The Horizon’s Edge.

Photo by Diane Grenkow

Many years ago, one of my daughters’ playmates wandered through our sugarhouse with a huge pine branch over her shoulder. My then-husband and I were working in the kind of frantic way we often did in those days, sap-turning-to-syrup boiling fiercely in the pans. The playmate was a slight and quiet child. She moved through us and then disappeared outside again, enmeshed in whatever imaginative world.

On this below zero morning, heading towards my oldest daughter’s birthday, this photo taken by my friend comes into my email, which reminded me how much of my approach to parenting little kids was let them wander around the world. More than a few times, that seemed to have evolved into a kind of what the heck is happening now sense from the kids.

Just for the record, we swam a great deal at this beach, too, although never in the frozen months.

The horizon’s edge, the flying seacrow, the fragrance of saltmarsh and shoremud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes and will always go forth every day,
And these become of him or her that peruses them now.

— Walt Whitman

Sugar. Salt. Stars.

The air has turned this morning when I step outside in the dark with my bucket of hot stove ashes. Even without my coat, I’m not immediately shivering, and the cold doesn’t come at me with daggers on my face.

Beneath the starry sky, I gazed up at Ursa Major, a single gauzy cloud suspended overhead, as if in water. I’m reminded of frog’s eggs, those cushiony pillows I sought with my daughters when they were little. Every spring, we found clusters in ponds and in the ditches along our dirt road. We’d visit these clusters every day on our wanders. Sometimes the eggs hatched. Sometimes the clustered disappeared.

On this early February morning, beneath the stars, I stood for a few more quiet moments, thinking about stars and frogs’ eggs. Snow’s expected to move in soon, too.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty, 

we become our choices.

~ Jane Hirshfield

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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