Vermont Democracy

Outside the town clerk’s office, a little after 8 last night, I’m talking with an another adult while the kids jump around in what feels like balminess at 14 above zero when I suddenly shout out, Look at the moon!

Ringed by a rainbow, the luminous half-moon hangs over the town clerk’s building — a former one-room schoolhouse.

Our friends head home one way, my daughter and I the other.

Woodbury, Vermont, with its population less than a 1,000 souls, has a 3-person selectboard. I’m there as the town librarian. Most of the school board is there. Members of the public. The worry is to how to retain the tiny elementary school the state seems intent to close.

The kids are not in the meeting. They’re hanging out at the clerk’s main desk, reading graphic novels, and raiding the clerk’s candy jar. They’re giggling about kid stuff that’s important to kids.

I want the kids know this version of democracy — a group of people wearing fleece and hand-knit sweaters, jammed into a tiny room, our knees bumping, some of us liking each other and some maybe not at all, but all of talking, thinking things through — what’s the wisest course of action? how do we tend the common good?

It’s the first snowfall —
When it melts again we’ll see
Dewdrops on the grass.

— Buson


Easy Snow

Driving the neighbor girl home tonight, in the dark descended already at five, the headlights illuminated the pristine snow at the roadside; in the first real snowfall of the season, winter has returned with all its familiarity. The truth is, this season is profoundly beautiful, the nights deeply dark, the stars purer than any possible manufactured light.

Winter tugs out the humanness of us, too. In the descending cold, the hearth has genuine meaning: practicality bound into pleasure. In the backseat, the children laughed, the car steamy with the scent of my wet wool sweater, the snow around us gently falling, the merest whispers of winter’s roar yet off in the distance.

I write this by lamplight
holed up for the winter
there it is on the page

– Yosa Buson


Woodbury, Vermont