We fell asleep last night with the running of little cat paws from bedroom to bedroom and beneath the silence of falling snow. The cats this morning are sleepy, purring and hungry, and the snow falls yet. Where the grass beneath the mock orange had reappeared last weekend, fresh white has smoothed that over again. One year, eight inches of snow bent down my pea shoots. The peas survived. We ate them in June.
When my daughters were two, three, even five or six, I would have despaired: not more of snowsuit weather, tussling over winter boots, soggy mittens, the creeping pace walking from woodpile to back door with armfuls of wood and a small-legged toddler.
In the way of life ever-changing, here’s a morning spread with white beauty, soundless with falling snow, temporal as anything else.
How long the winter has lasted — like a Mahler
symphony, or an hour in the dentist’s chair.
In the fields the grasses are matted
and gray, making me think of June, when hay
and vetch burgeon in the heat, and warm rain
swells the globed buds of the peony…
— Jane Kenyon
10º below zero this eve of 2018. Like an oddly magical gift, I woke from a dream of visiting a woman with whom I’d had conflict, conflict, and I lay as the day’s light slowly trickled into the room, rubbing a happy cat and thinking I could release that piece of worrying.
One more year slipped by, my younger daughter officially leaving the terrain of babydolls for the mountainous terrain of adolescence. Here’s a good thing I fostered: ice skating.
If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see the world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest.
— Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth
In the moonlight last night, with the stars overhead, my daughters and I walked up the hill to our house with a single window lit. Our former house, tall and narrow with a cupola, always reminded me of sailing ship, steady through sunny days and pelting sleet.
Our house now is square, its windows like eyes to the mountains and the valley. Entering feels like greeting the embrace of folded arms.
In the village at night, the houses are alive, even those sleeping with darkened windows. Enter our kitchen door and discover our white tin table strewn with hand-scrawled notes, hair ties, library books, a wooden car my child made, Halloween chocolates. What’s on the tables of all these neighbors, I wonder. Just how fine a photography mosaic all our tables might make.
“In a Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
– Ezra Pound
One advantage to the days I work at home is the option to close up my laptop and head out for more baking chocolate when the girls – intent on chocolate cake – run shy of this crucial ingredient. The kids used an amount of chocolate that amazed me. A confirmed Michael Pollan fan, I refused to buy corn syrup, so they googled a substitute option.
All that sunny afternoon, the girls were busy with flour and chat, serving me the leftover coffee they brewed – so strong I winced.
Skeptical? Yeah. But at least I was silent.
I made my recipe-less part of the meal, using what I found at hand: onions, kale, parsley, and sage in the garden, sausage, tomatoes from the neighbor: a decent, passable stew.
But the kids? Their cake rose both light and rich. A delicacy I’ve never accomplished – and the kids sweetly teased me so.
Here’s the opening lines from Hayden Carruth’s wonderful “Birthday Cake” poem:
For breakfast I have eaten the last of your birthday cake that you
had left uneaten for five days
and would have left five more before throwing it away.
This morning, the younger daughter and I noticed the phlox, now fully blackened with frost, has withered enough to let light beneath our deck. The two of us (barefoot in October!) looked down through the slats. What might lie under there?
No school for a few days. While the laundry flaps free from the clothesline, the girls bake a chocolate cake for a visitor tonight, and I spread my work over the dining room table.
Every day, less and less leaves on the trees, but the sunlight’s still holding strong.
It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.
It went on…
– Jane Hirschfield
East Hardwick, Vermont
This autumn gives us day after day of warmth, and while the days’ length dwindles, the light oddly expands as the branches shake down their leaves, opening up the landscape around our house and on the distant mountains, too.
The cold will come. That isn’t an if; it’s a when. At its front, our house has a two-story glassed-in porch, and, pretty as these windowed rooms are, I can imagine January wind and grainy snow drifting through these old panes.
It’s October, time of house arts-and-crafts. The girls wash the windows, and my older daughter weather-strips with caulk, smoothing the beads. I bury crocus and snowdrop bulbs in the front flowerbed, smoothing the soil over these knots of roots. We leave the doors wide open, and sunlight fills our rooms. The neighbor’s little white dog comes to visit.
walks along there
as if it were tilling the field.