On Sodom Pond

Postcards from rural Vermont


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What’s in a book

july 17 029Yesterday I spied a living room of books in my neighbor’s house. This neighbor and I are becoming friends. She is a professor of linguistics, has three lovely daughters, and likes writing. We had just made a date to take a walk when I drove past and saw all their books in the window. You know how it is: soft gold lighting, blonde wooden shelves, the multicolored spines.

Remarking on this later with family, T’s 15 year-old son said, “I like books,” gently stressing “I” and leaving an unspoken question in the air.

What is the difference between liking books and having a room full of books?

I found my answer this morning when driving to the hairdresser’s.

Well, I would have told him had he asked, think about how heavy books are, and how you have to carry them from house to house when you move, or room to room if you redecorate. You constantly have to organize them. They get lost. They go out of print. They become unpopular. Sometimes you tote one around with you because there’s one sentence you like on page 62, or because someone mysteriously important to you–you don’t know why or who anymore, you met briefly and without words–gave it to you. Or perhaps someone you do know, too well, gave it to you and you hate the book but love the person. Or vice versa. Books fade and tear. Their pages yellow and curl. Heat destroys them, water, too. Carrying them is always a problem, and the issue of ‘which ones’, like which ones to take on vacation, or on that trip to the dentist, or down to Boston overnight. Or hell, to the picnic table with your morning coffee.

The difference between liking books and having a roomful of them, I would have told him, is the difference between liking the girl and marrying her.

(Book photo from Diskover Bookstore, Brighton, MA (1981-2012). A place where I found much by getting lost.)

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Around Eight

august 30 034My last Friday night working clean-up crew for the Adamant Community Cookouts.

One year ago, I sat among these people for the first time. august 30 026

august 30 031 Was drawn to their sparkle.

Their warmth. august 30 035

august 30 029 Their simple chairs and the space at their table. 

Last year was luck. This year was choice.august 30 037

 

 


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Something in a tree

There is life in that tree in the meadowy fog. Family nests coming to terms with who stays, who goes. Apples ripening then soft-thumping to the ground. Juices inside it running down, as temperatures tick lower, mornings cooler, nights longer.

But it is only Labor Day and I shall labor indeed, for the last time on a beloved project that I must then send away, out to find its home in the world–or not–and then enter long sleep, dormant desire, until another spring rises and I can start again.


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Meadow meanderings

august 24 006Hot August morning in the meadow…quiet….no birds, for a long time now. Mating is over. Now it’s crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, katydids. Crisp hops and buzzes, chirrups and creaks, clicks and whirs. Less melody, more rhythm. An ever-present almost invisible hum to carry us through summer.

The tomatoes are coming fast now. New lettuce and beets appearing The squash has boldly announced itself. We are told to keep them on the vine till we’re ready to eat and share. Carrots continue steadily. Onions, too. Cilantro bolted and the basil went funky.

I remember this meadow at full growth before it was hayed and baled two weeks ago. The Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies everywhere. The day we thought we found a patch of orchids. The snipe, the peepers, the bittern, the blackbird. There are songs at the start but we need the hum to continue. It’s no longer about the one mating moment, it’s about farewell—to fledglings, to mates, to light and to heat. It’s about life continuing through its losses. It’s about turning to the in between. If God is in new beginnings, then August is earthly toil.

I hear the snipe, reminding me of July skies. Or maybe it is my imagination?  We can’t go back. We have to keep moving forward, into the next big thing. I feel my left shoulder start to burn in the angle of the sun, hear the clacking creatures around me. What are they trying to accomplish with their brave leaps into the air, noisy flapping like small biplanes and crashes to the ground? That summer is still alive, no matter what we think? We will be escorted out in style. Not in joy perhaps, as we first saw spring, but in resigned wonder, quiet acceptance. In the end, we will be reconciled. The crickets are here to hold our hand.


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Thrive

Do you ever doubt the places you’ll grow?

midAUGUST 145

Do you believe you can thrive in a worn out old place that’s seen better days?

What if someone told you that you could? That it was just around the corner?

Be ready to be astonished.


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Living and Breathing and Common as Dirt

“When  I retire…” In my busier moments lately, I find myself mentally finishing this sentence. When I retire, I’m going to: learn the harp, keep bees, start canning, study Italian. All the things I don’t have time for. One of my favorite is “join the Bread and Puppet.” I couldn’t let summer end without going to their beloved hill in Glover and gazing at the beautiful circuses they create, a hill where I seem to see people that I never see anywhere else. People who look either very extraordinary or very ordinary, but somehow more interesting than people I see anywhere else. They feel like kindred spirits in some vital sense.

