Somewhere in July

Summer mugginess has settled in. Besides pleasing the garden, this offers the kids a chance to complain a little more — as if anyone needs that opportunity.

Again, this is a summer of swimming — of plenty more, too, work (which I’m immensely grateful for), this constant growing up thing my youngest insists on, and the world we live in that appears to be turning itself inside out. I lay awake reading at night and listening to the frogs or the hunting foxes, sometimes the neighbors having a party, and think, What about a little tranquility? But this does not appear to be the time for tranquility, much as I look for it in tiny places — those few minutes of swimming, the raspberry and rhubarb crisp, the sheer pleasure on my daughter’s face when she sees a friend.

These steamy days remind me of New Hampshire summers, when the days spread out so long…. May they yet spread out. Black raspberries, sun gold cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, basil…. May summer creep along.

If you lie quietly in bed in the very early morning, in the half-light before time begins, and listen carefully, the language of crows is easy to understand. “Here I am.”

— Louis Jenkins

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Photo by Gabriela S.

 

Spectator

At a baseball game at the high school, my friends and I talk about the shape of the evening clouds. The high school has a view of Buffalo Mountain. Behind it, the sun goes down.

I’m late to the game, finishing a book I’m reviewing and answering a handful of emails. When I arrive, I stand back for a bit, watching my younger daughter and her friends who are sitting by the side, apart but not that much apart, their hair piled on their heads, talking and laughing. There’s nothing new here — talking is the lifeblood of teen girls — but that world seems so rare in our world these days. — Go be a kid, swap stories, figure out your place in the world — the pulse of adolescence.

As the sun lowers and I keep talking with my friends, I keep glancing at these girls, their eyes full of sparks and joy, for this evening, these hours, this very moment.

Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places. It was possible Americans would do noting about the fissures exposed by the pandemic: the racial inequalities, the poisonous partisanship, the governmental incompetence, the disrespect for science, the loss of standing among nations, the fraying of community bonds. Then again, when people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.

— Lawrence Wright, “Crossroads”

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Members Only

Sunday afternoon, rain showers fall intermittently. In between, the sunlight sprinkles the garden — the most delicious weather for the garden. I read on the front porch couch, the cats wandering between me and my daughter.

I bought this novel to add to the library’s collection — Members Only, by Sameer Panda — after listening to the author on NPR. It’s clever, sharply written, utterly relevant, and its plot hinges on what seems to be a single slip up by the protagonist, but gradually a whole story of circumstances and choice is revealed.

This July, like my garden, I’m soaking up sunlight and rain showers — as if my daughters and I can store these lovely days in our DNA for the long winter yet to come. Why talk about my daughter’s sophomore year? Who knows what will happen in American schools this fall and winter? Like just about everyone else I know, I’ve accepted we’re not headed anywhere, anytime soon or not soon. The ubiquitousness of the disease is a strange kind of leveling field — there’s no longer the wealthier kids my daughter knows who are headed on extended vacations while I suggest to my daughter that she repaint the north side of the house.

While it’s day by day here, as the parent I’m always eyeing that future, and that, perhaps, more than anything else, brings me back to day to day, in this sweet July.

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Early June

June is the time to remember why it’s good to live in Vermont. These little bits — fresh greens from the garden, twilights hazy with lilac blossoms, a breeze through the open windows at night, swimming in water so cold your elbows hurt.

Happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

— Jane Kenyon
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Spring Beauties

To combat my lousy mood, my daughter suggests I go for a run. It would be better for everyone if you did, she says.

In week whatever, on day whatever, I run through town, seeing only two older women with masks, walking the standard 6 feet apart, and a few teenagers on bikes. There’s no one else I’ve seen for weeks, it seems. Eerily, I wonder if this is what the end of the world feels like.

In the woods behind the high school, I run up through the sugarbush, where moss greens up the forest floor in places. Then, around a bend, I suddenly see spring beauties — a whole forest field of these tiny, perfect white and pink blossoms.

Later, returning home to play a few more rounds of Uno, I know the run has done its magic. To that field of enchantment, where no one else perhaps has walked that day, I think — thank you, little wildflowers and daughter.

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Kitchen office

Isolation Snippet

My friend appears at our back glass doors and startles the three of us in the kitchen. She holds up a dozen eggs she’s dropping off and the seventh Harry Potter movie.

My daughter lifts a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

Yes, my friend mouths.

I step out on the deck and suggests she step back as the porch roof is about to dump snow down her back. My daughter hands out cookies while we’re talking about wanting to step into Harry Potter’s world. Maybe the kids are interested in flying, but what we’d really like? To sit in a train car and hang out with your friends.

Until then… this snow is melting today. Bit by bit, spring is emerging here.

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