The afternoon takes me around two lakes in a kind of work I relish. One visit involves a visit with a contractor at a house he’s building. We muse how water seeks its own wise course. As I drive away, I keep thinking about the immense boulders a king-sized excavator unearthed from that mucky soil. The boulders are some of the most righteous beings I’ve met in weeks.
On my way home, I stop at the high school and take a brisk walk through the woods before an evening meeting. I see someone I know, and we talk about projects at the high school, what money is coming in, and what’s still needed. These days, I often find myself in terse conversations with acquaintances, as though we’re all gnawing a cigarette between our teeth, our backs against a proverbial wall, eyeing the horizon.
My daughter brings home a booster shot and sticks my arm. That night, I wake with dreams of email and work, of words that move through my mind, and then all of that passes. The cats and I lie before the wood stove, watching the flicking red embers through the glass. After each of my children’s births, I felt as though I had reached through a channel and touched the other world, that realm where I originated and where someday again I’ll return. A friend’s brother passes from Covid. She tells me, God must have a plan, but I don’t know what it is. For a moment, I think wicked thoughts about Catholicism, but that passes, too. Who am I to judge her faith, what will carry her and her family through hard days? In these December days of scant light and long nights, my daughter comes into my room and opens my window, waking me. A fox screams. We kneel at the window, gazing at the snow on the giant mock orange beside our house. The fox shrieks again. We listen, hard. In my mind, I begin imaging a message here — the two of us, the cold air, the moonless night, wild creature. Then I quit and simply listen.
I step out in the morning dark to get kindling from the barn. I’m grateful for many things, but a hot hearth is high on my gratitude list. The sprawling cats concur.
In the night, snow has fallen, a cold wind blows, and winter has spread out her garments. She’s here to stay.
At Thanksgiving, my daughters asked why I didn’t stay in the Pacific Northwest, where I went to graduate school. One reason was that I missed the drama of New England’s seasons. On this late November morning, I remind myself of this love for Vermont, that the need for winter’s stillness and beauty is driven as deeply into my body and soul as May’s blue squill around my house.
Here’s a link to a radio show at WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, I did with my former US Attorney Christina Nolan, who appears in Unstitched— a woman I greatly admire.
… what that story [of Jesus parting the Sea of Galilee] is trying to tell us is simply that in times of storm, we mustn’t allow the storm to enter ourselves; rather, we have to find peace inside ourselves and breathe it out.”
I would add to this — do this through cooking or writing or knitting or painting the living room wall. Hands, hearts, and minds.
There’s few folks at the high school on a rainy late afternoon I appear. The November rain is soot-gray and cold as river stones. I haven’t been to a teacher conference in years now.
For a moment, I step into my life, six years ago, when my oldest daughter was in this same exact classroom, with this same teacher. He’s a parent now. I’m divorced, and I’ve published another book.
The majority of my daughter’s and her peers’ high school years have now been immersed in the pandemic. Her teacher reiterates, These kids are resilient.
I walk back out in an early twilight, removing my mask and breathing in the wet air. This is the strange, otherworldly time of year — twilight at four. There’s plenty of waking hours yet ahead of me — those games of Uno my daughter and I will play while she shares seagull-sized snippets of her day. We’ll cook bacon and eggs for dinner. In the dark, I’ll leave her to her homework, and I’ll drive to another town for a Development Review Board hearing. That night, I know it will be myself, alone, in that three-story former schoolhouse, fulfilling the state’s in-person requirement, while everyone else is in their living room. I know the meeting will be civil and pleasant and full of the open kindness I expect from these people. When we’re finished, I’ll fold up my laptop and stand for a moment outside again, beneath the door’s overhang, the rain pouring down, sparkling in that single outdoor light, small bits in the unbreakable darkness.
My own resilience is like a river stone, a worn-down, solid thing. Rain, darkness, the breeze from the lake hidden in the cedars. Kids, I think, kids. I carry that word kids home in my heart.
Postcard I received in the mail yesterday from Vermont Almanac — a second collection of Vermont writers due out shortly. How great is that?
Sunday morning, I took my broken sink drain pieces to the hardware, laid them on the floor, and asked for help. At some point, I realized I’d need to be an active brainstorming participant, although, let’s face it, in the scheme of things, this isn’t exactly brain surgery.
I paid my twenty bucks and headed home.
Here’s the thing — when I began screwing these puzzle pieces together, I realized I’d have to go off script again. The floor drain was epoxied together, and then spraypainted white, as added glue.
I reached in my kitchen drawer and pulled out the super glue. Will it hold? Who knows.
But here’s the more important thing, the water’s flowing. Our kitchen is humming with cooking and cleaning again.
In these dim November days, I often find myself thinking back on my life, wondering what would have happened had I gone this way, or that way. Foolish, maybe, and definitely nonproductive. And yet, like a wound, I can’t help touching that.