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

Single Summer Moment

Vermont midsummer in all its glorious stickiness. The towns empty out but for the perpetual delivery trucks and cars with canoes and kayaks on their roofs. In the post office Saturday morning, the buzz is Where are you swimming today? Where’s your spot?

In the late afternoon, we swim at Number 10 Pond, leaving our picnic and sandals on the rocky shore and swimming far out. A smattering of pollen covers the glassine surface.

I linger long in the water while my daughters laugh on shore, taking photos. Before we leave, I click a photo of my girls, too. For a brief moment, looking at this image, I realize even my youngest is just about grown up, too. Someday, I’ll look back and think, Good swimming that day.

At home, before a few sprinkles of rain, the girls pick peas for a snack. I weed and weed. The sun golds are ripe.

stream in summertime—
this joy of wading across
with sandals in hand

— Buson

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Calais, Vermont, 2019

Pond Swimming — In October?

Rain moved in overnight, but yesterday was a sultry 80 degrees, the school kids running into the library and standing just inside the door, panting, their faces rosy, sweaty. A grandfather and I stood talking in the doorway. About an hour more, you think, this lovely weather will last? I asked. He laughed.

After work, I swam while my daughter sat on the bank with our friend and her old rabbit, stroking the bunny’s white fur and talking. The pond water — when I thought swimming had ended weeks ago — had an initial flash of cold. Then I swam out where the deep, nearly inky water held me, tepid. The dragonflies are gone. I grabbed fallen, floating leaves.

I knew the sun would set before long. I had chores. My friend was leaving. And yet — swimming, October 10, northern Vermont. Mark that.

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#10 Pond/Photo by Molly S.

Friday Night, The Three of Us

Sitting on the back deck after dinner last night, in jeans and long-sleeved shirts, the girls asked if we were going swimming.

Well, why not?

The girls sprawled on the grassy bank while I swam down the pond, from the shadows into the sunlight, the water warm, the surface rippling with feeding fish.

All summer long, we swam in this cupped bowl in the earth, our bodies both in all that dragonfly-filled sky and the water with muck and weed, minnow and turtles. A curled oak leaf floated on the surface. I floated on my back, staring up at the fading blue sky, a single cloud laced pinkly at the edges with sunset.

Later, knitting scrap yarn into a scarf, I shivered. Hours later, still cold, a cat crawled with me until the blankets while I read with a flashlight.

During the siege of Leningrad:

The heat in the (public) library gave out early, and the plumbing eventually froze and burst. In late January, the building finally lost its electricity. The librarians still searched the shadowed stacks with lanterns, and, when they ran out of oil, with burning pieces of wood. They still served patrons and sought out the answers to practical questions posed by the city government: alternative methods of making matches or candles, forgotten sources of edible yeast. As the building grew colder and more battle-scarred, they closed the reading rooms one by one. Finally, patrons and librarians all huddled in the director’s office, where there was still a kerosene map and a buzhuika stove.

— M. T. Anderson, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

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Hardwick, Vermont

Diving In

This in-between holiday week, our unstated goal has been to swim twice a day — in the midday hard heat and in the dusky evening, when the surface of the water holds warmth and our feet trail into the cooler eddies beneath.

We’re drinking our fill of milkweed blossoms, the reflection of clouds in rippling ponds, ice cream cones — as if this stockpiling might carry into the white and gray palette of Vermont’s winter.

I wonder what became of
purity. The world is a
complex fatigue….
(The geranium flowers) are clusters of richness
held against the night in quiet
exultation, five on each branch,
upraised. I bought it myself
and gave it to my young wife
years ago, in a plastic cup
with a 19cent seedling
from the supermarket, now
so thick, leathery-stemmed,
and bountiful with blossom.

— Hayden Carruth, “August First”

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Hardwick, Vermont

Rowing in the Lake and Sky

We rowed to the middle of Caspian Lake today, myself sprawled over the keel of the small wooden boat, the little child kneeling beside me. The older daughter welding the oars demanded, What are we doing?

I said, We’re hanging between the water and the sky today.

In the lake’s center, waves lapped against the boat, the oars clunked in their metal locks, a gull flapped by without a feather-whoosh of sound. I dove in, the water so clear I saw my kicking feet brushing all that water below, then raised my arms into the sky, an infinity of luminous blue broken with troubled storm clouds. Cool and sweet, the lake was fragrant as fields of growing hay.

Glory be to God for dappled things…
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.
             – Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”
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Greensboro, Vermont