Walking through the town woods after dinner, listening to what must be one of the loveliest sounds on the planet — the wood thrush — my younger daughter says quietly, “Cub.”
Just ahead, where we were about step into a hayfield, a small black bear wandered, sniffing. We stood for a moment, admiring, then slowly backed away and headed back through the woods.
Walking, we remarked on the proliferation of wildlife we’ve seen this spring — the cub, bald eagles, a den of enchanting fox cubs just behind our house. While the human world is fragmented, the animal world seems to be filling in those cracks, closer and closer.
In Vermont’s May, every day the world appear more and more alive — the leaves unfurled more, and the dandelions higher. Sure, invasive dandelions have their place — or the curse — in the world, but a field of dandelions? Joy — thank goodness for spring.
Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May…
— James Russell Lowell
At dusk — after eight, as we’re heading, day by day, towards the solstice — I sit in my daughter’s car with the windows unrolled while my girls are in the grocery store, getting just one thing but likely wandering around. The local police chief, off duty, comes out, and he and I talk about the weather and raising kids. For just a few moments, a kind of normalcy descends through that dusk, as I sit there, holding the car keys, my feet dusty from the garden on the dashboard.
The day has been an exquisite, sun-filled day, of work and gardening and dinner on the back porch. Memorial Day Saturday is generally the very busiest day of the year in our town, with a parade and fair and fireworks, but this year, it’s just the two of us in that otherwise empty parking lot, agreeing at the blessedness of this early summer.
The way I see it, I've got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I'll be home by dawn.
From “Rest” by Richard Jones
My nearly-15-year-old and I went to Stowe today, so I could be x-rayed for the profoundly awful tooth surgery I had before Christmas last year. We haven’t been anywhere, this daughter and I, for about, oh, a pandemic’s age.
While she went biking, I waited outside, reading beside a blooming apple tree. Afterwards, I walked along the river and through emerald bright fields, and then met her back in town, beside the white congregational church.
For over a decade, I went to Stowe regularly and sold maple syrup and homemade ice cream and root beer at the farmers market, and made what will likely be the most money in my life. Eventually, I just wore out and gave my spot to someone else, and went on to something else….. Stowe’s an incredibly pretty Vermont village, with a river running through its mountain valley. But this closed-up town had changed immensely. Along the bike path, no one met our eyes, no one nodded and said hello — and even my teen noticed. What’s up with that? she asked.
The town where I live struggles with plenty of challenges, but it’s not a tourist destination. I already knew that where you live in Vermont made a difference — that schools in wealthy communities offer more than schools in poorer, rural areas — but we saw a glimmer of a different kind of difference, too. Vermont, for all its loveliness as a place to live, is hardly homogenous. May this suspicion be a passing phase, too.
Meanwhile, the beauty of May reigns — with gold daffodils, red tulips, our grass sprinkled with violets. Asparagus, spinach, mesclun….
Summer afternoon downpour
a flock of sparrows
hanging on to the grass
Photo by Gabriela
In our corner of the world, in generally law-abiding Vermont, the state is gradually cracking open, but slowly, slowly. Gradually, I’m realizing that so many things I once took for granted — walking into a public library, for instance, something I’ve done my entire life — seem so far away these days
In contrast, spring flourishes — the woods are sprinkled with the loveliest little gems of wildflowers — trout lilies and spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches. All afternoon, I work on the porch, taking breaks by watering seedlings in the garden. Spring! Spring! In the midst of so much uncertainty — what will Vermont’s downtowns look like this summer? this fall? — spring busily moves along, as utterly enchanting as always.
As my daughter’s 15th birthday approaches, we scramble for some kind of plans. How to mark this passage from one year to the next in a time of utter and absolute uncertainty? Our days contract into that Zen question — how to be utterly present and in the now, but without the kind of madness that denies the future? Robins and sparrows sing sweetly of the moment — while these little winged creatures build their nests, lay their eggs, plan their futures in their own bird ways.
It’s the question I keep returning to, over and over — make do with what we have but keep a wary eye on the future.
Hope all is steady enough in your worlds….
…. What day? What time?
My daughter — finally almost 15 and ready to get a driver’s permit — is marooned in closed-for-now-DMV land. Maybe in June? Meanwhile, DMV employees answer phones for unemployment questions.
Around a campfire in the evening, I step back in the house for a sweater and stand in our dining room. As the days grow longer, I’m losing track of time in the evenings, too. Many years ago, with little children, I was rigorous about bedtime. Now, we simply wear down and go to bed. It’s not all bad, but it comes as a surprise to me, this unmooring. Not at all like a vacation, our world grinds slower and slower, rooting us down into each day.
What will today bring?
On this day — I’m certain this is Sunday — that began with such a rosy sunrise, I’m hopeful for sunlight and gardening. Grape hyacinths are blooming.
Photo by Gabriela Stanciu.
My daughter was waiting on the trampoline when I came home from work the other day, sitting there waiting for me. We’re still in this crazy period where I’m almost always at home, but sometimes I head in.
She told me she made a new friend.
Seeing as there’s a pandemic and all, I was a little surprised. She took me around to the back porch and showed me a squirrel in a tree, just sitting there, hanging out in a branch.
My friend, she said. She’d been taking pictures of the creature.
So, that’s something. A teen who makes a friend with a brushy-tailed creature. Today, I sat on the porch all afternoon working. Off with her sister, she texted me, Has my friend returned?
Not yet. But I’m looking.
Photo by Gabriela Stanciu