Thaw, Finally

Right at the equinox this year, spring cracks winter’s back in Vermont. The pavement buckles into frost heaves. The dirt roads mush and muddy. Sunday, I find the season’s first coltsfoot, the tiny gems of gold.

A Vermont spring is either a heartbeat — bang, done — or weeks of freeze and thaw, thaw and freeze. Although the days have hit 60 degrees, the nights are still cold, and our wood stove keeps our house warm.

Last evening, we walked by a sugarhouse, its cupola open and steam billowing. The air was tinged with the sweetness of maple, the slight rotting of thawing mud. Instinctively, my upper arms ached. Walking behind my daughters, listening to their chatter, my arms remembered those years when we sugared, and how my arms and gloved hands bent into the woodpile.

Spring is all those things: the radiance of the strengthening sun, the beauty of wildflowers, and how, when the earth thaws, our winter debris of ash pile and last year’s kale stalks emerge.

The bush warbler.
The rain wouldn’t let up.
The travel clothes.

— Mizuhara Shuoshi

Day Pilgrimage

While my daughters and I have skated for years on lakes, Lake Morey is groomed specifically for skaters. Last early Sunday, we packed up skates and snacks and drove south. At the far end of the lake, I realized this was exactly what I had been craving — all that sky overhead, the lake ringed by mountains, the promise of summer and swimming with rope swings tucked into tree branches for the winter. Beneath my silver blades, the ice was swept by humans but created by nature, stippled unevenly, split with cracks, utterly uneven.

We’re now in the final week of February. Maples are tapped for sugaring. The forecast predicts warming weather. The ice, I remind myself, won’t last.

Lake Morey, Vermont


I’m at a restaurant in town with my parents, expecting to meet my daughters. My older daughter walks in alone, and I ask, What’s up? Where’s your sister?

She’s busy apparently, in a kid kind of way, hiding in the back of her friend’s car, so she and the friend can surprise the friend’s mother.

Well, I think, good luck to the mother.

In a few minutes my daughter appears, in soccer practice shorts, her face tanned and glowing. That, she says, was so fun. She assures me the mother wasn’t angry, preoccupied with a math homework assignment, instead.

In the early morning dark, I lie awake, listening to the crickets’ low sizzle. Like the lilacs, the mating songbirds have finished for this year. On the grass beside my garden lies a swimming floatie that needs to head back into the barn.

End of August, turn of seasons. Except, perhaps, if you’re in the season of being 13: keep on being 13 for a while yet.

Here’s an unrelated quote from what I’m reading: Lauren Markham’s The Faraway Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life:

The United States cannot at once be isolationist — build a wall, kill the trade deals — and global, selectively reaping the benefits of an international economy, like lower-cost imports, cut-rate outsourced workforce, and cheap labor in our fields here at home. We have played a major part in creating the problem of what has become of Central America, and we must play a major part in solving it.