I’m home after eight. My daughter is on our front porch, eating ice cream and talking with the cats about all the interesting cat things we talk about at the end of the day. They never mouth back. One is utterly loving. The other tends to stalk around with the tip of his tail at a distinctive angle, a little indignant at the foolishness of his humans.
I’m deep in the thick of parenting and adolescence. The thing that’s so hard about adolescence is that it’s just so right. The world is profusely unfair. We live in a jumbled-up time. Yes, the kids have been handed a planet immensely beautiful and terribly ailing. It’s all true. Frankly, there’s no reason to argue about any of of that.
And yet, somehow lives must be made. At one point, in that rough 2020 year, I bought a box of ice cream cones and a carton of ice cream so we could make ice cream cones at home. I had no idea when an ice cream shop might open again.
In May, in Vermont, the world is beautiful. Now in the mid-80s, dry, dry, this isn’t our usual wet and damp spring. I pause in the parking lot on my way into work and talk with a young deputy. We swap garden tips. He tells me about his apple trees. He muses aloud about the weather — what will July bring? A freak snowstorm? A frost in August? Or maybe more of the same, beautiful day after beautiful day unfolding. We wave away the black flies. There’s not much point to go further.
Flying at Night
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations. Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies like a snowflake falling on water. Below us, some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death, snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn back into the little system of his care. All night, the cities, like shimmering novas, tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.
I’ve been a patient at numerous Planned Parenthoods, in three different states, since I was a young woman. These days, I keep remembering a nurse practitioner I met in Bellingham’s Planned Parenthood. I had waited a long time. It was a very hot afternoon. Dust blew in through the open window. She apologized as she washed her hands and simply said it had been a busy day.
I was in my early twenties, had brought a book to read, and I didn’t care.
The staff at Planned Parenthood gave me information I needed when no one else did. This was information and advice that shaped my entire adult life. I was never turned away — even when I had nothing to offer as payment — never denigrated, never treated coldly. My oldest daughter is now the age I was that afternoon. In those young optimistic days, I believed inherently in progression. I didn’t see then that history repeats itself, turns back and bites the same wounds.
In this sunny, hopeful month of May — daffodils. Maybe I’ll think of this as a verb, not a noun: daffodilling.
Twice in one Friday, I’ve met acquaintances from long ago — the first at the coffee shop, the second at the transfer station. Now, having lived here for thirty years, I run into people who I’ve known in the past — maybe not well — but I know deep parts of their stories. I wonder what parts of my life they remember — and if I remember my story as they do.
On the way back from the transfer station, I stop along Route 15 and admire the Fisher bridge, the last of the covered railroad bridges in Vermont. Such effort went into building this infrastructure, and it was used for such a comparatively short time.
Because I’m wearing my running shoes, I follow the graveled rail bed. I cross the highway and follow the former track bed behind the lumber yard that smells sweetly of sap and freshly milled boards. There’s no one around on the rail bed at all. I run on the path right beside the river. The river is wide and slow moving, relatively tame for April. We’ve had little rain and less snow. I chance upon a pair of nesting ducks, and the mallard leads me away. I imagine in the heat of July how lovely it might be to swim across this water.
I stop to catch my breath. It’s me and the glossy mallard and the breezy cold afternoon. I wonder if we’re pulling out of the pandemic, truly. The brisk late afternoon takes my wondering and tosses it downstream. Eventually, I turn around and head back to wherever it is I need to be.
“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.”
Before it’s warm enough, I open the open to our glassed in porch. This porch (nor its upstairs counterpart) isn’t heated. In Vermont’s long winters, we simply close the door and leave the space be. I think of this as a standard New England practice. I store empty canning jars, summer flip-flops, things like old blankets I don’t really want any longer, but nor do I want to cast away.
All day long, doves and cardinals, juncos and chickadees and sparrows, dip and fly around our house. The crocuses struggle upward. I should be cleaning our house, I think, taking a broom to the cobwebby corners before the spring sets in mightily and I’m in the garden as much as possible, happy as I could ever be, the warming soil between my toes.
Now, snow falls intermittently. The robins dig into the earth hungrily.
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.
A flock of singing red-winged blackbirds kept me company yesterday on my short walk from the village along the frozen lake. Summers, sprawling houses fill with people from other places, more urban areas, but in this nether zone of late winter/early spring — the mud realm — it’s just me and the rain and the birds.
Of all the seasons in Vermont, this odd one seems the most miraculous to me. Out of dull brown, last year’s frost-killed season, tiny nubs of green appear. So much promise. Every year, this surprises me.