On Sodom Pond

Postcards from rural Vermont


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Late afternoon

Sitting by the fire, socks off, kittens curled on the hearth rug, and then I read this by Joan Didion: “A globalizing impulse…the fallback position of the depressive.” I couldn’t help but think of all of us fighting despair like the flu.

Beware! Do not blow this up. Do not fall prey to doom. Do not, as a friend seems to be doing, let your mind lock in interminable loops of injury. “But they’ll…” “But they…” “But….”

What’s important is getting to the truth.

“No analysis can absolve you of your own responsibility.”

There is still time to find the truth.

And then do what you must.

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Be the Water

This waterfall sits behind my cabin. It’s a pretty powerful thing see–and hear–every day. Waterfalls are sudden drops in a stream. They fall over harder rock, seeking softer rock below. Waterfalls have powered textile mills and power plants. Like all sources of moving water, waterfalls release negative ions, which increases serotonin levels in our brain. So waterfalls have an anti-depressive effect. They are also aesthetically pleasing, relaxing, and good for respiration as they are usually in places of clean air.

It’s a good time to channel the waterfall’s anti-negative properties. After last week’s election, it’s easy to be angry and hopeless. But we must get moving and not stop. Like the falls. Keep reaching out. There’s lots to do. They say the softer stones get shaped by the force of the water, but it’s not time to be a stone. Be the water. Roar.


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Summer II

Is it true that one short season can sustain you for the other three (or if you live in Vermont, with seasons of sticks and mud, five)?

Is it true that you can lose all sense of time so that the one short season then feels like the longest?

Is it true that one can be fed so fatly on green and sun and cool that one loses all memory of ice and frost and fire?

Is it true that if you live fully just one 24-hour period of this short season it will come back to you later when, groping in dark, you need it?

Yes.

Drink deeply and believe.
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Summer

IMG_20140614_144537022Simple, he tells me. I don’t make plans. Let’s plant something in the yard. What do you want to grow?

My head is filled with camping trips, beach runs, climbing Camel’s Hump. Why do the days feel longer when they’re actually getting shorter? Why do the high clouds in the blue sky make me sad? Why does no one ever say, “We’ll have a winter to remember!”

You’ve got apples, he says, pointing at little fists of green in the trees. What do you want for dinner? He stands in the glow of the charcoal flame and the smell takes me back to diving for pennies in the above ground swimming pool we had as kids, my mother’s marigolds, badminton wars with my brother, and the low murmur of my father’s baseball game on the radio as he sat after dinner smoking on the porch.

The ginger-haired gentleman feeds me creamy red potatoes, silky stalks of asparagus, fat steaks. Sticky marshmallow and bitter chocolate, the sweet-salt crunch of graham crackers. It’s all there.

Here.

Summer.


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Young and easy under the apple boughs

MAY 26 WALES 002Today Pamela Petro talked about the power of place to reveal…things we cannot tell…or see….what’s the key that unlocks the invisible? What’s out there? What’s in here? What’s real? What’s imagined?

Then off to Fern Hill, where Dylan Thomas spent boyhood summers on his Aunt Annie’s farm. It’s all there: the lane, the house, the post box.MAY 26 WALES 017MAY 26 WALES 023MAY 26 WALES 020 “Fern Hill” was then read to us in a lilting Welsh accent: “Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs….”  We heard chiffchaff warblers and saw blooming black locust trees.

The lane was inviting. I wanted to walk down it. We’d come up it in the tour bus so I knew what was there. But it still was a mystery. I am having this feeling often in Wales: of both obscurity and view, embedded and free, fire and stone.

We drove on down a lane so narrow we feared the bus mirrors would snag in the hedgerows.

“Everyone’s a Williams,” says the guide.

A colleague’s voice sounds like a sheep baaa’ing in the wind.

There are more kinds of lichen in Wales than anywhere in the world.

At Bristol Channel I dip my toes into the warm sea. Expired jellyfish dotted the sands.

After dinner a poet read to us by heart, adding songs on her ukelele.

I retire yawning. Outside I hear sheep, a moped, men on their way home from the pub howling in the streets.

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To Wales

I have arrived: amid thunder grey and sheep and green. Roads and narrow lanes wind through hedgerows and cottages. Thirteen Americans clutch Dylan Thomas readers and  candy bars and water. Worn out but not tired, we creep up the combed and pleated hillsides. How do cows graze on a hill? Where are they taking me and will I ever get out? Cloud, chimney, roof, hedge. We sigh at what we see, the frenzy of air travel fading.

To reach your destination is triumphant and humbling. There is no more wondering.

Here I am.

Let’s begin.


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After Writing

IMG_20140427_172056735The forest air is cool on my cheeks. My heart skips as I walk, moss and pine needles soft under my boots. Tree limbs squeak and sigh.

Who else but other writers can tell you, “She’s holding two lattes on page 3 but then she’s handing her a hot chocolate…”

“Can you sop up spilled coffee?”

“You might need another cue so we know she’s entering a parallel universe….”

And who else but that ginger-haired gentleman bakes a tray of blueberry muffins and leaves it on the table then gallops off and leaves you to your writing group?

Sunlight through the trees. It’s 5:00.

The faint faraway peep-peep-peep of a nuthatch.

After writing, everything is hopeful again.IMG_20140427_172658791