On Sodom Pond

Postcards from rural Vermont


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Softenings

march-30-003.jpgMud season has begun, and with it the familiar shimmying along thawing dirt roads, the veer and jolt of being slammed into grooves, like in bumper cars at the carnival. The Mud Goddess reminds us spring is fickle, and murky. Not so fast, she says. Before sweet green and birdsong we must trudge through the suck and pull of mud. Neighbors call each other. How’s the pass at Butler’s farm? That one’s still firm but the culvert up towards the Bair’s is ferocious. It depends on the time of day that you’re passing. What are the temp’s doing today? What spots get sun? It’s enough to make you wish for the stability of the winter freeze.

As for me, I awoke this weekend from a long winter’s nap to see two young tom turkeys under the feeder and the hens disappeared. To hear birdsong coming from deeper within the forest and with more force and insistence. To smell wet earth and dirt. And to taste the first boiling of maple sap turned into magical ambrosial syrup. A young steed on his horse arrived at my cabin door with a phial of the magic potion and said, “Drink,” and off we went into the woods on our snowshoes, the ambrosia still warm in my pocket, stopping along the way for a pale sip that startled in its boldness, following this young man breaking trail and clearing branches, pointing out a deer bed, sniffing the wind, a man of this earth, who kept turning back to wink at me, and who caught me when I fell, and who said as he rode away on his steed, “I’ll be back!”

Spring has begun….

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40 days & 40 nights

IMG_20140305_105631_175I always miss the music. Instead of the pipe organs, there’s plainsong, simple hymns, silence.

Leaving the monastery and walking out into rush hour on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, my fellow pilgrims around me with sooty crosses on their foreheads (wear the hat or not? is my dilemma but allowing myself the cover of my hat is too pleasurable and anti-Lent, so I walk bare-headed), the silence stays with me as I watch them disappear around corners in their North Face quilted coats for their offices at Harvard, Darwin’s for breakfast, or home to a high rise. The silence means no release. We are bound for the duration.

Driving to my office I review what I’ve chosen to abstain from during these 40 days of reflection, self-examination, going without.  I have vowed to only check my phone twice a day.  I will also fast once a week. I’ll focus on emptying myself. Finding the stillness. Residing in the silence.

And then it hits me. As I inch down Mason Street to wait for the light that will take me around the corner to my building. The equivalent of no music at the monastery, for me personally.

No lipstick.

I lick my lips wistfully as I say it because I know it’s the thing to do.

Retire my Revlon Crème 665 Choco-liscious.

I feel naked without this lipstick. I am famous for wearing it. People tell me, “Hey, thought I saw you on the bus then I looked and saw they didn’t have the lipstick.”

People laugh when I lay on a fresh layer to go weed the garden or snowshoe at night. I have half a dozen uncracked tubes of it lined up on my bathroom shelf because I live in fear they’ll discontinue it.

This lipstick is my protection, my ammunition. Without it I’m undefined, ordinary, insufficient.

I don’t want to go 40 days without my covering my lips with Choco 665.

But I don’t understand what it means to me, only that I can’t do without it.

 When we take something away, something else is revealed. 

So I surrender it.

Lay down my resistance.

Trust that something will be revealed to me if I do.

“…when coverings of illusion are stripped away and what is real emerges into the open…”