Somewhere in Vermont’s February…

Summers, the dawn is raucous with songbirds. In February, I stand outside in the dark, the cold swirling around my hands and head, hungry, hungry, it seems for my warmth. The icy snow makes the lightest tap against the kitchen window. We’re socked in by sleet and ice and snow in Vermont, the winter wrapping around us. When my daughters were little, how I chafed against those endless winter days. Now, I’m glad to be awake and working while the household sleeps. The cats have wandered downstairs for their breakfast, and curled up for their post-breakfast rest. Our house is warm; the daughters are well; the bills are paid; I have work.

Let the snow pile up. Among those many motherhood lessons is a solid carpe diem — and to log in a few more hours of work before the day drifts along….

Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

— Basho


Bit of Breeze

I stood on my back deck last night, leaning against the house and watching my friend get out of her Subaru with a bowl of meatballs. My daughters had strung white Christmas lights all over the barn’s front side that afternoon. The white clapboard had that classic New England winter festiveness, complete with a red-bow wreath someone gave my daughter.

I stood there thinking how in my twenties I would have believed I would live here forever. Forever was part of my twenties’ worldview. In my forties – like just about everyone else I know – the erosion of loss (marriage, business, house) has altered the landscape of my worldview. I stood there thinking that, at some point (God willing, many years hence), someone will live here, and maybe paint that barn cotton-candy pink. For that moment, though, in early December, I leaned against the solid house in the cool afternoon, thinking how fine it was to have guests for dinner and my daughters inside, baking cookies.

I don’t knit, but when I watch someone who does, I think that they must have found some of the same inner peace that I discovered during my expeditions (for example, the South Pole)…. A great many of us have a desire to return to something basic, authentic, and to find peace, to experience a small, quiet alternative to the din….The results that you achieve – firewood to warm you, a sweater you have poured yourself into – are not things that can be printed out. The fruit of your labor is a tangible product. A result that you and others can enjoy over a period of time.

– Erling Kagge, Silence in the Age of Noise


Solitude and Writing

When I first became a mother in rural Vermont, I discovered the odd solitude-that-was-not-solitude that arises from nearly always being with a young child. Now my daughters are older, and I’m fortunate to have writing work, so deep solitude again makes a consistent mark in my days. Hence, reading at events like Bookstock are a particular pleasure, with time to chat about books and lives. I have no idea what, say, hedge fund managers shoot the breeze about, but my experience with Vermont writers is generally unmitigated humor, rich inner lives with often rocky terrain, and a rush of talking, talking, like we’re all odd aunties let out of the attic for an afternoon.

Later, past dark, home again, my daughters and their cousins decided to set off a Chinese lantern the girls had been saving. In the neighbors’ field, beneath the beaming constellations, my teenager and I held the tissue-thin lantern between us as it filled with heat and smoke from a small fire. When we released it, the red lantern and its flame rushed up into the night, carried away by a breeze and its own heat.

In the darkness, my 11-year-old slid her hand into mine, afraid of the night and yet entranced, looking up at the heavens.

Hazy moonlight —
someone is standing
among the pear trees.

– Yosa Buson


Woodstock, Vermont