Stocking Up July

My daughter texts that she left a few things behind for her camp out with friends. The back porch, where I’m working, is so hot I’m worried my laptop might actually begin to overhead.

I pack up those things and head with my older daughter, who’s on staycation this week, to the next town over. We walk down a short path into the woods. In mid-July, Vermont smells phenomenal — of wet soil and broken leaf and wild roses. On the pond, blue damselflies dart near our faces.

Oh, the world of being 15-years-old.

In the evening, my older daughter and I walk through the town, admiring flowerbeds while she maps out her future for the fall. At the high school, the lot is completely empty save for a blue mini van. As we walk near, I see  South Carolina plates and an elderly couple eating from a box of pizza.

I raise my hand and wave, and they both wave back. What’s your story? I wonder. Later, driving by us in town, they wave again.

Friday was a day of two swims — in Walden and Hardwick. I’m storing these summer days in my body, as if I can hold sunlight and warmth and the tangy scent of green tomatoes in my skin. May these summer days be long, long, long.

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Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont/photo by Molly S.

 

Sleeping Outside

Lake, rock, sun, rain…. much to my incredible surprise, we actually managed to camp on an island in Lake Champlain this summer. For years, we’ve gone every summer — the girls and I — sleeping in a lean-to and inevitably forgetting something.

This year, we wore masks on the ferry ride there. But for these 48 hours, for this bit, we lay on the rocks, swam in the cold water, ate by the fire, and kids were just kids again.

On our walk around the island, I stopped and talked with a woman sunbathing on the rocky beach. For five minutes, we gushed and talked — and then said goodbye, good luck, and I followed the girls who had already disappeared out of sight.

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A Note From Faraway

Via a Christmas card, my younger daughter learns someone has been watching her fall soccer games online. While baking cookies, she watches a game, wondering what they’ve seen. From the kitchen table, I look up from my laptop and see a game filmed at her high school, the fields brilliant green.

The scene is so utterly typical small town Vermont: the cheering parents, the sunshot gorgeous autumn afternoon, the game narrated by a dad who’s clearly taking pleasure in being there. I remember the rush to get to those games, how parents juggle work, rushing to the sidelines, asking how far along is the game? What’s the score? How many of your kids’ soccer games do you get to watch in a lifetime, anyway?

In this zero-degree day, we stand in the kitchen, eating warm gingerbread cookies, watching her team. The game and that sunlight looks too good to be true. What luck, I think.

Parenthood, like death, is an event for which it is nearly impossible to be prepared.

— Rachel Cusk

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#10 Pond. Summer swimming currently on hold. Calais, Vermont.

Somewhere In December…

We’re all home at 3, the youngest just home from school, the oldest finished with exams and lying on the couch with her cat who eyes me warily. What now? that cat seems to say. As if the cat himself is out of sorts with the weather.

Are any of us made to live so far north? I insist we pull on boots, go outside. The sun slips down over the mountain before four.

Then — here’s the thing — we’re talking about not much at all, and the younger daughter says something about the cat that’s not shall I say kid appropriate, and I just laugh. I mean, I really laugh. I’m not entirely sure she knows why I’m laughing. The other day she asked if I was intended to hang little white Christmas lights in the “residential quarters.” I did, and I do.

But just thinking about it makes me laugh again. Why not?

Like a wheat grain that breaks open in
the ground, then grows, then gets
harvested, then crushed in the mill for
flour, then baked, then crushed again
between teeth to become a person’s
deepest understanding…

There is no end to any of this.

— Rumi

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Wrong Way Closed

While poor California is burning, Vermont is flooded.

Driving to Burlington to meet my older daughter at the airport, my younger and I are suddenly stopped on Route 15. Road closed. I pull into a gas station and run up to a young man and ask him for intel. He’s from somewhere else and tells me Wrong Way Bridge is closed. That’s all he knows. The Lamoille is impassable at this point — the river, I’ve already seen, has risen wildly above its banks.

I stand there, thinking, unwilling to follow his advice to cut back through the mountains. I’m driving my older daughter’s car, which has — naturally — no paper map.

I approach a man who’s just bought a six-pack of tiny Coke cans, and ask for advice. He’s much taller than me, and bends down to look at my face, putting us at eye-level, then takes me to the edge of the parking lot and tells me where to turn, which roads to follow. It’s beautiful country, he says, where I’m sending you.

He tells me to turn left at the Y, but he’s gesturing right. I ask for clarification, and then he has me repeat the directions back to him, so he’s sure I know where I’m going.

We drive along the western side of Mount Mansfield, through farms with their cornfields shorn to stubble. November. His breath had a vague scent of whiskey, but the directions were spot-on, and countryside? Enchanting.

I think these days when there is so little to believe in — when the old loyalties — God, country, and the hope of Heaven — aren’t very real, we are more dependent than we should be on our friends.

— William Carlos Williams

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Burlington, Vermont

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In my email inbox this morning, a lovely poem by Raphael Kosek, beginning:

My daughter is driving
across the continent, eating cheddar
in Wisconsin, waking to a cougar’s yellow
rasp, sleeping tentless
in a corn field….

Last night, with the power out, my younger daughter and I walked around town, the Main Street stores either marked closed with a cardboard lettered sign — gone home — or filled with folks simply hanging out, talking.

Later, we’re stuck in traffic, where the highway has washed down into the Lamoille River. We’re driving home from the one lighted town around here, my daughter eating fried rice with chopsticks, talking. We’ve nowhere in particular to go. I’ve let that constant press of time slip away. As we come into the town where we live, the darkness ubiquitous but for a gleaming slip of crescent moon, we’re still talking, just the two of us. She’s no longer the darling five-year-old I once tickled daily — daily tickle? she’d ask. How the world changes, and how it doesn’t. Short as time is, time is also long, too. We stand in the cold November night, beneath the starlight, listening.

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