Imagine

The other day, I woke up on the wrong planet. That’s the opening line of the picture book I read to the kids in my one-room library yesterday.

I was standing outside talking to one of my trustees when the kids walked over after lunch, kindergarteners through sixth graders. What a crew, he said, the kids cheerful, some of them in unzipped winter coats, others in t-shirts.

The kids spread out on my well-worn carpet. What if you did? I asked. Imagine if one day, you opened your eyes…..

The littlest kids’ faces glowed, and I wondered at the mysterious thoughts meandering through their minds, as they considered imaginary realms. Afterwards, the oldest kids lingered, checking out books, with their own system of swapping library books, sharing their imaginary worlds.

Afterwards, alone in the library for a few moments, I began pulling together a program in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. What if, I kept thinking… And isn’t this one of the drives of literature? To sway our story through imagination and action?

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Unexpected Gold

A naturalist did a program at my small library last night, appearing with a red-tailed hawk, a rabbit, a wood turtle, a frog, a snake, and a curved-beak raven. As the room was packed, I stood by the door, watching when he offered to let my daughters touch that gorgeous snake. Wincing – but polite – both declined.

The library is one of those essential places in our society, where everyone is welcome to drink a cup of hot tea in an evening after it has rained – hard, all day – browse the books, listen. Simply come out of our rural Vermont homes and realize the rest of the town is sodden with spring rain, too.

Closing up, I stepped outside, and the clouds had cleared. The sky was pink at the horizon, and an enormous rainbow bent over the library, the small building constructed with volunteer labor, years before I arrived at the scene. My daughter remarked about a pot of gold somewhere, maybe down by the school’s garden. The air was swept clean, already warming, promising sunnier skies. Robins sang.

My daughters walked across the field, oohing and ahhing, my older daughter with her camera, while along the path an older man moved step by step, making his steady way under those clearing skies, going from here to there.

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.

– James Baldwin

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Appetite

When my teenager was an infant, I peddled maple syrup, homemade root beer, and ice cream at what was then the very tiny Hardwick farmers market, so sparse that some Friday afternoons it was just me and another vendor.

In those long hot afternoons, the vendors got to know each other. My friend Charlie Emers, of Patchwork Farm, had an enormous orange, rust-eaten Suburban, that would eventually head to the junkyard with years’  worth of debris inside. Son of an artist and an artist himself, Charlie grew the best peppers I have ever eaten. In late summer, he began pickling my favorite variety – Habanero Hots – in small jars he called Poker Peppers after his favorite game.

Yesterday, in a Williston store I’d never entered, I found a jar of bright red peppers that reminded me of those Poker Peppers: jalapeños, but deliciously fragrant with the spicy summer season. I might eat the whole jar myself.

‘Eating is an agricultural act,’ as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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Photo by Molly S.