Soccer practice begins. School looms. In the night, I wake and wonder what does any of that mean anymore? What is this strange time? Sleepless, I readThe Farmwith a cat on my feet. Through the open window, the humid night swallows sound, the crickets’ nighttime singing almost a whimper. Unlike the raucous spring mating season, late summer sounds dwindle.
But the season is fat, full. I dream of delicata squash lying on the ground, beneath their wide leaves.
My youngest sits on the couch beside me, with a bag full of pens and paper that her uncle bought her for school. She snaps open her binder and replaces last year’s ragged dividers with unmarked manila pages for this year. On the tags, she writes CALC, then APUSH, outlining her junior year courses.
I pick up my knitting — yarn I’ve unraveled from a previous sweater I never finished. Maybe this project will remain on the needles forever, too.
Sebastian Junger, one of my favorite writers, collaborated on a documentary, The Last Patrol. Combat veterans take a long foot journey, searching for what’s good about America — particularly relevant these days.
“The public is often accused of being disconnected from its military, but frankly it’s disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction—all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most.”
I stop into the Friday Hardwick Farmers Market to buy dumplings for my daughters. Waiting in line, I chat with an acquaintance from a nearby town who tells me his wife’s sister unexpectedly passed away in spring, and left a house full of things and no children to clean out the house. I’ve known this man and his wife for years. They’re amicable and pleasant, with a far more relaxed view towards the world than my own, seriously Type A, ‘get a plan’ attitude.’ I find them incredibly pleasant and refreshing.
He buys chicken curry and mentions to me that if I ever hear of free vinyl records, he’d be interested.
A chilly wind blows across the market field, and the vendor grabs his paper boxes. ‘Feels like September,’ he says. ‘Summer’s disappearing, and I haven’t even enjoyed it yet.’
I hand him ten dollar bill and step out into the sunlight. In the pavilion, a young woman sings while another fiddles. For a moment, time splinters, and I’m back at the Stowe Farmers Market where I sold our maple syrup for over a decade. For many of those years, I had a baby or small child on my back. Cloud shadows skitter over the field, and the wind blows dust into my eyes.
The dumpling man says, ‘Take more sauce,’ and I do.
I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I’ve done it so many times. First there is a kind of shock at the level of comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about – depending on their views – the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government… People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.”
Nearing August, our Vermont summer is now tinged with strands of colder weather, the maples already beginning to redden in random patches. The sugar maple in Hardwick’s memorial park always tends to turn first.
The mornings are darker, too.
I knock into a friend in a parking lot who’s just returned from a drive out West. He relays that the interstates were filled with people traveling. Motel rooms were hard to come by. Strangers were unhelpful. Even the fish in the Rocky Mountain rivers where he had gone to fly fish weren’t biting he says mournfully. ‘I’m back to stay.’
In the dark mornings, before the sun rises, blood-red through smoke from distant wildfires, I read Sebastian Junger’s Freedomthat I began reading in Burlington last weekend, while I waited for my daughters. I sat in the sunlight, remembering when I bought a William Vollman novel two decades ago, and read it in a tiny Toyota we had been given, while nursing my newborn.
At the heart of most stable governments is a willingness to share power with people you disagree with — and maybe even hate…. Values like fairness and human dignity [are] going to determine at least some of the rules of the game.”