The May I was pregnant with my second child, rain fell every day. I remember this keenly because my husband wasn’t working that month. I was about to have a baby, and I wanted very much to be finished with pregnancy. I had been so ill for eight months, and I just wanted to move on.
As it turned out, a gorgeous healthy baby girl was born on May 31. The summer was long and hot, just perfect weather in Vermont.
This year, I didn’t realize until today that we had passed over into the month of May. I’m writing this, as I’ve been in the same kind of dissatisfied funk that I was seventeen years ago. It seems silly to admit this — at the time, perhaps, I was in a funk only because of my own dissatisfied soul. I had — and have — plenty. I was talking to new acquaintance yesterday about the general dissatisfaction and irritability that blossoms up everywhere these days. It’s complicated — it’s always complicated — and by no means do I want to diminish that. I don’t want to diminish where I was in those days, either. Now, I can look back at those days and marvel, at least a little, that I did manage to survive intact, more or less.
That summer, though, I knew it would be the last summer I would ever have an infant. Almost right away, I was lucky enough to know that. I remember thinking, let the laundry go unwashed if need be.
This afternoon, walking around my house in a gently falling cold rain, I remembered those days. My daughter has one year of childhood left. Already I’ve begun to recriminate myself for what I should have done, how, given another shot, I’d be such a better mother. In the rain I came back to that same thinking I reminded myself of years ago, Be here now. Remember: drink joy, too.
In fresh snow, I walk through the little neighborhoods around us. One man shovels snow. A few plow trucks hurry through. It’s nearing dinner, and streetlights are turning on, one by one, in the December twilight.
It’s been a week of phone calls and problems with no clear solutions, simply the inevitable change that comes to all our earthly doings. I’ve wandered on this walk without real intention, drifting away from chopping firewood and shoveling paths.
I turn a corner and see a house where I once bought sugaring equipment from a man who lived there. He’s passed on, and his wife sold the house and moved away. A family lives there now. Two little boys call at each other in the street. There’s no traffic about, and they’re standing beneath the streetlight. As I walk closer, I see their heads are back, and they’re catching falling snowflakes in their open mouths. Their voices are loud and excited about this small thing.
A man comes out and says, Get in the car. They get in the backseat of an idling car, and he drives away. Back at my house, my daughters have brought in the night’s firewood and swept the floor.
And because bell hooks was so amazing, another line from her:
For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?“
On my way home from work, I stop in at the auto parts store down the road from house and buy a set of wiper blades. I’ve known the manager there for years, in the way you know often someone in a small town, in bits and pieces. He must know me the same way, in snippets.
He disappears into the back, getting my parts. I stand there, looking thorough the plexiglass at the open shelves of boxes of parts. It’s a quiet moment in a long day. In that moment, I feel surrounded by utter opulence — the twinkling Christmas lights in the window, the balmy December air, and the simpleness of heading home to daughters and cats and home after a day at work.
When he returns, he asks if I want him to put on the blades. I glance out the window. The December rain has briefly paused. It’s nearing five, and pitch dark.
You mind? I ask.
He doesn’t. He has a young man working there, too, and asks him to come outside. This, he says, as he pulls off my ripped wiper, is how you do this.
And a few lines from bell hooks….
I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”
No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”… No woman has ever written enough.”
I wrench my upper arm furiously chopping wood on this wet afternoon. It’s forty degrees and raining. December, and we’re in that nether time between Thanksgiving and that next round of holidays. There are times when I wonder what day it is; we’re in this gray zone where days unfurl as a stream of gray. The nights are overcast, and January’s brilliant stars and cold seems far away.
The news is all bad. There’s really no sugarcoating the chaos. In the meantime, we make do. I pull on my boots and raincoat and head into the woods. Rain falls from pine needles.
Log by log, I keep our hearth warm. The cats do their house cat thing, purring, darling. I’ve lived in Vermont most of my adult life, and I’ve had the love-hate relationship with winter that’s so common. So much of winter is introspection, opening an aperture to ask what things mean in this quiet space. This year…. this year bears plenty of questions. Hence, the slog through the few inches of wet snow to stare up at the dripping trees.
I stopped for a flock of crows this morning on my drive to work, half a dozen or so of them, pecking at roadkill. In the slow way of November, the birds contemplated me and then turned back to their feast.
For a moment, I got out of the car, just me and the crows and the morning too cold to be damp. Eight crows, two yellow lines, one dead tree, and all that snowy field and sky around me.
Driving, I had been thinking of the poet Lucille Clifton, who wrote the saddest poem I’ve ever read, “The Lost Baby Poem.” The poem that needs no commentary, nothing further.
Clifton wrote about sorrow, but plenty more, too. She advised, “You might as well answer the door, my child,/the truth is furiously knocking.” It’s a line I’ve returned to over and over in my life, one of my guiding stars. This November morning, cawing crows opened my Subaru door.
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.