These days are nearly feverish — too hot or bordering cold.

Driving home from soccer, my daughter sets her feet on the dashboard and rubs IcyHot on her shin. The car fills with the medicinal scent of mint. She and her sister laugh and laugh, the older daughter sharing stories of work: You can’t make this up, it’s so crazy….

Nearly a year ago, the younger daughter was plagued with nosebleeds. One evening, frightened, I called the ER and spoke to a nurse, who thought nosebleeds were no particular big deal. Chastened, I took his word. The nosebleeds stopped.

Autumn is the season of trees, green turning to gold. Walking home in the dark last night, I cut up through the trailer park where the Milky Way sprawled over the sky, then turned into the woods where I could hardly see my way. The scent of wet soil rose up through the leaves, and I pushed on.

Many things of the past
Are brought to my mind,
As I stand in the garden
Staring at a cherry tree.

— Basho

Here’s the piece I wrote for State 14 about the Youth Climate Strike.

Late Night Reading

As summer blended into autumn, the days were warm enough to swim, but we simply didn’t.

Instead, I lie awake at night, listening to the tree frogs thrip, thrip, thrip, singing as though this season will linger on and on, and then it’s me and the cat lying on the couch in the middle of the night, reading about economics and slavery, and when that’s too much for those tiny wee hours — while the stars pass over our roof — the cat suggests Alan Watts, which has somehow been shoved down the back of the couch. The book is an old paperback that I either swiped from my dad’s shelves when I was in college, or he passed along to me. Which of us can remember any longer?

Finally, the rain pours down in an enormous wash.

You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.

~ Alan W. Watts, Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown 

Photo by Molly B.

What Are You Saying?

The other day, I let a very pregnant woman and her little daughter who was eating an ice cream sandwich step ahead of me in line at the co-op. Outside, on the street, the woman buckled her child into a carseat. I stepped into the passenger seat of my daughter’s car.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my daughter — now fully an adult with adult responsibilities — was a little girl, too.

Yesterday, on a rocky hike in the White Mountains, she and I walked down the mountain together, while my younger daughter and my brother outpaced us.

At four, ice cream sandwiches were a very big deal. At four, this daughter was obsessed with snipping up paper with kid-sized scissors. At twenty, we talk about what it’s like to be a woman in this world, about going to school and work, about family and friends, and how things sometimes go awry.

Beneath all this, while we walked from the ridge down into the cool forest where the leaves were just beginning to turn an autumn gold, I kept thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Talking to Strangers. Since she became a teenager, I’ve returned to this thought over and over — what are you really saying? What’s the subtext beneath your words? Some of that subtext I know, some tugs at my own guilt and trepidation, and some is just pure joy, knowing this young woman in a richer way.

What is required of us is restraint and humility.

— Malcolm Gladwell


Milkweed Season

Walking through a field on my way to the post office, I find tasseled milkweed seeds, strewn across the trampled grass.

When she was a toddler in a hand-me-down stroller, my now 13-year-old loved to pick apart milkweed pods and let the seeds drift from her tiny fingers.

I doubt she’d remember those windy autumn days, this child who was always so quiet. But I’d like to think, deep inside her, those hours worked their magic, as she watched those seeds rise into the breeze and disappear.

….Two days ago I walked
the empty woods, bent over,
crunching through oak leaves,
asking myself questions
without answers. From somewhere
a froth of seeds drifted by touched
with gold in the last light
of a lost day, going with
the wind as they always did.

— Philip Levine, “Milkweed”


Pond Swimming — In October?

Rain moved in overnight, but yesterday was a sultry 80 degrees, the school kids running into the library and standing just inside the door, panting, their faces rosy, sweaty. A grandfather and I stood talking in the doorway. About an hour more, you think, this lovely weather will last? I asked. He laughed.

After work, I swam while my daughter sat on the bank with our friend and her old rabbit, stroking the bunny’s white fur and talking. The pond water — when I thought swimming had ended weeks ago — had an initial flash of cold. Then I swam out where the deep, nearly inky water held me, tepid. The dragonflies are gone. I grabbed fallen, floating leaves.

I knew the sun would set before long. I had chores. My friend was leaving. And yet — swimming, October 10, northern Vermont. Mark that.

#10 Pond/Photo by Molly S.

Hopeful Strings

In the night, the cold moves in. The evening before, returning after work in Vermont’s “big city” of Burlington, the frogs chirped, and the air, drenched with a heavy rain, was suffused with the hummus-y scent of soil and leaves beginning to turn and rot.

This morning, the crescent moon shimmers.

Against the noise of the news these past few weeks, as I’m feeding the cats, I think of Leslie Schwartz, in Los Angeles County Jail, tenderly nourishing tiny sprouts from apple seeds, the slenderest of life, nonetheless growing within concrete.

So I fell in love with the apple sprouts the way one might a newborn.

— Leslie Schwartz, The Lost Chapters: Reclaiming My Life, One Book at a Time