Summer Growth

I wake this morning listening to rain, thinking about shears I left in the garden — such a little worry. Dry the tool off and put it back on the shelf.

My younger daughter is home again — two weeks away, and I didn’t recognize her from the back. It wasn’t simply that she wore a shirt I didn’t recognize. I was looking for  little girl — how she’s imprinted in my mind — when she’s nearly all caught up to her sister. Here they are, scavenging in another’s garden.

All the way I have come
all the way I am going
here in the summer field

—Buson

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Craftsbury, Vermont

Gifts, Flowers, Vegetables

I’m in a meeting negotiating options to spend a gift to my library when I leave the table to check my laptop for a program’s fees in my email.

I see my daughter, off from work that afternoon, has sent me a photo. That’s all: a photo. She’s somewhere in Vermont, where I’m not particularly sure, driving around in her little blue Toyota she’s named Sammy.

The trustees have spread around the center table in our one-room library. An elderly woman reads in one corner, while her husband works at his laptop in an opposite corner. Two children play on the floor.

When the couple leaves, I walk them out, and the children and I pick cucumbers and zucchini from the garden around the sandbox. The plants are wildly producing. The husband and wife are both 90. They’re headed back to Massachusetts for the winter. We look each other in the eyes and say, Have a good winter. See you next summer.

This is a way of saying that our deepest spiritual, religious, and psychological problems are extremely simple. Just go out and look at the sky. Get to know where you are. Heaven is there for all to see.

— Alan Watts, Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown

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Photo by Molly S.

 

August First

August 1st dawns quietly — the songbirds winding down, the dew slipping in silently overnight — save for the cats who mew in hunger.

Yet another summer day, a small kind of miracle that will disappear, a day promising to be packed with work and obligations, with laundry hung on the line, and a very long list on a scrap of paper beside me.

But it’s August. Just a few blocks from where I sometimes work in Burlington is a fine bakery named after an even finer poem by Hayden Carruth.

August First

Late night on the porch, thinking
of old poems. Another day’s
work, another evening’s,
done…..

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Hardwick Reservoir, Vermont

 

Last Sunday in this July

Early Sunday morning, the cat wakes me by biting my toes. Get up! Get up!

Camping on a lake, my younger daughter wrote us news of the loons calling crazily all night long. I think of her listening to those ghostly, ineffably beautiful songs, how years from now she’ll hear loons calling and think of sleeping on that lake shore.

At an art opening recently, a friend and I heard the artist speak. The artist said sometimes you see life more clearly, with precision, and other times through a mist or fog.

This morning, fog has already melted from garden. On my list of clear-thinking things to do — bake a pie with my 19-year-old. Swim.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.

— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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Train Trip

Four summers ago, my family planned an Amtrak journey from Vermont to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in what would be the longest family trip of our girls’ childhood. That summer trip evolved into an illustration of that Robert Burns’ line about the best laid schemes not following the script.

We set out with a curveball detour to Charlottesville, then to New Mexico via Chicago. Somewhere in the month of  August, driving my dad’s old Subaru through the Navajo reservation, I wondered what if the hydrangea outside our back door was blooming, and if we would ever return home.

We did, of course.

In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck writes about how trips take over — true, true….

Yesterday, for a writing assignment, I took my 13-year-old and her friend to the southern end of Vermont on Amtrak  — just enough of riding the rails, of licking ice cream and browsing bookstores, walking across the bridge spanning the Connecticut River so we stepped into New Hampshire.

Back the Montpelier station, we drove home through the breathtaking July dusk, along dirt roads flanked brightly with David Budbill’s ubiquitous day lilies. My daughter went to sleep last night with her cat curled at the foot of her bed.

I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation — a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.

— John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America

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Brattleboro Museum of Art, Vermont

Blackberries in All Their Heavenly Glory

I naturally think of the world in terms of metaphors, and blackberry season is a thread that’s wound all through my adult life. Twenty years ago, we moved into our house – essentially a hunting camp then – on a clay-soil Vermont hillside with little else of human life around. On a woods road behind the house, I discovered a blackberry thicket. I see my younger self, picking alone in those brambles, wearing an old red t-shirt and darted at by hummingbirds, afraid of the bears who had clearly enjoyed their share of the wild harvest.

My daughters and I easily picked a quart last evening of exceptionally sweet and juicy berries. Some years, the berries are seedy and hard; some years, the vines are nearly absent of fruit; others, like this one, go on and on for weeks, delicious, wild, there for the gathering.

One year, I pulled a long thorn from my young daughter’s sandal. Her tiny heel released a single drop of crimson blood. Through all these seasons, here’s been the berries, various as our own family dynamics – generous or bitter, depending on the season – but invariably returning. Isn’t that metaphor enough?

Here’s a Galway Kinnell one-liner:

I love to go out in late September among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries to eat blackberries for breakfast, the stalks very prickly, a penalty they earn for knowing the black art of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries fall almost unbidden to my tongue, as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words like strengths or squinched, many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps, which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well in the silent, startled, icy, black language of blackberry – eating in late September.

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Photo by Molly S.