Small Town Vermont Connections

Rain falls heavily not long after dawn, and I close the windows, the cats in the upstairs hallway watching me silently. The rain pounds on the metal roof. Too hot to sleep in the night, too noisy now — if that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

Three years divorced, I’m back in court, seeking child support — maybe just one payment? — but he’s not there. He’s elsewhere, traveling, his pockets full of under-the-table cash. In the afternoon, I’m in another Vermont county, in another courthouse, for another hearing, having worked in a library between the two, made an interview phone call on a bench beneath two enormous maple trees. Tell me about your farm program for kids and please ignore the ambulance siren whizzing down the street. Hot, hot, I’m barefoot, my hand sweating on my notebook.

In the courthouse — through a metal detector again — I wash my face in the women’s room and admire the high ceiling, the marble tiles. This courthouse — like the one in Orleans County where I’ve also been — were built with such craft, such pride, such respect and belief in law.

While rain crashes on my roof this morning, I remember that courtroom — those who are paid to be there, and those who aren’t — how desire in its myriad forms snakes through all of us. The public defender and I are introduced. A few years back, he was an attorney on a wind tower protest case involving people I knew. He doesn’t look at any of us. Instead, he gathers his files, says, That was in my other lifetime, and leaves. I’ll likely never know, but I can’t help but wonder, What’s his story?….

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention…

— Mary Oliver