Go Without Sight…

On this day of sunlight and chores, I end the afternoon walking through the back areas of town, behind the town garage and around this year’s dwindling sand pit. I turn around in the neighborhood with the scary unleashed dog, backing up slowly and doing, perhaps, exactly what should not be done.

Out of sheer carelessness, I never got the wood stove heated up to temp this morning, early at my desk, so intent, that I carelessly let the stove smolder low. In the day’s heat, I’ve let the stove dwindle further. That chore awaits me. My carelessness annoys my daughter, who’s afraid of burning the house down (what sane Vermonter isn’t at least slightly afraid of that?) and in love with the stove’s fierce heat. Two things at once. Which sums up March. Winter and spring. Breezy clean and ponderous with the thawing earth’s muck.

I pass hardly a soul on my walk and wonder if I should have made friends, or at least a kind of peace, with that snarling dog. As I walk, the air cools. The puddles are luminous with what remains of the day. I remember that beloved line from Wendell Berry — To know the dark, go dark — the line that’s driven so much of life. When I get home, I look it up.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.


I often read other blogs filled with all kinds of interesting things and wonder. Where on the planet are you writing? So often, I begin a post with “The weather turns foul or cheers up, the leaves unfurl or fall off and die….” Weather is ever-present around here. And yes, we’re still swimming, but the days are already dimming.

I found this lovely page from a children’s storybook along a path. The local children’s librarian put these on posts on a short path from the library to the lake. On my way into work this morning, I stopped at the lake and opened my lap. I worked intently for an hour, just me and three loons, and some woman who appeared with her two golden retrievers. The water lay flat and smooth, about as perfect as anything gets in this world.

Recently, I read over a few of Shirley Jackson’s terrific essays about writing. She writes, “The essence of the story is motion.” So, too, I wish we better understood this about life. That endless monologue running through my head… well, the walk through the woods is the essence of me.

Our Place in this World

WHEN WE FAIL TO TEACH our children how to inhabit the places where they have been raised—when we don’t teach them the stories, the customs, the practices, the nature of those places—then we also fail to teach them how to be at home anywhere.

But suppose local history, culture, and natural history were at the center of our teaching. Wouldn’t that, you might well ask, just encourage parochialism and xenophobia, and don’t we already have those attributes in more than adequate supply?

I would argue, on the contrary, that parochialism and xenophobia are fed by the suspicion that all the really important things happen somewhere else. One of the magical effects of freeing the imagination to go to work in the place where it finds itself is how this enlarges the world.

– Paul Gruchow, “Discovering the Universe of Home”

By sheer fortuitousness, I stumbled upon Gruchow – particularly keen as I’m writing an essay on Thoreau, sense of place and my own Vermont writing.  If there’s one thing in my (perhaps questionable) parenting I’ve given my daughters it’s place in spades:  here, this clayey piece of land, is where you learned to walk and run; the grass under the apple tree where tea was sipped from miniature, ladybug-painted cups with dolls; the dirt road where you learned to pedal a two-wheeler; our house under the gossamer Milky Way. Right now, our place in this bend of Vermont gleams a myriad of green, heady with the fragrance of mud and multiple blossoms.


The Long Trail, Johnson, Vermont