July 31. Swim.

The dog is a new thing in our lives. My oldest daughter lives nearby with a sweet and curious dog. Yesterday, we brought the dog into our house to meet our two house cats. One cat remained on the kitchen table in his beloved cardboard box (I know, I know who allows things like this? a cat in a box on the kitchen table not for an hour or a day but for months?), paw crooked over the edge of the box, looking at the dog in the cool disdainful way of felines. Our other cat trembled in the doorway, holding his ground. Curious, cautious, verging on endearing and ridiculous. The dog seemed just happy to be there.

We decided to swim and took a giant floatie shaped like a pineapple that I had bought last year for camping. Jammed in the trunk, the floatie hung over the backseat which bothered the dog, who moved into the passenger seat. My daughters sat in the back under the floatie. I drove and talked to the dog. The wind blew in through the windows, muting my daughters’ voices. So many miles I drove with kids in the back, looking over my hands on the steering wheel. For few miles, I was back in the world of young motherhood.

Despite the heat, the lake wasn’t crowded in the least. A woman walked down the sandy path holding a beer can. She and the group at the far end exclaimed that they hadn’t seen each other in thirty years. My oldest whispered, Thirty years? I answered, What’s thirty years, really, forgetting entirely for a moment my daughter is far younger than thirty.

The drive to the lake was a short one. After swimming, we went up the road to the general store and ate pizza on the deck. We chatted with people we saw all the time, and some we hadn’t seen in years. The dog — good creature — waited patiently.

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.