Growing Girls

Hurray! Youngest child returns from summer camp, tanned and happy — but slightly different, altered, a little older and knowing she’s older without an edgy kind of teenagerness….. She’s grown, simple as that. In the Vermont woods and on a lake, without her family around.

On the way home, her older sister wades into a field of wildflowers.

Weaving back and forth
Through the lines of wheat
A butterfly

— Sora


Thistles, Hemp, Coreopsis

Rain moves in; the heat moves out. I get up from my desk and put on a long-sleeved shirt. My older daughter and I — just the two of us — make pesto and spread it over a pizza with broccoli she slices. She looks at the pizza before she bakes it and says, Garden pizza.

Swimming holds no appeal. Instead, in the evening, we walk up a long dirt road heading out of Hardwick. I follow her into an overgrown pasture. She hands me her phone and has me photograph her in a field of Scottish thistles. She wades shoulder-deep into the prickles and purple flowers, and the memory of traipsing through forests and meadows behind her as a girl child returns to me. Those summers she and her best friends were obsessed with false hellebore as an ingredient for soup-making in her outdoor kitchen. Don’t mind the snails, she tells me. Let’s keep going.

As here’s a few lines from Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound I kept thinking about, as I drove to Middlebury on back roads, wondering if all these new fields of hemp might positively help to reshape Vermont’s economy….

A true and appropriate answer to our race problem, as to many others, would be a restoration of our communities—it being understood that a community, properly speaking, cannot exclude or mistreat any of its members. This is what we forgot during slavery and the industrialization that followed, and have never remembered. A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, and an economy.


Cultivated and wild in my garden. Photo by Molly S.

Single Summer Moment

Vermont midsummer in all its glorious stickiness. The towns empty out but for the perpetual delivery trucks and cars with canoes and kayaks on their roofs. In the post office Saturday morning, the buzz is Where are you swimming today? Where’s your spot?

In the late afternoon, we swim at Number 10 Pond, leaving our picnic and sandals on the rocky shore and swimming far out. A smattering of pollen covers the glassine surface.

I linger long in the water while my daughters laugh on shore, taking photos. Before we leave, I click a photo of my girls, too. For a brief moment, looking at this image, I realize even my youngest is just about grown up, too. Someday, I’ll look back and think, Good swimming that day.

At home, before a few sprinkles of rain, the girls pick peas for a snack. I weed and weed. The sun golds are ripe.

stream in summertime—
this joy of wading across
with sandals in hand

— Buson


Calais, Vermont, 2019

Teen Dreaming

What’s up with the lilies in Vermont this summer? Even my kids noticed they’re crazy tall — like an advancing army of flowers, about the coolest thing imaginable, in a summer that’s turning not so temperate.

Now fully a teenager, my 14-year-old is not a street-legal driver, which in rural Vermont makes a real difference. She and her friends have their eyes on the road, anxious to spread beyond this small town.

Summer to her now seems interminable; I remember that sense as a small town girl myself, as though the hot days would just keep appearing, one after another. While I’m at work, I leave her alone for long periods of time, with two cats and a list of chores and the freedom to do what she wants, within these physical confines.  I don’t know if that’s wise or not — but at the very least it gives her the space to imagine….



The Black Line Within a Tulip

While the big fad out there is to number things and experiences — the 10 best things to do with your whining toddler — and important stuff like that, one of my minor goals for the summer is to just soak up experiences as a kind of antidote to the ravages of last winter. By that, I mean the subzero days and nights of blowing snow.

In our house, we’re not going to count the days of summer, either. Why put a number on that?

Saturday morning, the younger sister sees the first of the red tulips we planted last fall has opened. She runs back in the house and demands her sister come out, and look down, into the flower. With the day ahead of us, come hell or high water, we stand there, the three of us, for a long moment, gazing down.



The December my youngest daughter was two, snow fell every day – some days just the merest trace of flakes; other days, it snowed and snowed and snowed. By New Year’s Eve, so much  snow had accumulated on the porch and slid off the roof that I had to stand on a chair to see over that barrier through the scrim of visible window. I joked with my older daughter that we lived-in a snow dugout.

One midwinter day that year, I wiggled my toddler into her snowsuit and boots seven times, and then I thought I would never go outside again until spring – a nearly unbearable thought.

The girls come and go with their 12-and-18-year-old lives now. Driving home from work last night along the ancient Winooski, the river that’s flowed through the Green Mountains all through their glacial formation, I thought how one of the trickiest things for me about parenting has been how things constantly change. Baby sleeps through the night; now baby wakes every 30 minutes. Baby crawls, then runs.

And yet…. last night, my daughter who’s rooming at college, walked in while I was chopping cabbage and sat down at the table, hungry for talk and supper.

…one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.

– Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year