Fall.

The moon is a perfect circle of cream.

In the dark, we walk downtown and leave letters in the mailbox. Through the valley’s mist, house and streetlights glow. November looms. Poet Thomas Hood described November: “No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.”

The news around us is of two, unrelated homicides, neither far from our house, in our rural state with scant violent crime. In the dark, I bring in an armful of wood and pause for a moment. Across the valley, I see a pair of headlights crest a dark hillside and begin a descent, slow to my eyes through the mist.

Through the house windows, I see my daughters before the wood stove, our walls painted butter-yellow. The crickets are gone. Late fall pushes in. Every year, the darkness enfolds us again, inescapable and mysterious.

Over my shoulder there’s that moon.

Hardwick, Vermont

Dumpling Quest.

I stop into the Friday Hardwick Farmers Market to buy dumplings for my daughters. Waiting in line, I chat with an acquaintance from a nearby town who tells me his wife’s sister unexpectedly passed away in spring, and left a house full of things and no children to clean out the house. I’ve known this man and his wife for years. They’re amicable and pleasant, with a far more relaxed view towards the world than my own, seriously Type A, ‘get a plan’ attitude.’ I find them incredibly pleasant and refreshing.

He buys chicken curry and mentions to me that if I ever hear of free vinyl records, he’d be interested.

A chilly wind blows across the market field, and the vendor grabs his paper boxes. ‘Feels like September,’ he says. ‘Summer’s disappearing, and I haven’t even enjoyed it yet.’

I hand him ten dollar bill and step out into the sunlight. In the pavilion, a young woman sings while another fiddles. For a moment, time splinters, and I’m back at the Stowe Farmers Market where I sold our maple syrup for over a decade. For many of those years, I had a baby or small child on my back. Cloud shadows skitter over the field, and the wind blows dust into my eyes.

The dumpling man says, ‘Take more sauce,’ and I do.

I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I’ve done it so many times. First there is a kind of shock at the level of comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about – depending on their views – the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government… People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.” 

— Sebastian Junger

Road Tripping in the Back Seat

Yesterday, standing in a parking lot in the summer sun, waiting for daughter who had gone back to the car for her wallet, I started thinking how many pivotal scenes in my life have taken place in parking lots around the country, and how much just everyday living has taken place in these innocuous roadside places, too.

I remembered my father drinking kefir in a parking lot in Boulder, Colorado, and passing the bottle around to me and my siblings. Kefir was not then a common product in the New Hampshire village where we lived, and my brother and sister and I had never tried it.

With my first pregnancy, I labored in a parking lot.

In my twenties, I wrote about road trips because I took a lot of road trips, and road trips inevitably contain those fascinating moments where you step outside the car in an unknown place and look around, wondering where you are.

Now, in my early fifties, I’m sometimes in the backseat of a daughter’s car, still looking around and wondering where I am. The view is different here — I’m going to readily note that — but it’s a view worth having, nonetheless.

Happy Sunday, all.

(And, I’m still having trouble with WordPress’s updates. Send me an email, please, if you notice anything off, or have advice to give, too.)

Poem for America.

I was pruning the rose bushes along our house, pressed up against the clapboards, when I had the strangest feeling that I had stepped into a snapshot collage of my life: thorn, blood, house, half-hidden, wet moss under my knees, a cat bird screeching in the lilacs. This morning, I’m wearing a bulky sweater. Oh, Vermont July, how I love you.

Every year, my daughters and I end up in some lengthy discussion about the Fourth of July. This year, as if jointly agreeing to avoid words, we ate ice cream and lit sparklers after dark. The fireflies blinked, in their own particular journeys.

Here’s a poem in its entirety from Tony Hoagland’s Twenty Poems That Could Save America:

Even if the geraniums are artificial

Just the same,

In the rear of the Italian café

Under the nimbus of electric light

They are red; no less red

For how they were made. Above

The mirror and the napkins

In the little white pots . . .

. . . In the semi-clean café

Where they have good

Lasagna . . . The red is a wonderful joy

Really, and so are the people

Who like and ignore it. In this place

They also have good bread.”

“The Geraniums” by Genevieve Taggard

Hardwick, Vermont

Thorns.

In one Tolstoy novel (where, I can’t remember), the characters sat down for a moment in their house before they undertook a journey. It’s a Russian tradition that seems incredibly wise.

Yesterday, before my daughters set off on a journey — short but intense — we paused in the kitchen while my oldest zipped up her high heel boots. My youngest and I checked the oil in her car. I repeated the directions and route numbers of their journey.

Later that afternoon, I paused my work and listen to the sentencing for Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. How much more evident could it be that our world must change, and maybe is changing? How hard, how utterly painful, this is.

My daughters call in the early evening when I’m clipping dead ends from the roses in our front yard. No one has tended these beauties for years. While our society’s drama unfolds, our own family craziness unfolds — as does the complicated story of everyone else’s family.

I drop a thorny twig in my bucket and imagine my daughters driving along the interstate with their sunglasses and summer shirts, the sunroof open, eating French fries. Sisters on the open road.

“Real power doesn’t come from having a million followers, good hair, a Louis Vuitton purse, a new car, a new home, a title, a partner, or anything that can be weighed, measured, or acquired. Real power is the thing you’ve always had inside you… Real power can never be taken away from you and never lost once it’s found.” 

— Holly Whitaker, Quit Like A Woman

Dirty Dishes

I had dinner in someone else’s house. Big deal? It’s been a very, very long, a pre-pandemic time.

At the end of an afternoon of a school board retreat, we kept sitting around the table, eating and refiling our plates, and drinking seltzer and beer. Our talking wound through laughter, through gossip, and musings.

Someone relayed the story of a long ocean voyage on a container shipping vessel, how the weeks at sea eroded any sense of time, until his life was simply water and ship and sky. We listened, in no rush at all.

Then, when we had talked ourselves out, we still sat there, unwilling to move, to break this quiet spell.

Rain fell; the sun shone. None of us ran outside to look for the rainbow. We simply sat.