June 4

Here’s the story of June: I walk behind the barn this morning and the tree branches grab for me. Just the day before, mere branches with fresh leaves — this morning, fierce growth.

May is delicate, fragrant. By July, Vermont’s wildness will be tempestuous, crazy with green. By August, we’ll be picking blackberries surrounded by wild apples, a profusion of fruit on vine and branch.

This year, I’m determined savor the summer, come what may — brutal humidity, a woodchuck with an appetite, or, what’s far more likely, what I haven’t imagined.

Nonetheless….. that’s my mantra. Snow will return, soon enough.

You got to understand: here
Winter stays six months a year—
Mean, mean winters and too long.
Ninety days is what we get, just

Ninety days of frost free weather….

— David Budbill

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Hardwick Postcard #9: The Close and Holy Snow

I’ve never lived in the tropics, but my friend has, and she’s remarked on the suddenness of nightfall in that region of the globe. A crepuscular walk in autumn’s lengthy twilight is a boon of Vermont living. The first solid snowfall of the year is another.

Now just a few days before Christmas, the other night my daughter and I were in Montpelier, in the frantic traffic, the rush of after-work shopping, and so this morning, when the snow began falling, one silent flake after another, the dawning day seemed filled with a particularly brilliant kind of light.

Whether we want the snow or not, it will come, and a snowstorm always sheds a certain silent grace. When my children were very small, more than anything, I wanted Christmas to be full of joy. Like so much else in my life, I’ve half succeeded and half utterly failed. We’ve had plenty of joy and lavish laughter, but the older I get, the more I understand joy travels hand-in-hand with sadness and grief, too — that the exquisite beauty of that snow carries a killing cold as well.

I think it’s taken me all these Christmases to understand the spirit of this season is so perfectly illustrated by Dylan Thomas’s “close and holy darkness,” and that the most miraculous aspects of this season are the profound mysteries upon mysteries unfolding despite (and perhaps in spite of) my own blind ignorance.

Today, watching the snow fall, my face upturned to the clouds, I remembered being ten-years-old and speculating with my sister about the origin of all those millions of snowflakes, drifting and twirling down. What did it look like, so high above our heads in those clouds?

Awesome.

And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, “Would you like anything to read?”

— Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

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Jeudevine Library, Hardwick, Vermont

Hefty Lifting

In my first pregnancy, I developed a fear of the transition phase of labor. Even without experiencing labor, I knew that would be my point of trial and terror. As it turned out, that so dreaded transition was but a moment or two. I had my single place of easy breathing. I looked at an analog clock, the time of 3:14 pm lodging in my memory. Sunlight streamed through an enormous window.

Moving, as Ben Hewitt once told me, sucks. As usual, Ben is succinct and dead-on right. Moving is the transition phase I dreaded in labor, the leaving one place and not-yet-in-another.

In days of acute stress, like the times my former husband was arrested, I wrote notes to guide myself through days – call this person or buy coffee, but also fragments of dialogue, or the state’s attorney’s ironed, lavender shirt – anchoring those moments in my notebook, hungry writer that I am, to return to that time later, when the miasma dissipated, and glean.

I want people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see.

Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth.

– Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird

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