A Word About the Garden: Sign of Spring, Hardwick, VT, #10

Robins land in my garden — how close these songbirds swoop to my hands curiously digging in leaf mulch for the first green bits of garlic, the sage greening at a few unlikely ends.

The garden at our former house spread enormously, surrounded by buckwheat field and forest, the woods spreading unbroken over Woodbury Mountain, territory of moose and black bear, bobcat. The songbirds, leery, remained at a distance. Always, at that house, I sensed a tension between domesticity and the wild, my garden the sometimes porous buffer between human and animal life.

Here, on a sandy moraine with a view of the river, the sweetening bones of Hardwick’s passed souls lying six feet buried beyond the row of lilacs, cultivating this patch of earth will be a different variation of home and wild. We haven’t moved far, but cardinals nest here; at our former house, we had seen only a single, stray, lost red bird.

April showers have fallen for days, and I expect rain to fall for days more. The girls complain, but I think, Let it fall… Water our soil, the knotty clumps of root, deeply, well.

The leaves are fresh after the rain,
The air is cool and clear,
The sun is shining warm again,
The sparrows hopping in the lane
Are brisk and full of cheer…
It is a happy thing, I say,
To be alive on such a day.

— James Stephens, “April Showers”


Hardwick Sign of Spring #3

A dozen turkey vultures circled overhead, spiraling on wind currents, silently following us on a walk. They’re back, my daughter noted.

A day of serious wet: cold rain, rivers running high with melt-off, black mud thawing.

We walked in no particular hurry, talking, my daughter awkward in her sister’s too-large boots, pausing to study the vultures circling low, their wing feathers black against the clouds. As our path turned, the circling birds followed us.

I’m fascinated by the landscape around us of junco and robin, hawk and vulture, vegetable garden and cemetery. My daughter zipped her jacket against the raw spring. Those vultures are following us, she said. Creepy.

To pretend that all is right with the world when it is not, to use art as a pair of rose-colored glasses to distort the reality of the world, to paint over the agonies of our time, is to misuse art. Any light and life, joy and ecstasy we can derive from art in our time must be paid for with the admission that this joy and goodness comes to us out of the barbarous darkness all around us.

— David Budbill in Yvonne Daley, Vermont Writers: a State of Mind



When my girls were little, we played Signs of Spring for weeks, enthusiastically spying the first unfolding daffodil bloom, robins’ beaks clamped around strands of nesting material, tiny dresses flapping on clotheslines.

On the evening shift now, my 18-year-old came home last night and said a goose wandered into the nursing home. With another woman, they lured the wild, spitting creature through the open door with bread.

Spring tidings in Greensboro, Vermont?

Laughing, my daughter digs into her salad, a pile of fresh greens piled high with salty feta and kalamata olives, already thinking of other things. She’s sparkling, this young woman.

spring begins
as it has deigned to do
for a thousand ages

– Issa


Montpelier, Vermont