No Mow May…

Days like this — or even hours or moments like this (see dandelions above) — remind me that the human world is poor shakes compared to the universe around us. All these things that nag and nip and plague me — from inspecting a car to wondering if my daughters are happy — fall into some kind of place on a sunny May afternoon in Vermont. These things are important; not for a moment am I trying to belittle our human days.

But this is, too. As I crouched in the field to take a photo, a woman bicycling by called out to me. “What gold! It’s cheeseburgers for bees!”

She got off her bike, and we stood talking to each other across the field. I suggested she look at the marsh marigold behind the grange. She mentioned the spring beauties in the woods.

Overhead, the clouds morphed and shifted. Come January, the field might be passable only by snowshoes. But for now, she and I called back and forth, the wind lifting and tugging our words.

 “No creature is fully itself till it is, like the dandelion, opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos.”

~ D. H. Lawrence

In the Garden.

Sunday morning, a light rain falls. The rain is a gardener’s dream, a light but steady enough drizzle, interspersed with sunlight. Our world grows. I stayed up late the night before, reading The Year of the Horses, and maybe it’s nothing but exhaustion — and who isn’t exhausted these days, anyway, but the kids — but I keep wandering around, in and out of the house. To the garden to move this or that. Then back inside to wash a window or sweep away some winter cobwebs.

Washed by rain, the colors in my garden are vibrant. I have this strange feeling that I’m inhabiting the Middle Ages, the realm of chivalry and honor, a time when art is justly valued.

All day long, I work at this, back and forth, making some kind of order in my raggedly life. Before too long, I know, the weeds and the black flies will swarm me. I might be overwhelmed with the messiness of gardening. But for now… just this potential. Just this moment. A single tulip, blooming.

May Ramblings.

I’m home after eight. My daughter is on our front porch, eating ice cream and talking with the cats about all the interesting cat things we talk about at the end of the day. They never mouth back. One is utterly loving. The other tends to stalk around with the tip of his tail at a distinctive angle, a little indignant at the foolishness of his humans.

I’m deep in the thick of parenting and adolescence. The thing that’s so hard about adolescence is that it’s just so right. The world is profusely unfair. We live in a jumbled-up time. Yes, the kids have been handed a planet immensely beautiful and terribly ailing. It’s all true. Frankly, there’s no reason to argue about any of of that.

And yet, somehow lives must be made. At one point, in that rough 2020 year, I bought a box of ice cream cones and a carton of ice cream so we could make ice cream cones at home. I had no idea when an ice cream shop might open again.

In May, in Vermont, the world is beautiful. Now in the mid-80s, dry, dry, this isn’t our usual wet and damp spring. I pause in the parking lot on my way into work and talk with a young deputy. We swap garden tips. He tells me about his apple trees. He muses aloud about the weather — what will July bring? A freak snowstorm? A frost in August? Or maybe more of the same, beautiful day after beautiful day unfolding. We wave away the black flies. There’s not much point to go further.

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us, 
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death, 
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas, 
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser
Published in “Flying at Night”

Wild Honey.

In what could be called Yet Another Phase of Life, I meet my oldest daughter at her apartment, and we take the dog for a walk up a dirt road where I’ve never been. It’s rural Vermont, and the road bends away from the river valley and winds steeply up a hillside. It’s sunny and cold, and there’s absolutely zero traffic on the road. The weather had turned warm a few days ago, rutted up in a foretaste of mud season, and now is frozen in deep ruts.

The trees end at a stone wall and a sprawl of farm fields, with an incredible four-story 19th century barn. Whoever lives here appears to be hosting a kids’ sledding party. The homeowner appears on the road, with his black dog, who coincidentally shares the same name as my daughter’s dog. We speak pleasantly for a few moments, and it’s clear not many strangers wander up this road.

My daughter snaps a photo of a dripping icicle from one of the little outbuildings.

The kids’ party slowly heads back to SUVs and station wagons, the kids red-checked, in snowsuits, carrying small white paper bags. The adults wave and smile at us.

A little later, I drive home through that river valley I’ve driven countless times now, alone or with kids or sometimes with friends. The road switchbacks through the shadowy Woodbury gulf, and shortly after that, I’m home again, feeding the wood stove and cats, then on the couch with my laptop and work, listening to the litany of reporting from the Ukraine. I remember clearly when I was 23, too, living in Vermont, and it seemed utterly normal to have strangers ask, out of curiosity and nothing more, where do you live and what’s your story?

I sweep up the stove ashes and bring in more wood. The night promises more cold. How much I’d love to put my hands on sun-warmed soil and plant a garden of sunflowers.

Wild honey smells of freedom 

The dust – of sunlight 

The mouth of a young girl, like a violet

But gold – smells of nothing.

― Anna Akhmatova

Auto Parts Store Revelation.

Photo by Molly S.

On my way home from work, I stop in at the auto parts store down the road from house and buy a set of wiper blades. I’ve known the manager there for years, in the way you know often someone in a small town, in bits and pieces. He must know me the same way, in snippets.

He disappears into the back, getting my parts. I stand there, looking thorough the plexiglass at the open shelves of boxes of parts. It’s a quiet moment in a long day. In that moment, I feel surrounded by utter opulence — the twinkling Christmas lights in the window, the balmy December air, and the simpleness of heading home to daughters and cats and home after a day at work.

When he returns, he asks if I want him to put on the blades. I glance out the window. The December rain has briefly paused. It’s nearing five, and pitch dark.

You mind? I ask.

He doesn’t. He has a young man working there, too, and asks him to come outside. This, he says, as he pulls off my ripped wiper, is how you do this.

And a few lines from bell hooks….

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” 

No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”… No woman has ever written enough.” 

Trees. Answers.

Hardwick, Vermont

I wrench my upper arm furiously chopping wood on this wet afternoon. It’s forty degrees and raining. December, and we’re in that nether time between Thanksgiving and that next round of holidays. There are times when I wonder what day it is; we’re in this gray zone where days unfurl as a stream of gray. The nights are overcast, and January’s brilliant stars and cold seems far away.

The news is all bad. There’s really no sugarcoating the chaos. In the meantime, we make do. I pull on my boots and raincoat and head into the woods. Rain falls from pine needles.

Log by log, I keep our hearth warm. The cats do their house cat thing, purring, darling. I’ve lived in Vermont most of my adult life, and I’ve had the love-hate relationship with winter that’s so common. So much of winter is introspection, opening an aperture to ask what things mean in this quiet space. This year…. this year bears plenty of questions. Hence, the slog through the few inches of wet snow to stare up at the dripping trees.