18th Birthday.

Here’s the thing: 18 years is a whole lot of parenting. 18 years is hardly a heartbeat.

My youngest was born by caesarian at 8:13 a.m. Leaving the hospital a few days later, corn nubs had emerged through the soil. As we drove by farm fields, I admired the new corn, marveling at its beauty. I had seen corn growing my whole life. And yet….

Perhaps that and yet sums up parenting. As a little girl, my youngest wore a green fairy tutu from her grandmother for about two years straight. These days, we are past the days of tiny teacups and Go, Dog, Go. Our family dynamics are now getting down to the hard questions: what does it mean to be a woman? what shall I do with my life? and how many times does sunscreen really need to be applied on a senior skip day at the beach? The questions go on….

blessing the boats

                                    (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will

love your back     may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that

— Lucille Clifton

May, Fire, Frost.

May, and I’m kicking a few pieces of firewood in my wood stove, pleasing the cats on the red rug, luxuriating in keeping the door to our glassed-in porch open, the heat pushing into this three-season (but really one-season) tiny room.

We are in the days of lengthening light, spring exuberance. The sun rises crimson. A young woodchuck grazes on the lawn, then wanders into our fire pit, curious perhaps about us humans, or simply searching.

I am a gardener; we are outright foes. But this morning, my cat Acer and I watch the woodchuck through the window beside my desk, the morning’s cool pushing in through the screen. Acer steps on my keyboard, rubs his head against my elbow, reminds me that I left him for a few weeks.

I’m still thinking of that window in the apartment where we stayed in Florence. On the tile floor, the tall window open, I watched dawn flow over the red roof tiles, the pigeons sweeping over the roofs. I live in the world of the hermit thrush, mewling catbirds, carmine cardinals. A friend tells me she plans to cover her apple tree with a bedsheet tonight, to ward off the frost. Huh, I think. May.

Consider your origin.

— Dante

Last Moments.

4 a.m., I’m drinking espresso on a balcony in Rome. Our tickets home have been cancelled. (Hello, strikers.) After a scramble, I’m hoping my patch-up fix will hold.

The morning is cool with a promise of sultry heat. Birds serenade in treetops and fly among ruins from an ancient world.

At the metro, my daughter and I are separated on opposite sides of a turnstile. I throw her my wallet over the gate. Her ticket won’t work, nor the second. A man appears, opens the gate on my end, and speaks to me in Italian. My daughter hurries through. I say thank you, thank you, thank you, to the stranger disappearing into the crowd.

On the Move.

My father’s physical therapist tells him to keep moving. No matter what, keep moving to keep alive. My dad, thankfully, keeps moving.

My youngest and I are about to be on the move, too. We’ve left our cats and our house with competent and caring people, and are headed out for a spell. I’ll send a few photos along the way.

On the precipice of young womanhood, she’s game. And me — I’m somewhere in the Dante dark woods of what I hope will be a long life yet to come. It’s been a long pandemic, a long haul, for me, and certainly for you — for all of you reading my words.

Keep moving, keep alive in body and soul. I’ll be home to plant a bed of spring flowers.


Rainy afternoon. I wander through the neighborhood where I once considered buying a house. Someone else lives there now. With new paint and two rocking chairs on the front porch, I need a moment to recognize the house, to remember the kitchen door I went through, envisioning in those days how my life might bend.

These years, walking by, I’ve watched the vehicles’ license plates change from Maine to Vermont, a tricycle appear, a front step break, two hydrangeas expand in the front yard.

April: season of mud and rain, snow and patience. Some reasons are obvious. Snow vanishes first on south-facing slopes, but other patches around us aren’t so readily knowable. Why does snow cling to some fields and not others? Quickly running water beneath, perhaps, the softening of what our human eyes can’t see, the knowledge gained only by years of our wandering footsteps.

So it goes. April, thaw, brown to pea green.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun…

From Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here”

Plot Point, Soul Journey.

My older daughter relays that she stopped for brand-new greasy donuts at 3 a.m. with her sister and a carful of teenagers headed to the airport. She parked beside a car with a man, she says, who must have lived through better moments.

We’re waiting for coffee on a Sunday morning jammed with people getting the Sunday vibe going. I make a vague comment about the soulful journey. Despite the eyerolling of my companion, I’m serious. Maybe the man was simply heading from home to work, or vice versa, but 3 a.m. in rural Vermont often means staring at a lonely emptiness where the way down leads to a few single dismal plot points, and the way up — imagination has plenty of material there. I don’t mean this in any jest, having hit a multitude of my own 3 a.m. moments; there’s a sizable respect between me and 3 a.m. Laughter and donuts, of course, are my preferred side of those moments.

April is the Vermont season of patience, of cold and thaw, and cold and more cold, of rain and the remembrance of November, the splendiferous muscle of crocuses. April is the long haul of spring, of faith in the green that tantalizes. Vonnegut writes, “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.”