Thursday, April 28, 2011

Uncovering Spring

Spring always comes in a rush of sound and color. Robins call from the trees, “Mine, mine, mine, this tree is mine!” Red winged blackbirds bob up and down on the cattails near the swamp, chittering to one another. Geese and ducks return to the pond and gabble incessantly as they stake out nesting sites. A chipmunk scolds from high in the big pine as I rake pine needles and dead flower stalks from the garden beds. There under the leaf mold, wearing a crown of last year’s maple leaves is a daffodil’s bright green spears and vivid yellow trumpet. There is nothing so determined as a flower in spring.

Everywhere I look, this year’s birth is running into last year’s death. The new grass, emerald green, is smothering last year’s lawn killed by the winter cold. The goldenrod that bloomed in lemony profusion last September has been reduced to dry spindly stalks that lean together in bent and broken disarray. My rake uncovers the pale green leaves of daylilies and the rounded, darker green leaves of violets. Crocus, not waiting for me, are in full bloom, their Easter-colored petals making bright spots in the drab border.

There is an urgency to the season. Days of rain followed by warm sun encourage rapid growth. The seeds and bulbs won’t wait. My back aches from bending and lifting, my arms are covered with scratches where the recalcitrant rose brambles and the sharp ends of flower stalks have cut them, but my heart sings at the sight of the first blossoms. I have uncovered spring!

Thanks Hilary!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where Poetry Happens

A cat, a bench, the waning sun,
A woman, and a day’s work done,
Came all together on a hill,
To end the day where they’d begun.

Below them lay both pond and rill.
The breeze-blown water danced until
The evening held its breath, and then
The water, like the wind, grew still.

And as it had in morning when,
The woman and the cat had been
Ensconced upon the dreaming seat,
A muskrat waddled from his den.

He broke the glassy water sheet,
and set, with that innocuous feat,
the night in motion with his feet,
the night in motion with his feet.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Up With the Sun

If I hadn't risen early this morning I might not have taken a walk, in which case I would have missed the sun rising into the orchid mist.

I would not have seen the dew-spangled spider's web clinging to the fence rails, 

nor noticed how perfectly the pond mirrors the trees that border it's banks.

I would not have come upon the yellow gowned forsythia that holds court at the entrance to my neighbor's drive,

and I would have missed the hyacinth blooming at my own doorstep.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Work is Play

My life is never boring. This morning, between household chores, which this vacation week have included moving furniture to spring clean the floor underneath, exchanging winter wear for summer clothes (a task that entails unloading my one storage closet and doing umpteen loads of laundry), washing down walls and polishing windows, I had to feed the lamb that lives at the farm next door.

I've known the farmer all my life, and his wife and I met when we were expecting our firstborn sons eons ago. I now rent my lovely Hollyhock Cottage from them. They've given me garden space at the farm just a short walk through the secret path from my cottage. J and I exchange recipes and baked goods and soups, we're always dashing off somewhere together, and we even co-host a blog. We also care for each other's animals when one or the other of us has to be away. Today was my turn to feed the lamb.

Clip Clop was born a few short weeks ago. His mother, an older sheep, did not survive the birth and none of the other new mothers was willing to take on an extra babe. So, J got a baby bottle and some replacement formula, bundled the little critter up and took him into the house to keep him warm while she fed him every half hour or so. The sound of his little feet on the tile floor earned him his name.

Now Clip Clop is old enough and sturdy enough to live in the sheep pen but he still needs a bottle every few hours. Normally J takes him out for a cuddle along with his bottle but he's hard to pen back up. To make things easier for me she made a space in the wire door of the sheep pen just wide enough for Clip Clop to poke his head through. He heard me coming and ran to the door, bleating. It was no trick to get the nipple in his mouth but keeping it there was a matter of perseverance. Lambs are born knowing they need to butt with their hard little heads. He sucked for a moment then jerked his head, sending the milk flying into his face. I grabbed his chin, inserted the nipple in his eager little mouth and we'd start all over again, him butting and bleating and me hanging on. Eventually most of the milk was in his belly.

I've two more loads of washing to hang on the line and lots of garden work to do. Still, hanging out with a lamb on a windy spring morning beats pulling weeds any day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


small poems of life,

blossoms of words open up

to reveal a truth.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daughter C, baby A (6 months) and friend  Lora (103!)
This weekend my daughter, her fiance, A, and their baby drove with me to Northern Vermont where we helped my friend Lora celebrate her 103rd birthday. This has been a tough year for Lora - she's been in and out of the hospital a couple of times, has lost much of her sight and hearing and has to have Elder Care in order to stay in her home. She spends much of her time sleeping. Still, when I called to ask if we could come for a short visit, she was enthusiastic. She stayed up long enough to make A's acquaintance, have a piece of birthday cake and give us all a hug.

While we were in the area, we visited some of the places C remembered from her childhood in the Northeast Kingdom. She was eager to show A the old homestead we all helped to build, the house we first stayed in when she was just 3, and the school she attended through grade 8. Mud season is in full swing up there and snow still covered the ground in many places.

I hope to go back in the summer to spend more time with Lora. We've been friends for thirty years - it will be hard to say goodbye.

the cabin in the building stages, 1970s

Cabin 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

the pond at sunset

Mornings have been silent since last November. Now I wake to bird song and all day long I can hear twitterings and chirping as the birds go about the business of staking out territory and making nests. In the late afternoon, close to the supper hour, the spring peepers begin their concert. If I should wake late in the night, I can stand on the doorstep in the moonlight and listen to the little frogs fill the dark with their mating calls.

