A Little Meal

A 13-year-old or so boy is fishing at the edge of the pond when my friend and I walk down in the evening to swim. He nicely shuffles to one side, and then we’re off.

The evening sky this summer has been especially enchanting — muted in color, pale peach sky with gentle blue.When we’re finished swimming and laughing, we stand for a moment on the weedy shore, and I point out a luna moth dipping and rising — part of the evening charm, like an Impressionist painting. Suddenly, a bird pursues the moth, then swallows it. A ragged wing falls.

And so much for the make-believe world.

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.

Vermont Respite

While the daughters tie their kayaks on roof racks, I sit in the grass, keeping company with hungry bumblebees in the rhododendrons.

This hardy plant is doing its thing now, a visual symphony of color.

Spring crickets, garden soil under my toenails, pond water in my hair. And still, early June.

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.

Gretel Ehrlich

Van Gogh

Late Saturday afternoon in the heat, the girls load up the canoe while I’m lying on the porch reading. I’m so tired I’m near to sleeping, but the girls have packed up dinner. On there way there, my 15-year-old, driving, says, Uh-oh, as the canoe slides ever so slowly to the left on the roof of my car.

Again, so near to sleeping in the heat, I say, You could ease the car over to the side of the road. She does. Her sister does some magic (or enough magic) with the straps, and then we’re on our way again.

Fortunately, we’re not going far.

On #10 Pond in Calais, we paddle out, listening to the loons. In the center, we pause and eat dinner. Eventually, the youngest says, Those loons are surrounding us — mama, daddy, teens. For the longest time, we simply sit there, listening. Then the oldest dips in a paddle and breaks the pond’s glassy surface.

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.

— Van Gogh

For lovers of Van Gogh — and who isn’t? — here’s a fascinating NYT piece about his presumed final painting. I recommend the free book.

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Photo by Molly S./Calais, VT

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.

 

Yes

Driving home from work, I see my daughter and her friend walking through town, talking. I pull over, and they run across the road. We stand there for a little while, talking. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this at all. They tell me a little about kicking around a soccer ball that morning, and remark how hot the day has suddenly become.

They finish their walk, then we all go swimming.

These days, I sometimes think of my grandparents, whose lives were marked by the depression. As a kid, when we went out to eat with my grandmother, she’d swipe ketchup packets, because, she said, you never knew when you might need it.

For these teens, the pandemic will mark their lives, too. Someday, I imagine, they’ll be saying, remember when high school stopped, and we all stayed home?

They won’t forget. Sleepovers and cozy breakfast in the kitchen are on permanent hiatus, but summer is back. Sitting on the bank, watching them swim, I’m happy for just for this moment — sunlight and pollen-flecked water, croaking bullfrogs in the weeds, laughter — a little more childhood yet to come.

Many people find it easy to imagine unseen webs of malevolent conspiracy in the world, and they are not always wrong. But there is also an innocence that conspires to hold humanity together…

Tracy Kidder

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu