In a steady rain, my daughter sets the table for dinner. For months, we’ve eaten on our deck. I suggest, as I’m sautéing onions, that she set the dining room table.
Giggling, she lays plates on the glass table outside, sets out forks, and then digs in the drawer for napkins.
Really? I say, napkins? They’ll get wet.
I don’t mind eating outside by myself, she answers, still giggling.
This has been a long day, a long however many weeks that have widened into months of coronavirus, that will likely be a long year or years. We’d planned to be in Maine these days, soaking up sunlight and the sand, but quarantining upon return isn’t feasible. She knows this; she doesn’t argue.
Still laughing, she takes a jar of pickles and sets it on the table. From inside, I see raindrops bounce off its unopened top. When she comes back, I say, Don’t forget cups. I’m eating outside with you, too.
All who have achieved excellence in art possess one thing in common; that is, a mind to be one with nature, throughout the seasons.
― Matsuo Bashō
My daughter’s companion
I was reading last night when my daughter opened my door and asked what’s happening. Through the opened windows, a fox was screaming — a chilling sound — as if a child was in distress. The fox wandered in the woods and ravine behind our house, coming and going, calling.
Eventually, I turned off my light and lay in the darkness. Our cat sat on the windowsill, pressed up against the screen, listening to the wild world. What a relief — simply the natural world, hungering.
The power of dissent is a rich part of who we are.
— Sameer Pandya, Members Only
My daughter texts that she left a few things behind for her camp out with friends. The back porch, where I’m working, is so hot I’m worried my laptop might actually begin to overhead.
I pack up those things and head with my older daughter, who’s on staycation this week, to the next town over. We walk down a short path into the woods. In mid-July, Vermont smells phenomenal — of wet soil and broken leaf and wild roses. On the pond, blue damselflies dart near our faces.
Oh, the world of being 15-years-old.
In the evening, my older daughter and I walk through the town, admiring flowerbeds while she maps out her future for the fall. At the high school, the lot is completely empty save for a blue mini van. As we walk near, I see South Carolina plates and an elderly couple eating from a box of pizza.
I raise my hand and wave, and they both wave back. What’s your story? I wonder. Later, driving by us in town, they wave again.
Friday was a day of two swims — in Walden and Hardwick. I’m storing these summer days in my body, as if I can hold sunlight and warmth and the tangy scent of green tomatoes in my skin. May these summer days be long, long, long.
Caspian Lake, Greensboro, Vermont/photo by Molly S.
One good thing a day — take joy in at least one thing a day — is my new mantra.
Swimming or drinking coffee. A colleague moved a rock in her garden — how happy that made me. Spying foxes down in the woods. My daughter’s pleasure in making bracelets. A giant swan floatie my daughters bought while I was at work one day.
I’m not hoarding; I simply note that one thing. The odd thing is, once I note that, I find endless amounts of good things — the Sweet William in my garden, laughing on the phone as I ask a librarian to put out a book for me, please, and then calling through the (closed) library’s door — thank you!
None of this alleviates or alters the world — that I live in a state of incredible wealth where thousands of people have lined up in their cars for eight hours to receive a box of free food. The future is utterly obscured — from a national level literally igniting, to a personal level, where so many people’s lives around me are in upheaval.
This summer, as my daughter steps happily into the driver’s seat, I sit beside her, cautioning — slow down for this intersection. Don’t expect others to turn their turn signals. Be wary of children on sidewalks.
The truth is, I resist this stage of parenting, of giving her the physical keys to head into that vast and confusing world. Yet, it’s her world, too.
So, I identify those good things, like stones in a turbulent river, as we undertake a crossing.
(if you are interested)
leads to discovery.
— William Carlos Williams
My 15-year-old, with her brand-new learner’s permit, has formally switched places in my car, from passenger seat to driver’s seat. The world, suddenly, is different for her, with the kind of freedom a rural kid gains with the keys to a car. The horizon is no longer a barrier but a temptation — move on, explore.
One year, I think, of us driving and talking — of everything from what to cook for dinner, to why I married her father, to the Black Plague. One year.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be…
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath…
— Langston Hughes
Despite my covering attempts, the frost nipped the edges of a few of my basil plants. I stood in the garden this morning, chilly in my sweater, staring. Such a small, minor loss.
June in Vermont brings us into the dreamy, gauzy period, of fragrant lilacs and gentle breeze through the new leaves. This year, June brings the nightmare side of the dream world, too, in these days full of tension.
Which way will we go? The days and nights are filled with tension. A nerve-racking doubt wakes me in the night. The windows are closed against the cold. I remind myself that, even in the wake of what appears insurmountable, our individual lives matter, that history has always swept us along, and the only meaningful way forward is step by step.
In a bit, I get up and feed the cats, then pull on my jacket and stand on the porch, watching as the stars slowly fade.
Among a large class, there seemed to be a dependence upon the government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the federal officials to create one for them. How many times I wished then and have often wished since, that by some power of magic, I might remove the great bulk of these people into the country districts and plant them upon the soil – upon the solid and never deceptive foundation of Mother Nature, where all nations and races that have ever succeeded have gotten their start – a start that at first may be slow and toilsome, but one that nevertheless is real.
― Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery
Photo by Gabriela Stanciu — myself and brother