Just before sunset a few geese make their way to the pond across the street. There are ducks nesting there, too, and gulls fly over. It's too early for insect noises but the great spring song has begun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unexpected Beauty

I was walking after supper one day last summer and I saw the two swans that have nested near the pond across the road. By the time I got home this poem had pretty much formed itself. 

the zoom on my little camera tried its best...

What To Say About The Other Evening

I could tell you of the mute
and mated swans whose milk-white
feathers gleam in the last rays of the sun
like massed stars,

or how the dragonfly shimmers over
the pond's edge, so quick and agile
that it is somewhere else
almost before you see it.

I might mention a horizon the
color of cream in a sapphire bowl,
or how the shadows lay themselves like
bottle green sheets across the side yard,

how the light leeches so slowly 
from the day-blue sky that the fireflies
blink on before it is full dark,
lighting a path on which

the mute and mated swans 
float home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Bud to Bloom

A soft rain is falling, the precursor to more violent storms headed our way. My peas and  spinach will get watered, and the daffodils, spattered with paint chips as my house is scraped in anticipation of a new coat of white paint, will look clean and presentable again. Yesterday they looked like this:

daffodil buds

Today, after a full day of 70+ degrees, brilliant sunshine, and a beguiling breeze, they greeted me like this:

blooms among the paint chips
I will fall asleep in wind-scented sheets, listening to the rain as it patters against the windows.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

One April Day

The sun woke before I did. I've been taking medication for a sinus infection and it gives me weird, continuous dreams. I sleep and wake and sleep again, the strange, detailed dreams sliding seamlessly into one another as though my waking is merely turning a page in a dream novel.

At any rate, once I was up, the sunshine and warming air pulled me out of doors. After breakfast I washed and hung three loads of laundry. Then, rake and garden fork in hand, I turned over and raked the vegetable beds. The pea fence is up, and the stick teepee for the cucumbers to climb. I found three potatoes beneath the soil, still firm and good to eat!

There was time for a walk before lunch and another after supper. I watched the sun set from my swing. I had a book but the evening was so lovely I kept looking up. A drift of woodsmoke from a neighbor's burn pile made a blue haze across the yard. Every tree trunk was painted in gold as the sun slid closer to the horizon. Birds sang an evening benediction. Finally, the lack of light and the cooling air sent me indoors. My bath towel, my pajamas and my bedsheets all smell like wind and sun. Perhaps my dreams will be sweeter tonight!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

April Showers Bring...

Photo from Magpie Tales

Watching the Flood

The water is rising
and the wind, ruffling
the river’s surface. Hard down from
the north the water pours,
from Muddy Pond, from the Williams,
the Green, and the Konkapot,
from snowmelt and
lashing rain, until the banks
of the Housie disappear beneath
mad swirls of foam-specked brown.

Like a furious dragon the water
leaps, dashing itself against
the bridge, its tail lashing
the abutments, its sinuous body eddying
over banks and around trees,
tumbling rocks and bits of flotsam
down, down to where I stand,

my back to the bullying wind,
watching the watery beast
devour cornfields, the rock bridge,
the wetlands and swamps,
and now the road beneath my feet.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In the Company of Trees (repost)

My sisters and me playing on the Big Maple, 1952
Steven has posted a lovely homage to trees that reminded me of this past post.  
I have always found it very satisfying to be in the company of trees. Their solidity suggests strength, their rooted-ness implies stability, their forms define beauty. They are living breathing entities with whom I have shared a communion for as long as I can remember.

I first fell in love, as a small child, with the locusts and the huge maple that grew in our front yard. In May the two locust trees, one on either side of the porch, dropped their sweet, spring-scented catkins. The sticky yellow cases that bore them split and fell, littering the lawn. The maple was an enormous old tree that had a protuberance near its base that we children used as a seat. A sturdy limb reaching out across the lawn held our rope swing and under the board seat was a dusty circle where the grass would not grow, made by our pushing feet. In the spring, the tree would drip sweet, sticky sap. In the fall it was crowned with orangey-yellow leaves and in the winter its bare branches wove intricate patterns against a frozen sky.

In later years, I made friends with all the trees in my neighborhood, with the giant maples, the sighing pines, the eerie black locusts that lifted their twisted limbs to the sky. I came to know the elm that leaned over the board railing at the brook, and the sycamore that dipped its toes into the river where it curved around a broad meadow. I sheltered from the rain under the hemlock boughs in the back yard, planted flowers in the rock garden under the big pine outside the kitchen window, leaned against the birch tree at the edge of the lawn to watch the sun fade in the western sky.

Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve made friends with the trees around me. I can wrap my arms around them and feel their strength and immutable-ness when I am sorely in need of a hug, rest my tired back against a sturdy trunk, send wind messages to my distant children via the leaves and whispering boughs, and understand magnificence from their ability to endure.

Monday, April 04, 2011

This Morning...
A murder of crows
slash the morning silence
with their rough voices
and scythe the air
with blackened wings.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Sophia and her Memere a few years back...
My granddaughter and I opened our eyes at the same time. She smiled and rolled from her own bed into the trundle where I lay, looking for a cuddle. A splash of sun from a crack in the blinds spread itself on my shoulder. Sophia touched it with her finger, then stroked my cheek.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Painting you with sunshine," she replied.

Thanks, Hilary

Friday, April 01, 2011

In New England, if you don't like the weather...

Yesterday, March 31
Today, April 1
Yesterday, March 31
Today, April 1

...just wait a minute!