Driving down the heart of Vermont today, I hear an ecologist on public radio explaining how trapping beavers altered our landscape. Something that seems so simple and petty — a craze for beaver hats — changed the flow of water, the flora and fauna, and human transportation, too. As a kid, we made tiny birch bark canoes in grade school. Birch bark canoes were once a kind of Volkswagen for people who lived in Vermont. Serious water flowed over this landscape then.
I drive along the Connecticut River. Eventually, I just pull over and admire where I am. So much green. Such an infinity of shades, and all that water, flowing steadily to the sea.
Our world smells of lilac these sweet days.
I’m parked near an abandoned brick mill, in a town that has seen more vibrant days. The temperature may hit 90 this weekend — in May! in Vermont! — and no one in a rational frame of mind can claim this is right.
But yet….. here I am by the side of this great river, the mountains rising on the other side, the leaves leafing out in summer beauty. I’m in a shifting place in my own tiny life, my youngest nearly grown. Which way this will go, I have no idea, but I’m here, breathing in the humid lilac air, for this moment at least in no rush at all.
Walking early this morning in the garden, the dew chilly over my bare feet, the thrush sings. The lilacs are opening, blossom by blossom, the deepest violet still closed tightly, not yet ready to reveal.
This is good news I remind myself. I look back at my house where our cat sits in my daughter’s bedroom window. She’s sleeping yet, a whole day of sunlight and apple blossoms yet to come.
May. Spring in Vermont. The air this morning is sweet.
The little boys across our dead-end street invite another little boy to visit. My neighbor and I stand with the visiting mother at the end of our road, talking, my hands dirty from weeding. Although I’ve now lived in this house for four years, and the book I wrote about living here is heading towards fall publication, I’m still happily surprised to live in this tiny neighborhood.
The boys, none of whom are even in grade school, discovered each other. During the pandemic, the boys began calling to each other from their yards. The visiting child lives on my neighbors’ other side, across a fairly busy road. The children called, What are you doing? Could you come play?
The visiting parent shares her story of moving to Vermont last fall, her family life jumbled up and rearranged in the pandemic, too, now jammed in a one-room apartment and struggling with the dearth of housing in Vermont.
The boys rake last fall’s leaves and bury themselves, bursting out of piles, laughing.
Bouquet of flowering violets spread around our house. Little bits of green buds burst at the ends of lilac branches. For this moment, happy children.
Blue squill reappears in our front yard and over the hill behind our house, in the thickets of wild raspberry canes — tiny flowers that sprinkle color in our landscape that is otherwise brown dirt and gray mountain.
In the rough patches of roadsides and rocky ditches, coltsfoot springs up. Along the brick school gymnasium, I discover blooming dandelions.
These tiny flowers, some no larger than my thumbnail, are mighty tough. There’s a lesson here, I know, as I crouch in that tangle of thorny vines, admiring a clump of starflowers. That lesson might be as simple as the determination of the world’s beauty. Who planted these flowers, I don’t know. But every spring I’m grateful for that gardener who lived here and who so loved these spring gems.
Often after the new year, the cold hammers down in Vermont, like a nail gun, sealing the human world except for well-bundled expeditions. The coldest I’ve seen is 40 below zero; mist moved ghost-like over the river, creeping over the icy banks like a strange memory.
This year, what small amount of snow we have is often soft, and the air during the day often thaws and carries the scent of water.
It’s an illusion, I know, to imagine that anything but a long, long winter lies ahead of us. But still, yesterday when I left work, I mentioned to a coworker that it was nearly five and day still lingered.
For a just a moment, we stood there with car keys in our hands, reveling at the light.