On Sodom Pond

Postcards from rural Vermont

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Under The Sycamore Tree

I started the day here:July 31 029 Poor little rose stuck behind a fence, can’t get free.

 And ended up here: July 31 053under the grand and mighty sycamores on Mason Street around the corner from my office.

A woman came along as I was staring up, touching the almost unreal bark, thinking it looked like maps to somewhere, a new globe…

 Aren’t they grand, she said.

 Yes, I said.

 She admired the tree and she admired me admiring the tree. I admired her stopping to admire the tree and her overall admiration for tree bark.

 “If you Google it, oh my it’s amazing…”

 (I did. She’s right.)

 We stood in each other’s presence, in the presence of the tree. Two strangers in Cambridge. Me coming back from an eye doctor appointment, carrying an iced coffee. She….who knows?

She was a writer, too, a poet. We basked in the common thread. She was not surprised. “A person stopping to feel tree bark would have to be literary…”, she said as she wandered out of our life, the tree and me.

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A thousand losses

july 21 004

It dies when you pick it. It dies when the wind uproots it.

Things die.

I’ve been afraid to pick the spinach, to harvest the lettuce, to finish up the mesclun. Afraid of them being gone. Afraid of no more. Afraid of bye-bye. Because I don’t know what comes next. The radishes are gone, the peas getting to the end of their time…

If I pick and eat, and nothing follows…then what?

Joseph Campbell said , “Vegetarians are people who cannot hear tomatoes screaming.” He also reminded us to “participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”

 “All narrative is born in loss,” said the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

I am calling on all my big important friends to get through.

My favorite by Louise Gluck, from a Q&A after a reading at a Lesley MFA residency, and emblazoned on my heart ever since:

If you refuse to do things in order to protect the work you haven’t done, you are refusing your life.

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Everything Which is Yes

july 17 012

(portable desk: winter driving gloves, a box of incense, gas receipts and an e.e. cummings poem)

Now I understand the need for frontier towns back in the old days. Settlers in the country needed a place to play. The city is a bubble of boutiques, books, coffee chops, furniture, restaurants. There’s Trader Joe’s and IKEA. Plays going up, music going down. Whose heart doesn’t beat faster in the city? A woman crosses a Cambridge intersection carrying a Coop bag and a bouquet. Where is she going? Anonymity thrills. In the country, you are known. In the country, there’s work to be done (Nature’s “Inbox”). The city has become my respite, despite its stresses and needs.

Today, with a full tank of gas, the a/c blowing cool on my legs, cold drinks, a bag of Trader Joe pecans, classical radio, my GPS, and a seatful of CDs–Joni and Toni and Pema and Natalie and the lectures of a Professor Brooks in Texas on prose sentence style, I am ready to do battle.

To go home.

Toadlets are dispersing. Squid fungus erupting. And the hummingbirds continue their pollinating dart and shiver.


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A place in the mud

july 7 023

There is nothing I have wanted more in this life than to find my place. I have traveled far, living in remote climes doing obscure and sometimes fun things to find it. I have found it here on this plot of land, in this town, with this family. I am never letting it go.

Rain came while weeding and I let the drops cool me as I hacked at things in my way. I unleashed the tomatoes. Set free the hot peppers. Cleared half a row of carrots and beets. Hoe gritty, arms mud-spattered, I watched the rain from inside the barn door. Why should I feel so much comfort in the smell of hay, tractor oil and dirt? I was a girl again at the bottom of my street digging for buried treasure. I was going to be an archeologist. I made special shoes out of dish sponges so I could walk in the rain.

“You can’t think your way to authenticity,” someone once told me.

Resist what doesn’t feel right or true. Wander. Get lost. Get lost some more.

I know who I am when I do that.

A place, a person, a job, a book, an art.

When you find home you know it. And then nothing can tear you away. Ever.

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A Rose in Calais



july 7 015 A weekend of firsts: first peas from the garden (eat ’em raw, people!), first spinach (really just two leaves to identify what’s been nibblin’ it), first mesclun (really just leaves that uprooted when weeding), first scallion (really just an onion knocked out too early), first house guest, first rose bloom (a Charlotte Red), first pages of a new writing project, first swim in Curtis Pond, and first quote written in my journal from my first Colum McCann novel: “I sit there thinking about how much courage it takes to live an ordinary life.”

Overheard at my beloved co-op:

Someone inquires about a new book in the store by a local author.

Woman: “Oh, yeah, she just a woman who…(blah blah blah).”

Man standing at the counter: “It’s never “just” a woman.”

I love this place.




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Introducing the cucumbers

July 4-6 014It’s July. We’ve passed through what local naturalist Mary Holland calls the “awakenings” of March, the “transformations” of April, the “intensifying vitality” of May, into the “possibilities” of June. Through mating calls, courtship rituals, nesting, hatching, fledging, flushing.

July, she says, is “maturation.”  Is it any wonder gardens go wild now? How boring comparing to “stirrings” and “explosions.” Now is maintenance. Now is continuing. In July, you commit to your garden. You say, I am not going anywhere. I am here. I’ll always be here. And you hoe.

You hoe and you find the cucumbers after two weeks of rain. You liberate the onions. You groom the hot peppers. You tidy the squash. You pull radishes gone punky.

Then you give up the thyme and the basil that never caught on. Turn away from the marigolds planted too late. Sacrifice lavender and nasturtiums. Window boxes will do. And the perennials and shrubs and wildflowers that bloom whenever they want to on the front lawn. 

Then you notice that the rose you planted this year has its first bud. You slash the wild hollyhocks horning in so this little rose can breathe. So you can see its very redness. Its tiny fist of color. Its packed heat. You need this little rose. It’s July. You need hope.


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I found the squash

OK, so it was pointed out to me. I tend to think anything tall or vigorous is a plant. Well, it is. But not plants we want. So I hoed the squash patch after dinner in a misty drizzle, hacking and choking everything that had grown around it during the past nine days of rain. That stuff had taken root. It was sort of like tilling a whole new plot. 

I wore pink-palmed gardening gloves that my aunt sent me recently, along with a copy of the memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson, who trained as a nun in Saint Theresa’s Missionary of Charity. A decidedly un-preachy and “inspirational” woman, my aunt said I’d like the book, as it tracked “the growth and maturing of a sheltered young girl into an educated independent young woman.” Her note added that the gloves were for my “foray into vegetable gardening.””It can get messy,” she said.

And I thought my foray into the city was my education…

(“Cows” by Gary)