Sunday

Meanwhile, domesticity.

I’m weeding the garden after dinner when my youngest comes out of the house with the car keys in one hand and her driver’s permit in the other. I’m leaving, she says, smiling at me. Why don’t I come, too, I offer, since that would make her driving legal.

She drives around the nearly empty town, and then up to the high school where she practices the turn known as the K turn in every state — except Vermont, which calls it the Vermont turn. Saturday night, and no one is out. The streets are empty.

She wants to drive to San Diego. We’re both laughing, nearly giddy in that parking lot, me wearing my knitted hat as it’s darn cold for June, and she’s teasing me about that, too.

On this Father’s Day morning, I woke thinking about when I learned to drive, all those hours of driving with my father, on roads all around New Hampshire, those uncountable hours and effort and care that go into parenting.

My older daughter, infuriated, asked me the other day, What is the point of all this, any way? — That same, aching existential, human question. I’m not offering my daughter any answers; those are hers to seek and glean. Thirty years older than her, I’m still wrestling with that question.

In the meantime, while I’m now in the passenger seat, I’m keeping a wary eye, offering a steady stream of advice about jaywalkers, kids on bikes, pickup trucks who run stop signs, don’t speed, keep your hands on the wheel, use your turn signals, assume other drivers are impaired — be careful!

She looks at me from the edges of her eyes, loving the driver’s seat. Just loving it. I got this, she assures me.

Silently, I’m praying she’ll someday teach her own daughter or son to drive. Despite my own terror at switching seats, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, just as all those years ago, I wouldn’t have traded those conversations with my father.

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Day by Day

In library land — as if the masks aren’t enough — I keep reminding myself that the world isn’t the same. I’m not supposed to say, hey, kick off your shoes and relax. Lie down and read if you want.

In my library, an older woman comes in wearing a mask, looking for a locally written book that apparently no one can find. Maybe she has a copy. Maybe someone else in town has a copy. Do I? I don’t, but I manage to find one copy in a library in southern Vermont. That library, of course, appears to be closed.

A young couple arrives next, excited to print out a copy of their nursery license.

The afternoon passes in fits and starts. While I tackle the backlog of details, I listen to The Daily podcast about George Floyd’s funeral. A friend wanders in and leans against my desk, listening, too. By the end, we’re both weeping. I close my laptop and ask how her life is going. What’s happening? We stand apart, talking.

Shortly before I lock up for the night and head home, a woman and her daughter appear. The daughter shyly tells me, I’m in second grade now.

Goodness! I say.

She’s lost a front tooth.

We move outside, into the breeze and sunlight. I listen to her mother who’s working and in school. While I marvel at how she’s kept what appears to me an impossible life tougher, I keep looking at her little girl, holding a stack of library books. Step by step, I think.

I’ve seen enough things to know that if you just keep on going, if you turn the corner, the sun will be shining.

— Rev. Al Sharpton

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Does the Moon Shine More Brilliantly?

Here’s Saturday afternoon in the palm of my hand.

Here’s what I also discovered that night, as I poured a quart of water to douse our campfire for the night: the half-full moon shone brilliantly — astoundingly bright — as if a full moon over a fresh snowfall.

Am I crazy? Or has the lack of emissions already brightened this celestial beauty? I stood there, for the longest time, wondering.

Isn’t this what we’re all doing these days? Simply wondering….

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Photo by Molly S.

Birth Day

Here’s the thing about being pregnant: you just don’t know. Forty weeks, give or take a few (generally), is a long time to wonder, who’s this little baby, anyway?

When my first daughter was born — after a long labor that eventually terminated in a caesarian — the obstetrician held her up in his gloved hands. My first reaction was immediate familiarity: I knew this baby. And that was just the beginning of World with Molly.

From the beginning — with birth’s blood — raising kids often seems like surprise after surprise: oh, you can nurse? you can walk? you can ride a bicycle? make me laugh? make me stay awake all night, worrying about you?

If parenting has taught me one thing, it’s how precious little I know — save, perhaps, the world is unimaginable without our kids.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.

— James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist

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One Day, Otherwise

A few drops of rain graced the very end of our walk yesterday afternoon. Later, our kitchen redolent with baking pies, rain hammered on the roof.

I hope all my readers have many, many things to celebrate. Oddly enough, on this day I’m mostly grateful to be in a place where I can be grateful. My life has not always been that way — or, more accurately perhaps, I’ve been pressed at times where I could think only from here to there, and not have the luxury of gratefulness. I know I’m not alone in that. Gratitude, it seems to me, needs not material or financial space (although those things certainly help), but the spiritual space to be simply in the here, the now.

One of the very loveliest gratitude poems is Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise. Here’s a few lines on this holiday morning.

I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

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And, more happiness in a world with such dear creatures, my beloved hardworking cat.

Small Town Vermont Connections

Rain falls heavily not long after dawn, and I close the windows, the cats in the upstairs hallway watching me silently. The rain pounds on the metal roof. Too hot to sleep in the night, too noisy now — if that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

Three years divorced, I’m back in court, seeking child support — maybe just one payment? — but he’s not there. He’s elsewhere, traveling, his pockets full of under-the-table cash. In the afternoon, I’m in another Vermont county, in another courthouse, for another hearing, having worked in a library between the two, made an interview phone call on a bench beneath two enormous maple trees. Tell me about your farm program for kids and please ignore the ambulance siren whizzing down the street. Hot, hot, I’m barefoot, my hand sweating on my notebook.

In the courthouse — through a metal detector again — I wash my face in the women’s room and admire the high ceiling, the marble tiles. This courthouse — like the one in Orleans County where I’ve also been — were built with such craft, such pride, such respect and belief in law.

While rain crashes on my roof this morning, I remember that courtroom — those who are paid to be there, and those who aren’t — how desire in its myriad forms snakes through all of us. The public defender and I are introduced. A few years back, he was an attorney on a wind tower protest case involving people I knew. He doesn’t look at any of us. Instead, he gathers his files, says, That was in my other lifetime, and leaves. I’ll likely never know, but I can’t help but wonder, What’s his story?….

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention…

— Mary Oliver

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