A $5 Rainbow-Bright Kickball

My cheerful kids returned yesterday with a bright pink blow-up beach ball they found on a back road. The older daughter, driving, had pulled over, so the 12-year-old and her friend ran back along the ice-rutted road for the garish pink ball. At home, they mended the gash with silver duct tape.

Vermont’s March palette lies heavy on variations of white — the pureness of fresh snow, the near-gray of thawed ice refrozen with dirt particles — dark green pine, the black of gravel roads where the town crew has strewn sand, the crimson patches on redwing blackbirds.

Full of spring energy with the lengthy daylight after dinner, the girls and I walked around the neighborhood. The younger splashed through a puddle and noted she stepped over the moon’s reflection. I bought the girls a $5 kickball, striped in rainbow colors. Deep into twilight, so cold we kept blowing on our bare hands, the girls and I played four-square, that brilliantly-colored ball bouncing through the thickening dusk.

And then the girls took the ball inside and played in her bedroom, confusing the cats.

Here’s the artwork from the newest issue of Taproot, with an essay I wrote about our house. The artist’s creation is a remarkable likeness, both in architecture and emotion, although the blossom season hasn’t yet returned…..


O, The Maple Loveliness

On a cheesecloth foray for the 12-year-old and her friend (a must have for making mummy luminaries), the kids and I stand in a parking lot, and I point out a maple tree across Route 15. More or less, the foliage is finished around us now, but this mature maple had gold at the crown sprinkled down to green at its lower branches.

We were in one of the uglier areas of town, swampy, with a gas station/liquor store, a depressing Dollar Store, some rundown houses and trailers. The tree, however, was so exquisite that my daughter’s friend remarked it appeared to be pruned. We laughed at that  thought – as if a ladder could scale this great beauty, as if human hands might shape this natural perfection.

Across the cemetery is another lovely maple; down Spring Street are the silver maple gems…. and on and on…. And if you’re in Montpelier, admire the maples on the library’s lawn.

Her teacher’s certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, “Maple—
Maple is right.”…

From Robert Frost’s “Maple”


A Few Minutes

When my brother was learning how to ride a bike, he started at the neighbors’ cement step, leapt up on the banana seat that was too high for him, wavered across our scraggly lawn until he banged into the side of our house, and fell over. He hadn’t yet mastered turning, and so he repeated those steps – the vaulting ascent, the uneven pedaling, the thunk and crash – until he swerved left, up a slight hill, and kept going.

Washing dishes the other night, listening to the the increasingly grim NPR news, someone kept smashing the side of my house. My daughter was doing a handstand, kicking her heels against the clapboard – working as she said.

I thought of Dr. Spock’s Play is the work of babies – equally applicable to 12-year-olds. Laughing, my daughter demonstrated her ability to tuck her heels around her ears. She suggested I try that neat trick, but instead I lay on the grass and gazed at the clouds silently shifting over the sky’s expanse we can see behind our house. Shot through with sunset’s pink, the evening stretched around us, the cooling air nipping just the slightest on my cheeks and bare toes.

She lay on the grass beside me and said, There’s a snail just above us. See it?

I did.

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
– Issa