Somewhere in Summer.

Vermont’s summer mugginess settles in, and I lie awake at night, remembering the much stickier summers of my childhood in southern New Hampshire, a thousand days of no school and bike riding and eating salted cucumber and playing Acquire with my brother and the neighbor — the ultimate game of capitalism.

But those were likely much less than a thousand days.

My youngest texts me at work. She and her friend explore different swimming holes and go hiking. Together, as new drivers, they match route numbers with roads, beginning to master maps. I worry about her — my youngest navigating the world on her own — this place of such ineffable beauty and real badness. This is the summer she’s learning the price of a tank of gas — a transaction between labor and coin. But it’s also the summer she’s beginning to realize the phrase girls travel in packs has much more meaning than looking for the women’s room.

This is the summer of phenomenal sunsets and sunsets, of studying the sky, wondering if rain might move in.

Quit counting, I counsel myself. The hot days unwind into hotter nights, but the dawn is cool, the dew lush over my toes.

Stocking Up July

My daughter texts that she left a few things behind for her camp out with friends. The back porch, where I’m working, is so hot I’m worried my laptop might actually begin to overhead.

I pack up those things and head with my older daughter, who’s on staycation this week, to the next town over. We walk down a short path into the woods. In mid-July, Vermont smells phenomenal — of wet soil and broken leaf and wild roses. On the pond, blue damselflies dart near our faces.

Oh, the world of being 15-years-old.

In the evening, my older daughter and I walk through the town, admiring flowerbeds while she maps out her future for the fall. At the high school, the lot is completely empty save for a blue mini van. As we walk near, I see  South Carolina plates and an elderly couple eating from a box of pizza.

I raise my hand and wave, and they both wave back. What’s your story? I wonder. Later, driving by us in town, they wave again.

Friday was a day of two swims — in Walden and Hardwick. I’m storing these summer days in my body, as if I can hold sunlight and warmth and the tangy scent of green tomatoes in my skin. May these summer days be long, long, long.

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Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont/photo by Molly S.

 

This morning, the world smells so good. With my coffee cup, I walk around the dewy garden in my bare feet. There’s weeding to be done and more sowing of seeds and plants. We’re in a long dry patch, and I’d love some rain. Every night, I water patches of my garden.

But this morning, for this moment, how good this all smells, the crickets singing, and this whole day spreading before us.

I recently remembered that, when I was a girl, I wanted to live on a farm with a blackberry thicket. I didn’t particularly want a cow, but how I lusted after fruit trees and garden rows and overgrown lilacs. Behind our house now, the wild blackberries are profuse with blossoms near that fox den.

The pandemic continues. The virus spreads. But, for now, we’re home and outside — and it’s glorious summer.

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu/Caspian Lake

 

A Postcard From Vermont…

…. might include a redwing blackbird suddenly rising from the stream behind the post office as you emerge from the weed-lined path with your brass key. The bird’s feathers hold the hue of burned-out embers.

Or a crumpled Bud Lite can propped neatly against the cinder blocks of the building’s foundation.

Or maybe cows crossing the road as you’re waiting behind a trash truck, the girls tossing cherry pits out the open windows.

Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.

— Anne Sexton

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Hardwick, Vermont

Yes, Summer

My 13-year-old wraps an ice pack in a kitchen towel and gently rubs it along her cat’s hot paws. The furry creature nuzzles his head against the cold pack. Hot, hot, the cats lie on the wood floor, panting.

Viridescence begins this July, these very long days slick with humidity, turbulent with thunderstorms, the domestic garden and wild woods pulsing, rampaging green — growing headlong, magnificently wild.

This slice of summer is the season of cousins, of sprawling sunsets and lingering dusk, s’mores, and the overarching goal for today: swimming.

In a New Hampshire river, my daughter stands at the edge of a waterfall — the rocks around us radiating heat, the water so cold the small bones in our feet ache. She disappears behind the waterfall, wholly hidden by the frothing water, then emerges blinking and drenched, her smile luminescent.

The short summer night.
The dream and real
Are same things.

— Takahama Kyoshi

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How Things Spiral: the Crabby Woman’s Garden Entry

Today: by late afternoon, a day of complete frustration. Early at my laptop, I rewrote pages that made no sense, spelled specify wrong, sent an angry email to an innocent person I had to balefully retract, became enraged over a request from a friend I could never fulfill, filled out paperwork that marked a new low in the bureaucratic world for me, screwed up so badly at work I wept….. and that’s merely scratching the surface of this day.

To salvage, I went running before dinner while my daughter biked, and we met up with a neighbor who was strollering her two little kids. I’m very crabby, she immediately told me. Hey, me, too.

Later, we walked through my garden, and she cut handfuls of lemon balm and sage and mint, basil, and a fistful of hydrangeas. Her little boy ate sun golds. My garden, which has withered and died in entire beds this season, rampaged wildly in others, so neglected I’ve despaired–my garden. Yet, snipping these great handfuls for her, a cacophony of sweet scents wafted around us, and I realized what strange and unexpected beauty rose from my patch of earth this year.

After dinner, my daughter biked to her friend’s for trampoline jumping, and his mother phoned and apologized for sending my child home late. They kept laughing, she said. I had just walked into the kitchen with my dusty feet and my skirt full of tomatoes and peppers. One by one, I laid these fruits on the table. Fine, I said. Let them laugh.

This tiny seed
do not belittle:
red pepper.

–– Basho

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Elmore Mountain/Photo by Molly S.