Nearly 14 years ago, my friend and I drove to Burlington to shop for a baby carseat. I was pregnant; she was pregnant. In the backseat, our two 6-year-olds chattered and ate snacks. Somewhere in the midst of our errands in Burlington, we discovered it was Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day.
What’s 14 years in the scope of human history? A nearly nothing. But for us, two baby girls, one death, five jobs, one book, a rabbit, two cats, one divorce, and a whole lot of living later — 14 might as well be a trip around the moon and back.
No free cones on this trip. We returned with four boxes of Narcan, oodles of info, and even more talk….
Why love what you will lose?
There is nothing else to love.
— Louise Glück
…. Last weekend, driving to the other side of Vermont, I pulled over and read the Gazetteer to navigate through back roads. My daughter leaned forward from the backseat and asked, in complete seriousness, Are you actually reading a map?
Indeed, I was — and capably, I might add.
This morning, in the garden, I lifted my face to the mist-swaddled sky and wondered, Are you actually raining?
I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face…
— Don Paterson, “Rain”
I’ve seen fall foliage seasons where walking down our road was like wandering through a 3-D painting – so stunningly gorgeous the colors were nearly unbelievable. When my daughter was one, we spent a morning along our nearly empty road, me piling fallen red and gold leaves into her lap, while she lifted them with her tiny fingers and cooed.
The season may not have that radiant flame this year.
And yet, it’s fall, the season that reminds me perpetually of childhood, of staring through my third-grade classroom windows at the woods just beyond the playground and longing to play outside, of walking home in too-hot knee socks, with a sweater tied around my waist.
Hiking in the White Mountains this afternoon, then stretched out on a rocky peak, I remarked on the sweetness of fall apples.
Nothing like them, my brother said.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
From Robert Frost’s “October”
One cool thing about being a writer is the liberty to do ‘research’ in the face of teenager sensibility. Honestly, though, curiosity often leads us into fun – or at least the unusual. In the middle of Maine, the kids and I walked along a highway, wondering who lives here, and why, then the 12-year-old discovered a squishy patch of asphalt which took our footprints for moments before they disappeared. In a field behind a parking lot, toadflax bloomed at one edge.
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.