Neighbors

While my 12-year-old was turning cartwheels on the grass, I leaped over the fence last night into the cemetery and stepped between two enormous, fragrant hydrangeas, their blooms just beginning to brown and fade. My daughter followed me over the fence and turned a few cartwheels down the slope.

Spread over one of the highest points in the village, the cemetery’s view gazes down at the few streets of houses, the brook and river concealed in the foliage, and the rise of Buffalo Mountain across the way. From here, the village is small, cradled in the green-turning-to-gold-and-red forest which far outsizes the town.

All summer, we’ve begun to know the village’s patterns – how the traffic rises in the morning, ebbs off in the day, then rises again. How on warm evenings, certain porches fill with talking people or other folks simply sitting, watching the evening go down, phones glowing in their hands. Across the cemetery is a house often lit with the white twinkling lights like ours, and whoever lives there burns a campfire behind a fence of lilacs.

Late nights and early mornings, the darkness lies thickly through the slumbering town.

My daughter leaped back over the fence and stretched out her hand to hold the bouquet of blossoms I’d snatched, so I could jump over, too.

The home is the center of life. It is a refuge from the grind of work, the pressure of school, and the menace of the streets. We say that at home, we can “be ourselves.” Everywhere else, we are someone else. At home, we remove our masks.

– Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

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front door

Antidote: Wild Bears

When I visited Michigan as a kid with my family, years ago, we saw a man with a t-shirt marked with the phrase Say something GOOD about Detroit. These days, I often feel that way about the news. Or, worse, just say something not underpinned with corruption or misery.

So here’s my something: nearly 70 curious folks showed up in tiny Woodbury’s town hall last night to hear New Hamphire’s Ben Kilham speak about his experience raising orphaned bear cubs, reacclimatizing these creatures into the wild, and his decades of studying and admiring these beautiful woodland mammals. On a hot July evening, in this historic one-room building, friends and strangers listened, asked numerous questions, bought books. The Kilhams themselves reminded me of my parents, with an IMAX filmmaker in tow who I thought at first was their son, navigating their route and arranging a late post-presentation dinner plan.

Afterwards, lingering and chatting under a floodlight, we passed around the leftover donut holes and swatted mosquitoes. Summer. July. Vermont.

In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear…
From Galway Kinnell’s “The Bear”
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