My daughter and I are often eating dinner in the lengthening daylight at the kitchen table, just the two of us with the cats under our feet, and my daughter offering bits of her day — if I listen, and don’t press too hard, what she cares about she slowly spills.
Our conversation drifts into what it means to grow. Through our glass doors, I see the box elders behind our house swaying in this spring-is-coming wind, the Vermont winter gradually eroding. So much of my life I sought stasis — the imagined security of here is where I am. In my daughter, I see this same illusion of when I am grownup, as though adulthood is a kind of plateau.
We linger at the table, with the unwashed dishes and evening chores undone. While she speaks, I think, here, now. The wind curls around our house.
Accept yourself: be yourself. That seems a good rule. But which self? Even the simplest of us are complicated enough.
— From Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World
Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont
This morning, I step out on the back porch to say, Goodbye, have a nice day to my 12-year-old as she walks to school. I lift my voice a little and add, Feels like March and spring!
By way of answering, she raises one hand, watching the ice beneath her boot soles.
Okay, she’s headed to 7th grade (myself and all my friends think been there, done that) but I also see, as the new town kid, halfway through the school year, she’s figuring out how to navigate her own way: who to walk with, and what’s the best snacks for the jaunt home.
I, on the other hand, like many mothers I know, step back in the house and breathe for a moment before the week with all its many pieces rushes at me.
Here’s some good things: an interlibrary loan book I know will be in the post office box today. None of us are sick. The cats are curled in a box, sleeping off their breakfast. The kitchen floor is washed, and there’s all this sunlight, as the planet ever so slowly bends toward spring.
and walking home
under the bare trees.
My daughter and her friend, walking in a pause of rain yesterday from Memorial Day parade practice to the town library, paused beneath an apple tree along the river. She told me this driving home, before the library was out of sight.
Her friend shook the tree trunk while she stood beneath the white blossoms, looking up.
She said, I was in a snowstorm of petals.
More than any other single trait, it is the apple’s genetic variability—its ineluctable wildness—that accounts for its ability to make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California.
Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Annie Dillard in The Writing Life has these lines: One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time…. give it, give it all, give it now…. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
Yesterday, Burlington was the city of blooming trees, countless petals strewn over lawns and car rooftops. The fragrance of freshly-turned bark mulch reminded me of playing beneath the neighbors’ rhododendrons when I was a little girl, and how wide and endlessly wonderful the world appeared then. As if everywhere I walked, something new and marvelously unexpected would emerge, like the word biodegradable, strong and full of magic possibilities.
At the end of a sultry day, I drove my little silver car home beneath charcoal-smudged clouds, through raindrops one-by-one illuminated by sunlight.
One flowering fruit tree alone would have been stupendous. I traveled from the lake through the wide valley, deep into the mountains, and arrived home where the apple tree before our house had opened its white and crimson-hearted blossoms while I was absent. The girls sprawled on the porch, waiting for me.
On the rain-sprinkled earth, we stood talking, inhaling the sweetly scented sonata of opening petal, damp dirt, ruby-throated hummingbird: summer’s largesse.
My sixth-grader and her class visited the middle and high school yesterday, dipping in their 12-year-old toes for next year’s migration from the crayon-scented world of elementary school to the locker-walled hallways.
Her sister, hanging out in art class, gave her a glazed blueberry donut.
Later that night, walking through the halls with the kids and my friend, I remember my own adolescent claustrophobic years, calling my high school “the cannery” as I felt like a fish parched for wild waters.
As a sprig of forsythia in a vase greets visitors into my kitchen these days, that donut likely welcomed my daughter into the next phase of schooling. Sweet….
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me…..
From “Instructions on Not Giving Up” By Ada Limón
This is May’s golden heart, when blooming coltsfoot crosses over with dandelion blossoms. Years ago, when my daughter was four, her preschool was in a white clapboard Unitarian Church on a lake frozen solid white all winter, in summers sparkling blue. We canoed far out into the lake’s center, or swam at the sandy shore. To get there, we traveled along a back road flanked on either side by enormous hayfields. For a just a brief period, the flawless green was transformed into rolling gold. Endless bouquets and braided crowns. Her four-year-old spring was fragrant with the slightly acrid milk of dandelion stalks.
I remembered her childhood while writing poems today with third and fourth graders. What kind of things fill a Vermont child’s spring? Tulips, a cardinal, water balloon fights on bicycles. Now that’s worth writing a poem about.