Postcard from Hardwick
“I’ve seen some things,” Raymond Carver starts his short story “Where Is Everyone?” Having lived in Vermont for nearly all my adult life, I’ve seen some things — like last winter, when it wasn’t clear to many of us who weathered it if the snow would ever cease falling.
Mid-May, my daughter and I were walking in the woods near Hardwick when, through the forest not yet leafed out, I discovered an oblong patch of snow on the brown forest floor, sprinkled with short spruce needles. In the dim conifer woods, the patch gleamed surprisingly white — despite the fact that it was, well, May, and long beyond the reasonable snow-falling season. My daughter refused to touch it. With the black flies nibbling our bare arms and burrowing behind our ears, my daughter and I lingered. In so many ways, this is quintessential Vermont — the tenacious remnants of last winter’s profuse snow, the treetops chittering with nesting birds, the forest floor sprinkled with white and rose-streaked spring beauties, blossoming briefly before vanishing for another year. Red trilliums, golden thin-petalled trout lilies — the ephemeral silent beauties.
Beside us, an old stone cellar hole was drifted with last year’s rotting leaves, the rough granite and gneiss patchy with moss, stacked true and solid in one corner, strewn apart in another, a reminder that our world revolves on that conundrum of both permanence and impermanence, this hand-built wall outlasting the family who laboriously gleaned rock by rock, constructed these walls, and then lived in a house they built, with all the busy everydayness of cooking and eating, of sweeping floors and giving birth, and dying, too. Who they were, I don’t know, not even their names, but the footprint of their house remains, continuing to slide apart back down into the earth long after I’ll no longer walk here.
Dazzling spring reminds me how little and lucky we are to live in this Green Mountain swathe on the earth’s curve.
Dandelions profusely decorate hayfields. The little brown thrush serenades. Ducklings bob on a storm-swollen river.
When I interviewed writer Tobin Anderson in the Hardwick diner last November, he mentioned the predictions for climate change. Staring out the window at the slate sky, the day before the merry season of Thanksgiving and family, I rapidly calculated and speculated what kind of world my daughters might inhabit at my age — and what kind of things my children might have seen by then. In my life, I’ve journeyed from childhood to bearing children, in and out of a marriage, through houses and gardens and varieties of work. But my daughters? And your daughters and sons? What will they have seen by the middle of their lives’ journeys?
And yet — spring proliferates as a reminder that the universe is infinitely larger than our own powers and imaginations. Decades worth of springs I’ve lived through, and yet its brilliance never pales. Drops of dew hang from unfurled leaves, like two tiny hands folded together in prayer. Spring reminds us of the ineffable bounty and promise of this world — blossoms and bird beaks spreading open toward the sunlight, thousands of frog eggs spawned, wobbly-legged wooly lambs, blinking in the sunlight — everything pushing towards life and growth.
In the hillside behind my apple tree, a woodchuck digs its burrow, doubtlessly considering my garden’s peas. Early morning, watering the red oaks I’ve planted, purple and pearly violets dapple the lawn — the glossy emerald of fairy tales — glistening gems beneath the rising sun.