Reading Harry Potter

Like in-laws who have overstayed their welcome, winter lingers. While you might be wanting to mop mud from the in-laws’ boots off your kitchen floor, they keep coming and going, anticipating lunch and then dinner.

So, too, winter.

Sunday afternoon, my daughter reads Harry Potter with a cat curled sleeping beside her. I stretch on the rug with the other cat, reading David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. She pauses to relay a Dumbledore tidbit. I consider sharing the word desertification, and then decide the heck with that. Later, we put on our boots — again, again. In the woods, we follow a narrow snowshoe trail.

I’m likely to lay down the grim reading and pick up Potter as a survival guide, in the current season and for the longer haul….

That epic era once derided as ‘prehistory’ accounts for about 95% of human history. For nearly all of that time, humans traversed the planet but left no meaningful mark.


Library Afternoon Snapshot

A woman stops in my library — new to town and looking for basic info about an internet connection and where to buy food. She’s getting the lay of this corner of Vermont’s territory. Early afternoon, the school kids are paired up around the library, working on projects — some seriously, some intently goofing off.

It’s drab November, and the woman stays for a long while, using the library’s internet connection. Her friend calls the library and arranges to meet in the parking lot, exchanging a microwave. School morphs into after school by then, and the kids merge back into the library. A parent takes three crying girls aside and demands the drama to cease. A little boy chats with the woman in the library who pauses in her work and answers his questions. The kids pull out their newest craze — the chess sets.

Through all this, I keep introducing the woman to anyone who comes in the door.

When I leave at 5 p.m., darkness folds around the library. The woman has left with an armful of books; the children have all gone home. A few adults are picking up yet.

I turn down the heat in this library — a kind of living room lined with books. Then I head home myself.

The library might have been the first place I was ever given autonomy. Even when I was maybe four or five years old, I was allowed to head off on my own.

— Susan Orlean, The Library Book


Our November Rose

So long, arrivederci, to green grass.

Snow day for the school kids. My 13-year-old cut up paint swatches from the hardware store — a variety of rose and crimson and pink peony — and I had taped last week on the living room walls. We’re not a pink-oriented family, the three of us females, but somehow pink seemed just what that room — and maybe what the three of us — needed.




I’m at a restaurant in town with my parents, expecting to meet my daughters. My older daughter walks in alone, and I ask, What’s up? Where’s your sister?

She’s busy apparently, in a kid kind of way, hiding in the back of her friend’s car, so she and the friend can surprise the friend’s mother.

Well, I think, good luck to the mother.

In a few minutes my daughter appears, in soccer practice shorts, her face tanned and glowing. That, she says, was so fun. She assures me the mother wasn’t angry, preoccupied with a math homework assignment, instead.

In the early morning dark, I lie awake, listening to the crickets’ low sizzle. Like the lilacs, the mating songbirds have finished for this year. On the grass beside my garden lies a swimming floatie that needs to head back into the barn.

End of August, turn of seasons. Except, perhaps, if you’re in the season of being 13: keep on being 13 for a while yet.

Here’s an unrelated quote from what I’m reading: Lauren Markham’s The Faraway Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life:

The United States cannot at once be isolationist — build a wall, kill the trade deals — and global, selectively reaping the benefits of an international economy, like lower-cost imports, cut-rate outsourced workforce, and cheap labor in our fields here at home. We have played a major part in creating the problem of what has become of Central America, and we must play a major part in solving it.


Cat’s Heart

My daughter’s cat lies on the gray-painted floor at the top of the stairs, just outside her room, looking in. She’s away with friends in Maine. Over email, her sister and I see pictures of her swimming in a lake and the ocean — all that great blue and green wilderness around her 13-year-old self.

Her cat, of course, knows nothing of this, but simply lies at the threshold to her door, waiting for her return.

This morning, the rain’s returned, a great downpour. In the garden, yesterday, I pulled out handfuls of dead lily leaves, the broken and blackened remainders of lupine stems. Middle of August, and school and soccer start soon. The evenings come earlier, and the Black-eyed Susans burst brightly along the weedy roadsides.

Things do not change; we change.

— Thoreau


Early July A.M.

Midsummer, we’re at the numberless place in July where we might commence to take swimming at dusk as a given, to be exasperated by heat, to seek solace in a cool living room from the day’s sharp light.

As summer might unwind forever.

Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.

— Pablo Neruda


Brattleboro, Vermont