Zen. Broken Sink Drain. A Meaningful Life.

back porch view

I’m lying on the couch reading Sigrid Rausing’s Mayhem when my daughter calls from the kitchen, ‘Mom, you’re not going to like this!’

The sink drain has split apart again and gray water floods the kitchen floor. For a moment, I think, whatever, and then ask her to get an old towel.

I have now repaired this drain three times, each time in nothing but sheer annoyance and impatience.

The problem, naturally, has something to do with PVC and epoxy, but more to do with me. My ex-husband put in this drain, in his trademark cob-job way, fitting together scraps of plastic pipe. I’m irritated at my own ineptness, my unwillingness to devote real time to YouTubing a solution, the scantness of my nonworking hours.

I’d rather paint a wall than repair a drain.

After we mop up the water and pile the unwashed dishes on the sink drainboard, we put on our boots and take a walk in the falling snow. It’s the first snowfall of the year. Snow is our old friend, falling silently, sparkling in house and streetlights. This first bit will melt today and return again soon.

Sunday morning. Put the house in order. Take the broken pieces to the hardware store. Ask for advice.

True recovery is a profoundly ethical journey, finding meaning and dignity through solidarity and restitution. Without that, there may be a cessation of drinking or substance use, but there is no real recovery.”

— Sigrid Lausing

Planting Bulbs…

On this frosty November morning, a few lines from Rebecca Solnit’s newest book:

To garden is to make whole again what has been shattered: the relationships in which you are both producer and consumer, in which you reap the bounty of the earth directly, in which you understand fully how something came into being. It may not be significant in scale, but even if it’s a windowsill geranium high above a city street, it can be significant in meaning.”

Woodbury, Vermont

Brief Pause. Sunrise.

Driving into Greensboro this morning, I pull over at the lake. The mist is suffused with crimson from the rising sun. I have the odd sensation I’m walking in an Impressionist painting, shot-through with sunlight and wet, rising dew. A pink bird dips into the water, and I hurry along the frozen shore, wondering at this odd creature.

The bird is a common, ordinary seagull, floating along in this morning, just like me. Thursday morning.

The bottoms of my shoes

are clean

from walking in the rain.”

— Jack Kerouac

Invisible Child.

Everyday, the light shrinks a little, contracts inward. My oldest daughter and I take a walk after dinner in the inky dark. A cat crosses the street and disappears into the night. This time, too, will pass. We who live here know this — have no other option, indeed, but to endure this — but the short days contract us, too.

In the night, I wake and read before the wood stove with the two blissful cats. Page by page, I work through Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Child, a brand-new copy from the library. Save for the clicking of our wood stove as it heats and cools, expands and contracts, our house is utterly quiet at night. Narcotized by the heat, the cats sleep too deeply for purring. I’m working the next day. A list in my poor handwriting awaits me in my notebook, the tasks I’ll diligently accomplish, one by one. Some are tedious — chores I’ll reluctantly do. But I cleave to that list, my daily rod — bread and butter and bacon for my household, and my soul, too. Around us, chaos and Covid. But for this time, cats, warmth, and words.

In self-defence, you know, all life eventually accommodates itself to its environment, and human life is no exception.” 

― Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives

Lamoille River, Hardwick, Vermont

Reading Aloud.

Steerforth Press asked me to read the audiobook version of my book, Unstitched. I’ve never recorded a whole book before, so it’s been an intense experience to read the entire book, word by word, just a few feet from a stranger. The book blends both nonfiction and intensely personal memoir. I’m not talking about writing about memories of weeding a garden, either.

Now, in the last phase, while I’m listening to the final version, it’s a fascinatingly educational experience to hear this book I wrote read aloud to me, in my own voice.

One thing that jumped out immediately at me is that much of this book is about being a single woman with two teenage daughters, and how much I’ve figured out in my life without a man. I wouldn’t categorize this as a triumphant, let’s banish the men story (my God, I feel like I can and do whine like there’s no tomorrow), but that theme of woman threads all through this book.

Here’s a snippet of a review in the Deerfield Valley News by Laura Stevenson:

The book’s title comes from the conversation between Stanciu and the father of the girl who overdosed. Looking at the church that will become a social center not just for those in recovery but for everybody in town, Stanciu remarks “everyone’s so busy working that no one seems to have time or energy to put into groups … that used to keep people connected.” He replies, “We’ve come unstitched, … We’ve got to stitch the darn thing back together.” … This is a deeply compassionate and extremely important book. Every Vermonter should read it.”

Vermont Respite

While the daughters tie their kayaks on roof racks, I sit in the grass, keeping company with hungry bumblebees in the rhododendrons.

This hardy plant is doing its thing now, a visual symphony of color.

Spring crickets, garden soil under my toenails, pond water in my hair. And still, early June.

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.

Gretel Ehrlich