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A New Year

May your year ahead be filled with laughter, fat chickens and just the right amount of snow, with an early spring, with plenty of love, a summer of abundant garden produce, a good apple season, and a warm home.  May you always be able to find the good, and may you always steer through any rough spots with grace.  May you manage to find goodwill and grace towards all.

 

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Preserving August in Vermont

Going through the garden, about ten days ago... these are the cucumbers, the pumpkins, the sunflowers, and a straggly watermelon or two...

August is a symphony.  At night, the crickets being to chirp and to sing in our garage, drawing closer to home, seeking shelter for the cold days ahead.  Crickets slide the top of one wing on the underside of another to make their chirping noise, one edge of wing gliding on another like a bow on a string instrument.  Their noise in the garage is a reminder that fall is near.  Each August, I take up knitting again, and in the evenings the metal click of the needles and the yarn mark time, one needle against another, the crickets and their noise just outside, the wool slipping over metal needles under lamp-light, the darkness ahead settling down.

This is high summer, but the night falls earlier each day, and the prospect of winter is steady and sure.  I want to hold on to these bright hot days, I want to tuck away the feeling of pulling beans, and twisting off ripe tomatoes, the heat and humidity, collect the heat and the symphony of sound and color, preserve this feeling of high summer and save it for the darker days ahead, the cold of winter when summer heat seems so far away.

Early ripe apples, the ones that fall off the tree and must be sorted carefully, the unmarked ones gathered. I turn these into dried apple rings..

Outside, in the August late afternoons, under the apple trees, you can hear the soft “plonk” of early apples falling ripe from the trees.  I gather up the unmarked apples, Continue reading “Preserving August in Vermont”

Ten Years

Ten years have passed since I wrote down a wish list of things I wanted in my life, written just before changing jobs and moving and getting married. It’s a pretty short list of seven things. I’m happy that I’ve made five of the seven an integral part of my life so far, without referring back to the list more than once or twice. Somehow, I didn’t forget. Here’s what I wrote back then:

Looking ahead from January 13, 2010
“Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, the loss of a job… And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another – that is surely the basic instinct… Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.” – Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson

2010: I can see some big changes ahead of me, and I’ve seen them coming for a while. I have had time to worry, and time to think, and now I think it’s time to think about what is important to me. What I actually want to do. These would be things I want to hold onto and not forget, despite major life changes like moving, and getting married, and changing jobs, all of which have been impending for the past six months.

Primarily, I don’t want to coast along and just let life happen to me without some semblance of a plan. Actually, not a plan, but a wish list. A wish list of things I want to see and do. Things not to lose sight of in the day to day details that are so easy to get lost in. Years ago, I made a list of 5 goals, and it’s become outdated. I achieved the ones I can remember, and I would have to go looking too hard to find the list. So. I have the beginnings of a new list. In no particular order:

Writing
Children
A great marriage*
Transition to a new career**
Running ***
Africa
Rome

*- which I hear is only as spectacular as the work you put into it…
** since I’m not relocating to Asheville, North Carolina, for the job I have
***unbelievable that running as a particular means of staying in shape is on this list

And now, in 2020
I like to travel but will have to save the travel part of my list for when I’m a little old lady. Africa and Rome are the two places I most want to see.

But other than that, this list is bang on target.

Writing: check. Started off with this blog in 2014 after not writing for many years followed by publication in several print and online magazines without too much effort. Hired to write web content for other sites. Have since stopped writing for magazines and web sites to work on writing fiction. Writing fiction is SO much harder then I assumed it would be. I really should have focused more on literature in school. I focused in on actually writing fiction (instead of just thinking about it) in mid-2018.

Children: check but no plural. One and done.

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Great marriage: check. My parents divorced when I was very young so not at all sure of how to make something like marriage work because I have no similar family experience to refer to but so far so good.

Transition to a new career: check.  Love where I am.

Running: check. Done it, do it when I can, but some issues with running alone or finding someone who can run as slow as I do to keep me company.

Plus, I quit smoking in 2011. Which is a VERY BIG DEAL.

Time for a new list.

Wonder if I should try for more specifically measure-able or actionable things next time?  Whatever works. I have about a week before my self-imposed birthday deadline.

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Violas: lost and found

About a year ago, in May, I came across violas on the side of a dirt road.   “Free,” the sign said.  A heavy spade-sized wet soil clump topped with flowers on top of a Blue Seal feed bag for easy transport.

I stopped, of course.  The clump was heavier than expected, and their scent as I knelt to pick them up was overwhelming, almost dizzying.    Sunlight filtered through overhead branches on a narrow dirt road, the green of new spring leaves, and the dirt of the road crunched underfoot.

I had no idea violas could be so heavily scented.  I filled the front seat of my car with a huge clump of violas.  I tucked them in the front foot well on the passenger side.  The fragrance filled the car.  The entire ride home all I could smell was violas.  Not all violas have a fragrance.  These did.

Once home, I planted them close to the house, in a sunny east facing garden bed and around a sugar maple tree near the garage.  I  brought some more over to my mother’s and planted them there under a rapidly darkening sky in the rain, at the edge of an oncoming hailstorm.  As I went to put my trowel away, the rain came off the eaves and drenched me and as I struggled with the lock on the cellar door, hail started.  I dashed for the safety of the car, wet clothes and hair, and drove home through the storm.

This spring, a year later, I’ve been watching for their return. Violas usually come back year after year, either from persistent perennial roots or from having self-sown seeds. They’re called ‘ Johnny Jump Ups,’ I think because they usually come back.  It’s a little odd that I can’t find any trace of them this year.  The crocus bloomed, the hostas are sending up spikes, and there are shoots of lily of the valley leaves and violets, full-blooming daffodils, but no trace yet of these violas.  We had a late spring, and that may be why.  But I wonder.  I wonder if they are gone.

Those violas, that hailstorm, it was the middle of May exactly a year ago.  At the time they were a welcome sign of warm weather and they reminded me of past family gardens, and I was charmed by their scent and by the generosity of some unknown gardener setting them out for others.

While wondering whether they’ll come back, those violas remind me of what I have lost since last year.  As the leaves unfurl and the grass greens, I remember last spring. A year ago I planted these at my mother’s.  She died that October.

The not-so-funny-but-funny thing about loss is how it’s possible to keep knocking right against or bumping right into what is no longer there.  Those gaps where something or someone no longer is… they are bordered by surprisingly hard edges of habit or memory.  Habits that no longer work as they once did (oh, you say to yourself, I’ll just ask… but no, you can’t ask.  There is no one there any longer to ask).

Empty spaces with hard edges made of habit, or of memories, this is where violas lead to the remembrance of loss. These flowers of mine, the ones someone shared with me, and that I shared with my mother, the ones I remember in my grandmother’s garden, the ones I’ve planted before in other homes, the people I used to know, those I loved, family, the homes I’ve lived in, the gardens. It’s almost mother’s day and I feel as if I’m knocking up against the borders of a lot of empty spaces.

But it is, at last, spring again.