My daughter and I drive around in the evenings. It’s a teen/parent compromise I suppose — a walk in the town forest where I gush over blooming trout lilies and spring beauties and trilliums as if ephemerals have never done this amazing show before. My daughter is cool and tough, utterly on that rugged cusp of childhood and womanhood. It makes my heart ache. It makes my heart swell.
We drive around in what might appear to anyone else as aimless nothingness, checking out geese and listening to the peepers. In our driveway again, I slip off my sandals and lean back in the carseat. Goddamn, I could sleep in her car, that the slip of moon would rise over us, and then we’d just begin again in the morning. Maybe we’d drive to Nebraska. Maybe to her high school. Maybe we’d just keep sitting here, talking, or not.
Meanwhile — spring goes on. Leaves unfurl.
My wrists and eyes and heart are baggy with wrinkles. That is how old I am. Meanwhile, I keep thinking of a line about doubt by Søren Kierkegaard. As a young woman, I thought this doubt thing was for the weak and the foolish. I believed in striking out, holding firm, sucking up the consequences of my actions. Now, it’s a koan that keeps rattling around in my late night, my early morning, my stray driving thoughts: “Doubt is conquered by faith….” I think, take heart from from that. Then, when I look up the line, I realize I’d forgotten the second half: “… just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.”
This afternoon, I tore through my bookshelves searching for a paperback copy of Hermann Hesse’s Demian, a book I first read in high school. The book above — brand-new, Harley Rustad’s Lost in the Valley of Death — reminds me of Demian. Like so many other people, in some ways reading Hesse as a young woman shaped my life, every one of my years off the well-trod path. Demian has reappeared at certain keys points in my life, always rising with a strangely mysterious power. At the end of a very long winter, that book returns to me like a breath of spring air.
Fittingly, perhaps, I’m unable to find my copy. Maybe that hardly matters. For the first time in months, I take a long hatless walk, listening to the singing birds, remembering the unstoppable power of spring, and that the world wraps around us in ways we understand, and in ways we’ll never comprehend.
On this sunny Sunday in Vermont, here’s a few lines from the incomparable W. H. Auden on the nature of war. For more about this poem, the New York Times has an essay today.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
We’re deep in the season of darkness now, night so thick at 5PM I could hide my hands in it. At work this morning, my daughter texts me news of a murder-suicide in a nearby town. The deaths occurred this morning while my youngest and I were eating granola and yogurt, talking idly about Monday morning.
I’ve lived in Vermont darn near forever, and this marks the fifth murder in a handful of weeks. While my daughter and I cook dinner we talk about violence in Vermont — domestic, and not. There’s nothing I can say to change any of this. But I tell my daughter she’s part of the world, now frequently without me or her older sister. In my own mother speak, I remind her that she has her own part in the world, too.