 Or maybe it’s just the whiff I get from the showmidAUGUST 085.

from the faces  midAUGUST 123

from the flags midAUGUST 139

from the slogans midAUGUST 083

On the way back, after a dip into Glover for fries and milkshakes, we passed a barn with this sign:

midAUGUST 150

Inside we discovered an exhibit on the pencil. midAUGUST 178 midAUGUST 168

Looking at all those pencils was exciting. It made me want to start looking in my handbag for something to set off with good lighting and a bare wall. It made me want to join in.

“No more vitrines! Nothing under glass! Down with fetishistic worship of “authentic” works by the Famous! Down with sanctification of the Original! …We promise dangerous and uninsured exhibits….” See the full manifesto at http://museumofeverydaylife.org/

I know that this trip north was an attempt to slow the school-starting, early sun-setting, morning chill end of summer. I hate goodbyes, endings, losses. Yet it’s where the richness lies. Loss sparks longing, which is maybe the same thing as imagination, and is why I must go to the B&P. I have a need to make a direct stab at life, to remember that nothing-else-will-do-this-is-it.

NOW IS THE TIME TO DO AWAY WITH THE BELLS AND WHISTLES of the GLORIOUSLY DECORATED HAMSTER-WHEEL OF your SO-CALLED CIVILIZATION!

NOW re-think your everyday life and the concrete and asphalt expressions of your ambition!

DO NOT REBUILD the constipated Chelsea art galleries crammed with unaffordable esoteric expressions of anxiety-ridden artists!

Now IS YOUR CHANCE to take a different path!

I need to make a manifesto. I need the eternal.


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City Life

august 6 003This picture lasted for about five minutes before I had to start my day, which included work at the MFA office, then analysis and supervision for my patients in Vermont, a trip to Trader Joe’s, dinner, and an evening group, before driving home to VT and getting up to work at the clinic at 8. This kind of schedule makes me do things like stand in the fruit section of Shaw’s, stacking up berry pints in my arms, unable to stop and unable to get the hell out of the fruit section, either. It’s like being hungry and dead at the same time. On the way out I stood gazing at People magazine’s royal baby issue.  Now I know why those rags are so popular, and why my mother always came home with a Star or an Enquirer from the grocery store. I slurped up the photos, the smiles, the waves, the itty bitty baby face, strong Will and beautiful Kate. They look nothing like my life and I let them pull me in. Look, the Queen, with her side curls! And Pippa, the aunt! But then I spy a Life special on Willie Nelson and a retro issue on JFK Junior. I spill into that one, let Caroline’s pinched waspy face pull me in. Who is she? Who are they? What’s it like to be in a speedboat with JFK junior on a hot date? To be cruising into the hospital undercover to have your baby? To see your dead mother-in-law’s face everywhere, the face of a sweet simple girl, the princess we all wanted to be, before we grew up and life got real and hard and we knew that princesses were fake. No tiaras awaited us, no adoring public, no handsome prince. Just the groceries, and working too much and worrying that our God-given creative juices will be sucked out of us…

But that moment with Kate & Will, with Willie, with JFK Jr. Their images, splashy and grand, widen my world a little for today. I need the fantasy. I need the mental space. I need my imagination sparked. I need a jolt to my weary system with fancy dresses and Caribbean beach shots and Jackie O visiting her boy at Brown. I need stories. I need help imagining. Something. Other. Than. This. That’s why those rags are so great and why we use them. TV too, I expect. With TV there’s less control, though. It’s easier to close a magazine. Which I did. Then spilled my raspberries, blueberries, cherry tomatoes and watermelon onto the belt and sighed, along with some new pencils and some pads. For the clinic, I tell myself, to make group notes. But I wonder now. Perhaps for all the stories…

As children we think our parents know everything. Then it turns out, they don’t know anything. We hold onto this idea for a long, long time. Like packing a bag of stones, year after year. And then, at a time like now, we see they did know.  And one of those stones comes out of the bag.

I didn’t buy the Star or People. It’s not my kind of reading material. We have upscale catalogs and literary books in the house. Earnest useful reading. My mother didn’t have many escapes. She had us kids, and my dad, and her job, and, if she was lucky, her knitting. Cackling over the tabloids was a true pleasure, especially if donuts were involved.

I see her in our ranch house, the Star’s headlines splashed on the kitchen table, peering, laughing. Exhilarated. Until she could breathe again.

I left Shaw’s with a piece of myself back. The piece I denied, in denying her.