Hardwick Postcard #5: Wear a Hat

Mexican hero Emiliano Zapata insisted, The land belongs to those who work it with their hands. With the snow here to stay, I’m already dreaming of star-shaped potato blossoms, the first tender snips of garlic shoots, rain-drenched rows of glossy greens.

Meanwhile, my daughter – far more interested in eating than agriculture or politics – claims her territorial lines. At 12, she walks. A few years from now, like all the other rural Vermont kids, she’ll finagle a vehicle or rides from friends – opening up an entirely different landscape for her – but for now, she learns her path to middle school footfall by footfall, first over the cemetery fence. She turns to wave goodbye to me and hurries off to meet her friend.

To reach the school, she and her friend walk down the hill into the valley where Hardwick village lies along the Lamoille River, then up the hillside where the standard brick middle/high school sprawls. The entire walk – past the dead, the elementary school with its crossing guard, two auto parts stores, a busy diner, a few storefronts, a laundromat and a library – takes less than 20 minutes.

December’s lesson: wear a hat and mittens. The walk is cold.

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.

– Ernesto Che Guevara



Hazen Union, Hardwick, Vermont



Coltsfoot Dreams

February 4 always marks the return of light to me, and, from my windows, the skies are clear today. February 4, 18 years ago, was my first day as a mother. My baby had been born in the deep of night, shortly before midnight, and the 4th was filled with radiance.

What’s 18 years over the span of millennia? Not even a heartbeat, perhaps, but for us, these years have been mightily full. Her younger sister and friends made tissue paper flowers and decorated the house with balloons and streamers, for this young woman who spent much of her childhood drawing or photographing blossoms.

It seemed fitting, then, that she returned from her birthday dinner with an exquisite bouquet from her boyfriend. The mistakes I’ve made as a parent could fill six novels. Yet here’s my tall beautiful daughter, her hands full of flowers, stepping into a world we’re offering her rife with political chaos, shot through with what should be acknowledged as unbridled vice, on a planet severely ailing.

And yet: flowers. The 11-year-olds and I stayed up late last night in front of the wood stove. Perhaps for no other reason than to delay bedtime, they began knitting with me. Kids and flowers: wily and beautiful.

February means spring isn’t that far in the offing, and spring means coltsfoot, those tiny gold blossoms thrusting up through the hardest and ugliest of roadsides, claiming their territory.

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
Is it not like a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of us in its wake?

 Takaha Shugyo, translated by Michael R. Burch


A Fierce Heart

Years ago, the house we lived in had an enormous King stove, about as ugly as could be with a rust-colored shield. When that stove threw off BTUs, its damper clicked like a mouse in a live trap, rattling.

I once owned a terrible round coal stove I used for wood. Its damper sometimes slipped loose, and I feared that stove would burn down the house. Eventually, that stove was donated to the scrap yard.

Now, cold as my house is around the edges, with too many doors, recycled and unweatherized windows, far-from-well-done insulation, my stove burns its mighty heart, truly keeping my girls and myself alive in these wintry nights. Of the few objects I hold most dear – my cast-iron skillet, laptop, garden shovel, knitting needles – this stove, its brass-handled door so familiar in my hand, is my dearest companion these days, place of succor.

Around our house lies sugary white, sprinkled with a wavering trail of black ash, but inside is glowing red and yellow, flames laced at the edges with blue.

….Oh, now I sing praises to a wood fire,
to the heat this smoky burning liberates,
the heat that keeps us warm all winter.
Oh, praise this primordial fire, praise heat
in its most basic form:
the blessed warmth that comes from
our old, wood burning, Round Oak stove.

– David Budbill, “Ode to Fire, Ode to Heat”


Photo by Molly S.

The Footprint of Where You Live

I live in a Vermont town which has very little pavement. Route 14 heads north-south right through the village’s tiny center. In the village, a small amount of pavement fronts the post office, volunteer fire station, and the currently-closed general store. The elementary school has a square in the dooryard, none in the playground or dirt parking lot. Our town is wood, field, and a great deal of water in lakes, ponds, running streams.

The schoolkids took a field trip to Barre, and I met them in the morning, standing beside their one school bus, in a sunny but cold morning, eating apples on cracked asphalt. I laughed.

If you’re a kid, does it matter that your school garden’s footprint is larger than your pavement’s print? Does it matter as adult that you have both winter boots and mud boots? That your horizon is framed by trees and not rooftops?

I tend to think, whether we notice or not, where the soles of our feet walk matters.

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

– Mary Oliver


Burlington, Vermont