Kid Joy.

In a pouring rain, I pack up my car with recycling and trash. The empty cat food tins need to be out of my barn. My oldest stops by with her dog, and we stand in the open door of the barn. The barn’s inside is crammed with firewood in my fairly neat rows. Sometimes I imagine this space will be something else, but we moved here late enough in the childrearing years that the barn never became true kid headquarters.

The rain dumps. We stand drinking coffee and kicking around bits of this and that.

Truly, there are days when I wonder how the heck I’ve ended up at Alpine Heights in Hardwick, Vermont. I drive to the dump/recycling station. Years ago, when my oldest was in a carseat, the old man who ran the place took the time to talk with me. He told me to take my daughter swimming as much as I could, to enjoy summer, to savor her. He’s long dead now, passed on to the next world after a devastating accident. The dump/recycling world is run by savviness — plenty of things and money pass through here. The man asks what I’ve got and asks how I feel about eight dollars? I feel just fine about handing over eight singles.

My neighbors across the street had their water and sewer lines dug up and replaced this week. The contractor’s wife is someone I’ve known for years, off and on. Sometimes I meet her as she walks her tiny dog through town. When the contractor finished with the work, he gave the neighbors’ little boys a ride in his excavator. Such a simple thing, I think, and so much kid happiness.

4th on the 2nd.

In the town’s Funky Fourth parade on July 2, tractors joined with antique cars. A man stood on a tractor with a red I Dissent shirt. I stood at the edge of the town green, watching, filled with my own kind of dissent. And yet… the morning unfolded into an afternoon of free ice cream and cookies, an auction to raise funds for Ukrainian children, and hours of chatting outside.

That, perhaps, sums up where we are now. At the end of the day, I came home with local cheese — gratis — and a fresh list of stories.

Happy Independence Day weekend, for whatever that means these days…

Odd Call.

My phone rings with a number I don’t recognize. On the other end, the caller and I begin to piece together a message I may or may not have left, tracing an odd connection between two people with the same common name.

It’s late afternoon. I’m home from work, bacon sizzling in the oven, my daughter washing her hands at the sink. The cats are pawing their bowls, finishing their early dinner, wondering what might be next.

For a moment, I’m suspended in this interesting conversation with a pleasant voice, remarking on the strange coincidences in our small town world.

It seems to be nothing more. Afterwards, when I’ve hung up and headed out to my garden to cover against possible frost, I keep thinking about that call. In an odd way, the pandemic suspended the once normal world. There’s plenty of just lousy stuff that’s happening and still happening in our world (and likely always will). Then, this: random bits of politeness. Sunshine in May. Blossoms.

First Things.

My daughter asks me if I’ve ever almost died — or at least thought I was dying.

She’s lacing her shoes, about to head out for a run. The day has been remarkably warm and beautiful, reaching above fifty degrees.

Three times, I answer: almost drowned when I was a teenager on a canoe trip, your father averted us from a pile up in Seattle, and the anesthesia went awry at your birth.

Later, I walk up to the high school and wait for her. I sit at a picnic table behind the school. It’s the first of all kinds of things again — the first time sitting at a picnic table outside since winter, the first time this spring I’ve seen grass that appears really green. An acquaintance stops to talk, and we swap stories about the school and board, new hires. Her grown son appears, and I can’t help but remember when he was just a little kid, and now he’s all grown up.

When they’re gone, I walk around this building that has meant so many very different things to so many people. Such a long and complicated story, a microcosm of this great big world. At this moment, she and I are both a piece of this story.

My daughter returns. On our drive home, I ask why she wondered about my near-death experiences. She shrugs. Just thought I should know, she answers.

I have the odd feeling she’s gathering intel about me.

Rivers’ Roar.

Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont

The rivers are running again. I pause on a Sunday morning run, on a large bridge state money funded for the rail trail project. The river roars in spring lust. People can — and do — drown in April. This season is as fierce as winter.

The countdown has begun, the green steadily eroding the brown.

A year ago, my family was quarantined with my daughter’s positive Covid test. Yet unvaccinated, I lay awake at night, wondering why I hadn’t yet written a will, why I hadn’t added my oldest to my skimpy bank account. During the day, I painted the inside of our porch windows a brilliant blue and listened to Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd.

When the jury verdict was read, our quarantine had ended. My youngest and I were sitting my car, listening to the radio, waiting for her soccer practice to begin on a cold evening. A V of geese flew over the wet field.

Years fly by. Sure. But that year doesn’t seem like yesterday. It was one full year. While my daughter played soccer, I walked among the cedars along the river, watching the remaining pieces of ice dislodge and wash into water.

…. In other news, grateful for two lovely review of Unstitched in Montpelier’s The Bridge by Tom McKone and for Tyler Orion Glauz-Todrank’s review in Lucky Cloud Books.

Somewhere in March.

Hardwick, Vermont

Mud season is fierce this year. The school busses cease running on some roads. Families share photos of kids waist deep in mud ruts. Time, more than all the gravel in the state, is more likely to true up the roads than anything else.

Mud season is the odd shoulder season in Vermont. The skiing winds down. There’s no good biking. The tourists are all in sunnier southern locations, and Vermonters muddle along.

All day long, the prettiest and lightest snow falls — nothing serious, nothing much at all — just a scattering of the purest white and enough of a chill that the wood stove is welcoming when I come in with cold cheeks and armfuls of wood. I put a quiche in the oven and head out for a walk. The snow has (mostly) melted here now, and so my paths through the fields and woods have opened up again. Behind the elementary school, the turkey vultures circle over my head. They’ve just returned from their winter sojourn, to their long-time nest in a stand of white pines. I know what they want; there’s no secret here.

I hurry down the hill and along Main Street. A woman stands outside the laundromat, hands in overall pockets, staring up at the drifting snow. She raises one hand to me. I do the same, round the corner, and head home.