August. Somewhere.

In the midday heat, my youngest drives us north, following vague directions, and we hike along two small ponds. The merest wind blows, ruffling sunlight over the water like sparkling scales.

Through the woods, we follow a trail up and then sit on a rocky ledge, admiring the view, drinking water and eating crackers and talking. The humidity reminds me of summers in southern New Hampshire, and how a summer seemed so long as a kid.

The sticky heat spreads out this day, elongates it. There’s plenty more ahead — my daughter heads into work and then goes swimming with a friend; I write on the back porch; my oldest returns from work and attends class on the upstairs porch; our cat catches his claw on the window screen. Rain falls.

But before all that, my youngest and I stop by a farmstead, and eat drippy and creamy-delicious vanilla ice cream cones. As we get into her car to leave, my daughter bites into a fresh peach. A friend pulls up beside us, and we talk for a bit. Our conversation winds quickly to work and misogyny. My friend apologies to my daughter for our conversation flying around.

My daughter asks politely, What? and pauses with that half-eaten peach in her hand.

My friend says, Oh, she’s in that lovely peach world.

Hard-working house cat, Acer.

Poem for America.

I was pruning the rose bushes along our house, pressed up against the clapboards, when I had the strangest feeling that I had stepped into a snapshot collage of my life: thorn, blood, house, half-hidden, wet moss under my knees, a cat bird screeching in the lilacs. This morning, I’m wearing a bulky sweater. Oh, Vermont July, how I love you.

Every year, my daughters and I end up in some lengthy discussion about the Fourth of July. This year, as if jointly agreeing to avoid words, we ate ice cream and lit sparklers after dark. The fireflies blinked, in their own particular journeys.

Here’s a poem in its entirety from Tony Hoagland’s Twenty Poems That Could Save America:

Even if the geraniums are artificial

Just the same,

In the rear of the Italian café

Under the nimbus of electric light

They are red; no less red

For how they were made. Above

The mirror and the napkins

In the little white pots . . .

. . . In the semi-clean café

Where they have good

Lasagna . . . The red is a wonderful joy

Really, and so are the people

Who like and ignore it. In this place

They also have good bread.”

“The Geraniums” by Genevieve Taggard

Hardwick, Vermont

Vermont Respite

While the daughters tie their kayaks on roof racks, I sit in the grass, keeping company with hungry bumblebees in the rhododendrons.

This hardy plant is doing its thing now, a visual symphony of color.

Spring crickets, garden soil under my toenails, pond water in my hair. And still, early June.

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.

Gretel Ehrlich

This.

A few years ago, when I desperate to sell my house and move away from my former husband, a woman in the state tax department shifted a line on a map. The property was enrolled in a tax-relief program for agricultural land, and I couldn’t sell the house without a paying a substantial fine for withdrawing the land.

She made a minor change on a map — something that might have seemed very small — but made all the difference in the world to me and my daughters. I never met her, but I called and thanked her.

On this terrible anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, if little else, after such a terrible year and more, in myriad ways we’ve seen that our actions affect others. We’re wound together. This can have terrible consequences, but it also holds a mighty power, too. The map can be changed.

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.

— Malcolm X

Small Growth

Seed by seedling, I plant the garden, using my shovel and trowel, my two well-loved tools. The songbirds and the flickering pollinators keep me company in the garden.

In breaks, I read Jessica Goudeau’s After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America. This well-written book tells the story of two women, and their families, in places faraway from Vermont.

Meanwhile, in Vermont’s sweet spring, the state rushes along to vaccinate its population, taking vaccination buses on the road, meeting people at beaches and schools, offering free ice cream cones.

In the hardware store, I buy sunflower seeds. Standing outside, I chat with an acquaintance who removes her mask and tells me, You know, if you’re vaxxed, you really don’t need these anymore.

She looks at her mask and then puts it back on again. I feel naked, she says.

It’s 80 degrees. I take mine off and head home to plant those flowers.

But the greatest danger Obama identified was a ‘test of our common humanity — whether we give in to suspicion and fear and build walls, or whether we see ourselves in one another.’

— Jessica Goudeau

A Few Words

My daughter drives through a thunderstorm while, in the passenger seat, I try to conjure all the terrible things she might drive through — sleet and squalls — as if my imagination can create a charm against bad luck for her.

It’s idiotic, I know, but I keep talking until she tells me I’m wasting my words. You keep using up words, she tells me, and you only have so many words to use.

I start laughing. Since when, I ask, is there a limit on words? Hello? As a writer, I believe words are limitless.

No, she says. You only have so many.

And then what? I ask.

Then, you die.

As she drives northward, the rain lessens, and eventually the pavement is dry. We wind through the loveliest landscape of apple trees bent under white blossoms, as if we’ve entered into a watercolorist’s landscape.

I had no idea, I say.

Well, she says, her eyes merry. Now you do.