August Day

Awake before dawn, I lie thinking of my friend’s 49th birthday today, remembering that October afternoon we swam in Lake Caspian with our five- and six-year-olds — swimming outdoors in Vermont in October! The leaves around the lake flamed gold and orange. That night, I realized I was pregnant with my second child.

Lying there, I remembered the March morning you didn’t appear for coffee, and I suddenly realized your stepfather had passed. That foggy day we drove for hours, searching for a house for my daughters and me when my marriage had shattered, and the fall we canned sticky quart after quart of peaches and tomatoes? The steady drop-off of eggs this pandemic that has fed my family for so many meals?

Someday — the world willing — we’ll look back at 2020 and, even then, cringe. And yet, your birthday for me has always marked the high holiness of Vermont summer — fatly rich with sunflowers and vegetables gardens escaping their fences. The dew is cold on my bare feet, but the day promises that heat you love so well.

Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems?… By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’

— Ted Kooser


Sun and Sunday

A Sunday of skipping the news, opening the house windows, hanging out the laundry. A brilliantly sunny day — when I put my shovel into the garden, pull weeds, and empty buckets of manure.

All afternoon, we’re in the sunlight, the grass around the garden emerald. On the other side of my garden fence, families walk in the cemetery — teens with parents, little kids running ahead, and dogs on leashes. The neighbors’ three-year-old chases last fall’s dead leaves, blowing in the merest breeze.

The girls make garlic knots for dinner, and we eat them with carrot sticks, talking, talking.

I know there’s a lesson here — about slowing down, staying home, putting your hands in the earth — a lesson that would have been much harder had the day sleeted. Sleet, too, is possible in Vermont’s May. Mostly, though, I’m grateful for the day’s rejuvenation, this bright spot to carry us along.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

— Ted Kooser