Postcard from Hardwick
When we moved into our house in Hardwick, my daughter who was twelve at the time wanted to build a rock garden. With a 5-gallon bucket, we parked along the Lamoille River right in the center of town, waded into the summer-shallow river in our bare feet, and gathered handfuls of white quartz pebbles. After this snowy winter, that pebbled mat is emerging again from beneath a months-old hump of ice.
April is the ugliest and most hopeful of seasons. The library’s lawn, black with road sand, reveals what my daughter calls a disgustingness: crumpled take-out cups, twisted spews of plastic bags, a sock — original color indeterminate. The state highways are posterboards for May’s Green Up Day. All around us, evidence emerges of our lives falling into pieces, heading back to the earth, gracefully or not: paint chips from the northern side of our house lie scattered on the path from door to road, our clapboards scoured by winter wind and storms. Not far from us, the neighbors’ baby stroller reappears from beneath a snowbank, where it was parked beneath the eaves some forgotten fall afternoon.
In this patch of Vermont, the snow remains, falls again, simply refuses to go. Beneath this, I know the earth stirs. Green shoots of garlic, of snow drops and crocuses, are quickening in the black and stony earth.
Give and take, push and pull.
This winter has knifed into my memory as months of endless adult meetings, of the state’s insistence to merge area elementary schools, and the tussling between so many adults about what that merger might mean. My daughter, studying the American Revolution in school, tells me about the Sugar Act, the Boston Tea Party. She recites the Bill of Rights while rolling out empanadas one afternoon. The United States, circa 2019. American colonies, 1777. I share what I’m reading — the Roman Empire, 476. Family, town, nation, world: in our conversations, these stories and centuries all swirl together. And so the story of history goes on, backwards, forwards, in innumerable permutations of push and pull, of desire and longing, rage and might. In this Vermont village, scuffling now with this particular variation of that same human story: which way will our destiny bend?
And yet, we live here, in this 100-year-old house with a fieldstone foundation: myself and my two daughters, two tabby cats, four laying hens. In the tiger lily bed beside our barn, my daughters found slabs of granite, painstakingly cut from a nearby quarry — hard and dangerous work — the gray and white-freckled stone polished and later abandoned in this bed of gnarled and tough-rooted flowers.
More than anything, maybe, April impresses on me how busy our human hands are on the land. Immediately, the first spring we lived here, I planted a garden at this house, to nourish growing daughters, to sustain body and soul. On this sandy hillside, I unearthed a child’s toy matchbox car, a fork with curled tines, a dented metal can that once held a foodstuff, long since consumed and forgotten.
Following that same human impulse to rearrange and recreate, my daughter assiduously spread those river-washed pebbles in her small garden, mixing in a handful of seashells from Maine. Her hands lifted stone and shell — water-polished white and gray pearls which had taken the natural world eons to create — mixing them into her own visionary journey.