December Thaw

Early Friday morning, finished with my few weekly minutes of food co-op working member hours, I stand at the window with an employee, watching the rain.

Rain in December. At home, my daughters are eating breakfast and complaining about the coal-colored day. Then yesterday, about the time I’m folding up my laptop and thinking of chopping a cabbage for dinner, my daughters return home, full of joy about a long run and exploring the edge of Lake Champlain.

End of December: I’d hung the laundered Christmas tablecloth on the clothesline to dry. December thaw in Vermont. Here’s a piece I wrote in State 14 about working for the census, long ago when I was a brand-new mama.

This cold winter night,
that old wooden-head buddha
would make a nice fire.




Loon Piece, State 14

Having never lived in a large city — or any city at all, really — I don’t know the social lay of the land, or the complex paths of how people know each other.

In my small world of Vermont, I now write monthly for the online State 14, and my short essays are often paired with the incredibly talented Nathanael Asaro. His mother sold her handmade soap beside our maple syrup and root beer float booth at the Stowe Farmers Market, and we spent an awful lot of hours — sweaty, shivering, or under perfect skies — talking and laughing.

My friend has long since quit the soapmaking and finished law school. I’ve quit the syrup business and moved on, too. But here’s a connection between the two of us surfacing again.


Nathanael Asaro

Wear Your Sunscreen

As if to compensate for last winter’s length, June turns ineffably beautiful. Last night, a downfall again: this morning, our world sparkles, the greenery drinking up rain and growing — every day. Every day, the mock orange beneath my bedroom window unfurls more leaves. The skinny pears in the front yard are fattening their branches lushly.

From New Hampshire, my 14-year-old writes me, I went on a 10 mile hike today. Today, with family, she and her sister are kayaking in a river. I can’t help but remind her wear your lifejacket, use sunscreen. After work, I swim in the evenings with my friends, whose children — paired up in ages and friendship with mine — are also elsewhere. Down the pond, a loon fishes. We make up a silly story about a goose and goslings we see, and the other goose who makes its way along, later….

This June is not a variation of Ram Dass’ Be Here Now. The past is always with me, clinging, and the future unfolds around me, every day, mine and the lives of others’ around me. But there’s this: from where we live we can see deep into the valley where our town, Hardwick, lies. We can see storms mixing in the distance, the white sheets of rain before water dampens my garden. We’re surrounded by the mysteries of the world — the swifts, the pollinators, the raccoon determined to eat our chickens. We’re here, at this moment, taking it in.

And… my daughter’s photo (much to her happiness) heads up my recent Postcard from Hardwick in State 14.


Running Icicles

Birds are singing this morning when I step out on the back deck, and walk barefoot to the edge of the covered porch to see the blue layers of mountains and valley, the gray clouds from horizon to horizon, thin enough that sunlight might emerge, later this morning. It’s 3 degrees, and I don’t linger long, lacking socks and all.

It’s winter break for Vermont school kids, the week that straddles into March’s first Tuesday Town Meeting Day. While a surprising number of families I know are flying elsewhere — warmer climes, assuredly sunny beaches — ironically, I’m writing an article about parenting on the cheap, a topic I’m intimately familiar with. The writing will be creative and even informative, but the 2,000 or 2,500 words might as well be compressed into don’t spend, my general roadmap.

If economy is my roadmap, though, the compass points are not in the least money-related. Years ago, I walked around the halls of the Dartmouth Medical Center, baby in my arms. We were really merely passing through — our stay was so minor — but the stay of many, many others was not. I stood in one cathedral-ceilinged lobby, baby girl sleeping with her tiny head on my shoulder, listening to a man play a Mozart sonata on a grand piano. On a wall hung a painting of a red tulip in a flowerpot with take joy written below.

Those two words? A challenge, perhaps, but a reminder of sheer possibility. Yesterday, icicles dripped from our roof, all morning.

And, as always, it’s a pleasure to appear in State 14 again, sending out a Postcard from Hardwick.

(Happiness comes) ….to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

—Jane Kenyon, from “Happiness”