April, come she will

(Note: For the month of April, I’ll leave this post at the top of the blog to make it easy to find; if you’re looking for fresher posts, just scroll down past this one!)

Poetry

We’re here at last.

The landscape still says winter, but it’s April on my calendar and in my heart. There’s a smidge of lightening in the air, the urge to dust the cobwebs away, to air the comforters and sweep the stairs.

M and I spent time over the past week sorting through all our books. We took each one down from its shelf, decided its fate (donate, sell, or keep), then sorted the keepers into categories and reshelved them. At least temporarily, all of the poetry is in one place, filling two whole shelves. That’s a nice way to start April: knowing where the poetry is. And just in time for National Poetry Month, too.

In addition to working on my own poetry every day, I’ll celebrate as I’ve done in past years, by updating this post with a link to a new poem each day in April.

How will you celebrate? Read a poem a day. Share a poem you love in the comments here. Write a poem. Put it in your pocket. Put it in a letter. Send the words out to the world.

Love unfolded then, like crumpled petals
opening into sunlight,
unfurling at the stroke of spring

as we walked the seven miles of estuary,
reaching, after long mudflats, the beach,
the windless bay, the candle of the lighthouse,
waxen in the hazy air that hung like gauze
between us and the islands

and through an undertow of sea-mist
came the warmth of April sun
nuzzling at our dazzled, new-born skin

–from “Solway”, by Elizabeth Burns

April 1 ~ Solway, by Elizabeth Burns
April 2 ~ Jack, by Maxine Kumiin
April 3 ~ Lares and Penates, by Caki Wilkinson
April 4 ~ Tam Lin, Scottish ballad (see also, Fairport Convention’s version, with Sandy Denny singing)
April 5 ~ Maple Syrup, by Donald Hall
April 6 ~ La Tortuga, by Pablo Neruda
April 7 ~ Spring, The Sky Rippled with Geese, by Ted Kooser
April 8 ~ Tell the Bees, by Sarah Lindsay
April 9 ~ The Sick Wife, by Jane Kenyon
April 10 ~ Surrounded by Wild Turkeys, by Gary Snyder
April 11 ~ Dirt Cowboy Café, by Cynthia Huntington
April 12 ~ Carrefour, by Amy Lowell
April 13 ~ The Underground, by Seamus Heaney
April 14 ~ To Earthward, by Robert Frost
April 15 ~ The Long Meadow, by Vijay Seshadri
April 16 ~ The Hive, by Ellen Bryant Voigt
April 17 ~ Walking in the Woods, by Grace Paley

52 Photos – Petals

Petals 2

Petals 1

Petals 3

Petals 4

First things first.

The snow has melted. The geese are honking their way northward. Last night M saw bats, and we heard the songs of foreign birds, traveling through, making joyful trilling melodies we’d never heard before in our little corner of Vermont. The river is riding high on its banks, and with today’s steady rain it might decide to creep over the ledge to see what it’s like to spread out over the fields. I haven’t heard a spring peeper yet, but the vernal ponds are thawed and shimmering. It’s only a matter of moments.

I hear tell of people in other places who’ve seen crocuses and other early bulbs; not just their green pointy fingers thrown up through the soil, but actual blooms, blossoms, petals.

Not here. Not yet.

(Thank goodness, by the way, for trucks and airplanes that transport roses with flame-tipped petals from southern hot houses to the the mud-bound north.)

But yesterday we brought the hibernating garden hose out of the basement, attached it to the the outdoor spigot, and used it to fill the goats’ water tank. If that’s not a sign of spring, I don’t know what is.

This long, lingering winter’s left me fairly brittle. Slow to thaw. But this week I’m starting to unclench just a little, to unfurl. I’m not ready to bloom yet, but I felt the warm sun on my head yesterday, and I felt a softening where the ice has held fast.

The baby apple and pear trees, which were up to their throats in snow just two weeks ago, are covered with brown buds, potential blossoms, but there’s no sign yet of their opening (I check every day). Fairly soon, though, everything will be bursting into spring and we’ll be mowing the lawn and slapping at mosquitoes.

For my birthday this year, M & H gave me a beehive. And 10,000 bees and their queen. We bring the bees home on Saturday. Listen up, buds! You’d better start blooming. We’ve got some pollen and nectar to gather!

Hive

Smoker

Birthday roses

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ An old film photo

Before

Once upon a time, in the first years of our marriage, M and I lived in Pittsburgh, PA. I was working on my master’s degree at the Cathedral of Learning, and M was working at paying the bills and keeping us housed and fed. When the stress of either of those occupations got to be too much, we’d head over to Kennywood, an old fashioned amusement park, and ride the coasters.

I never much liked roller coasters until Kennywood. They scared me to death. I hated the way my stomach lurched when we plummeted down that first major hill. Our first trip to Kennywood, I avoided those rattling carriages of terror.

But there was this one wooden one to the side. It looked quaint. And not too big. I could see the scope of the rises and plummets and they looked bigger than a kiddie coaster, but not that scary. “Let’s try it” we decided, and got in line.

