Love Lies Bleeding.

My daughter returns from a hectic work week with a mason jar of flowers from a friend. Our cat immediately gnaws on a zinnia leaf, and so my daughter sets the jar of flowers on our table on the back porch.

A week later, the flowers are still vibrant — giant orange zinnias and sunflowers and maroon amaranth that drapes over the jar’s edge. This, despite the fluctuations of cold and heat for days.

The other name for amaranth is Love Lies Bleeding.

On this Saturday morning, my daughters already at work and soccer, I drink coffee and catch up with email. Next year, I imagine, maybe I’ll plant my entire garden in flowers, vegetables be damned. I won’t; I know that. But I sowed an enormous variety of Love Lies Bleeding in along my brassica this year. We’re devouring all of that.

Empty House

The afternoon’s end finds me on a remote road, looking at an abandoned house. No one’s lived here in a long time, save for intermittent squatters.

It’s the first day of school for my high school sophomore. Although I’m at this property for work, I keep thinking of my daughter.

Behind this house are two immense white pines. I stand there, listening to the breeze rising off Lake Eligo, imagining what it was like a hundred years ago to farm here. What will it be like a hundred years from now? The question looms impossibly.

I bend down and peer through a missing pane of glass in the door.

In Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom, I read a line from Thoreau: “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

In so many ways, that sums up my experience. But that lostness I know now, is hardly a brief experience. The thing about the pandemic is that it’s exposed all the weaknesses in our society, and in ourselves, too. In my own world, I see acutely how pandemic has highlighted the near impossibility of single parenting, as I find myself these days unmoored, the thinness of my life exposed.

These days, in my work, I’m able to listen to people’s stories about how they’re experiencing the pandemic. These stories are often so much about loss — particularly about families separated — and worry about an uncertain future. Surely, I think, if there’s a time stories connect us, it’s now.

So on this first day of school, with the sweet scent of Vermont’s fall, with so much uncertain, I walk around this abandoned house, thinking of how time flows on. Near the step, I find a tiny plastic pig. Using the hem of my shirt, I rub dirt from the creature, then leave the toy on the broken step, hoping a child will chance upon it.