Strangers’ Laughter

I step out of our house just after sunset, and a crescent moon hangs over the road — a silent slice of gleaming beauty in a dark blue sky. By then, I’ve been on a school board call for hours, and I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that what appears to be illusion at times — this strange, Hollywood-squares conversation — will shake out in ways that affect people’s lives directly: adults’ livelihoods, kids’ educations.

Although it’s five on a Friday, there’s not much traffic in town. In the little neighborhoods where I walk, no one is out. Against one maple tree, I see two plastic red sleds propped against the trunk.

As I round a corner, I hear laughter. I pause for a moment in the twilight, listening. A row of adults is bundled in coats and hats, sitting on a porch, talking and laughing. The cold air is wet with tomorrow’s approaching snow.

I’m no stranger to Vermont’s long winters, but mid-January 2021, and such a deep loneliness has set in — not just in my house, not just in my town, but spread ubiquitously. I stand under that gleaming sliver of moon, listening to the laughter of strangers. For the moment, I’m utterly stunned by the unexpected bliss of the moment, the sheer luck I have to be standing here, part of this shifting world.

“I don’t like ironing, but it reminds me that once, long, long ago, there was a semblance of order in the world.”