Hardwick Postcard #3: Snowy Day, Slower Day

In the dark, I open my daughter’s curtain to see snow falling in the streetlamp between our house and the neighbors’, and I wake my daughter as I usually do, talking quietly and setting a purring cat beside her. The cat burrows under the covers.

In the steady snow last night, we visited the library and the librarian, where my daughter opened a box of tinsel and spread a glittery rope over a bookcase and the mantel. Outside, damp flakes fell on our cheeks.

Everything’s slowed down a little, with slush on boots.

In variations of emotion, the conversation repeats, Winter’s here.

For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.

– Vincent van Gogh



Long after sunset last night, my daughters and I went walking, in that thick rural dark broken only by the lights of the single house across the road, the lights of our kitchen behind us, and overhead all those stars. The little girl, fearful of the dark, walked between her sister and me. Those glimmering, oh-so-bright stars twinkled in the treetops, still bare and leafless at this time of year.

Earlier that day, the younger girl had dug quartz pebbles from the roadside mud, washed them clean in a puddle, and gave them to me to put in my pockets for safekeeping. My diamonds, she called them.

Shiny bits of stars, bright bits of stone.

As we walked back to our house, guided by the compass of our kitchen light, the older daughter told us she parted her curtains every night and slept every night with a windowful of stars over her bed.

I asked my daughters to imagine our world without stars, with only darkness, none of the constellations cartwheeling across the sky, no dipper pouring luck over our roof, no Orion standing sentry through those bitter winter nights, no Milky Way – that mesmerizing arc of the eternally and ever-beautiful mysteriously ineffable. What kind of world would this be without the lights of the great heavens that have endured, before and after, any human stirrings on this green and blue planet?

My daughter, age 17, pondered this as we stood with our faces tipped upward. Then she said, That would suck.

Indeed, daughter.

I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.

– Vincent Van Gogh


Montpelier, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.




Venturing into unfamiliar territory today, the girls and I unexpectedly found ourselves on Horn of the Moon Road, and then crossed the dam at Wrightsville Reservoir. One of the beauties of living in Vermont is there’s often no one else around, so we simply stopped, abandoned the car, and walked along the narrow road, each side sloping steeply, covered with rocks.

My older daughter and I reminisced about when the reservoir had been nearly drained empty, and, conversely, when the water level had risen so high that trash lingered in the treetops for months.

On this giant earthwork, we were amazed at the work man’s hands have done, so much sod and rock moving, the immense depths of concrete and steel. What a different view of water today. All summer, my daughters and I have swam and canoed in clear lakes and remote ponds, and then today: the rugged vision of men enacted on the land. Tonight, reading van Gogh’s inimitable letters, I remembered how much van Gogh taught me as  a writer: to look, and look, and not to be afraid to take in everything. More pieces of the evolving puzzle.


It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.

— Vincent van Gogh


Montpelier, Vermont