and a friend dropped off by another mother. I stand in the driveway talking with this mother, while my daughter runs in the house and hurries back with a gift of eggs from her chickens.

The little neighbor boys, munching dropped apples, wander over full of pleasure and wonder at seeing us, as only four- and two-year-old are. What are you doing? they ask. An existential question, I whisper to my friend. The teenagers are ravenous and cannot stop talking. Leftovers, I suggest. Put the leftovers in the oven for dinner.

Later, the girls have disappeared into the dark. I leave a sinkfull of dirty dishes and sit outside beneath the crescent moon. The neighbors have put their children to bed. It’s just me and the crickets and that autumn chill creeping in. Over the horizon, the sky turns a dark-turquoise shade of blue to impermeable black. Beneath this, the girls run up the road, out of breath, laughing.

In this autumn,
Why I get older?
The clouds and birds.

—Basho

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Photo by Molly S.

Days of Afternoon Sun and Insects

Late afternoon, insects — hundreds, nay, thousands — hovered over the soccer field, mixed in with dust motes and seed chaff.

The teenage girl snapping photos for the yearbook said, Gross. The parent beside me marveled at the teeming life. Bat food.

The other parent and I exchanged random bits — traffic in Waterbury, a small write-up in the local paper, why our country can send a man to the moon but hasn’t created decent birth control. Little bits of our own, bat-esque food.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

— Rilke

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