It wasn’t until we were buckled in that we realized the trick: That Kennywood was built over a series of ravines. That there would be no first big clicking climb. That the entire thing was powered by one stomach churning drop, just as the coaster cars left the platform. That the best part of the ride was the part you couldn’t even see while you were waiting, appraising the size of the ride, deciding to tackle it.

There’s no time to prepare or worry. Just plunge, remember to breathe, raise your arms, scream, and laugh while the tears are making horizontal streaks across your cheeks.

The photo above was taken four years before I learned to love that roller coaster (that’s me, second from the right), and two years before M and I became a couple. Most of us in that picture were recently out of college, just embarking on our careers and lives. We were in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, at the trail head at the start of a weekend of backpacking. We had a trail map with a couple possible tent pitching locations circled, a few hours’ walk in. And that’s about all we knew. We didn’t know at that moment that it would start to drizzle, then to rain, then to pour for the rest of the weekend.

We didn’t know about the rises and ravines ahead of each us, the loves, the losses, the jobs, the babies, the miscarriages, the accomplishments, the disappointments, the adventures. We set out, laughing, wholly unprepared and excited for the ride of our lives.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

Friday Five ~ Reasons to be grateful for an extended winter

Maybe I’m reaching a bit, but…

1. Bare branches reveal shy visitors:

Strix the Aviatrix

Strix the Aviatrix

2. It’s the perfect time to make this citrus salad with goat cheese-stuffed dates. Even if you don’t eat it, you might get some vitamin D just by looking at its sunshiny face.

3. Since the garden and lawn are still covered by two feet of snow, you likely have a free fifteen minutes to sit and watch this:

4. If you decide to venture out, you might see wildlife on the move. Like last night, when I was invited out by a friend to a great talk about the history of local brick making, and, on my way home, I watched a young fox cross an ice-covered pond, its deep red fur neatly outlined against the pond’s whiteness. Also, talks about brick making are fascinating and these are the types of things that only happen on winter evenings when we need an excuse to get out of the house.

5. You have a little more time to snuggle down with your books and prepare for National Poetry Month. As in past years, I’ll be posting a link on this blog to a different poem every day in April. How will you be celebrating?

A Barred Owl

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

–By Richard Wilbur, from Mayflies: New Poems and Translations. Copyright © 2000 by Richard Wilbur.

52 Photos – A present someone gave me

Texture

We all have our quirks, our strange desires, our unexplainable fixations.

Maybe yours include miniature donkeys, red race cars, old marbles, antique spoons, smooth sticks, felted bowls, comic books, spools.

One of mine is yaks. Don’t ask me why. They just fascinate me.

For a small while I entertained the fantasy of adding a yak to our goat pen (imagine the goats’ outcry at that!).

My family—ever encouraging, ever thoughtful, ever patient—somehow found me a real yak bell. Huge and resonant, bearing the dents and rust of age and use.

Sometimes, when the house is too quiet and lonely and my mind is making too much noise, I’ll ring the bell (startle the dog), and imagine myself among those great shaggy beasts, heads down, grazing the grasses and sedges of some high plateau in Tibet. Unperturbed, steadfast, shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of our herd.

Yak bell

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

Laying down a perfect memory

You know how sometimes a day goes just the way you imagined?

Or maybe not just the way you imagined, but even better than that?

I had one of those days, last summer, when we went to see Nick Lowe in concert.

I thought I might write about it then, but the days got away from me and it seemed weird to write about something we’d done a month or two earlier and then, whattaya know, it’s winter and then it’s spring and here we are, seven months later, and the bright, lucid perfectness of the day has faded into a softly-focused, rounded-corner, old photo of a day. No less perfect, but less specific. In another seven months, what will be left?

Here’s what I’m remembering, so that you can picture the day, and so that I will, too.

Waiting for our train

It’s a post-card, blue-sky summer day, and H and I are sitting in the station in White River Junction, waiting on a train, laughing at the signs in the station.

The train will be an hour late, but then it’s only 24 minutes late, and we feel like it’s early because its lateness is earlier than we’d expected. And we get on board and there are seats galore and the sunshine is streaming in the windows and we’re about to enter that matchlessly lazy zone where you’re in transit and there’s just nothing you can do but BE, read a book, buy a snack you don’t need in the cafe car, and watch the river and the backyards fuzz by the windows in a blur.

The train

And the conductor who punched our tickets tells us our stop is coming, and we prepare to arrive at a station where we’ve never been before, and we, along with a handful of others, disembark in the mid-morning sun, blinking, like coming up from underground, and start walking towards town.

Our walk takes us up a hill, along a painted yellow fence that protects Emily Dickinson’s house from the road. And I briefly entertain the thought of stopping for a tour, but we have another agenda, and that is finding the bus that will take us from Amherst to Northampton.

Emily's house

Up the hill and it’s hot and the sun is glaring and we spot a bookstore, which is welcoming enough on its own, where I can ask about the bus. Minutes later, H has found a book of British slang she wants, and the friendly clerk at the register who sells me the book also knows which bus to take, where the bus stops (within sight of the store) and when (five minutes), and H and I are out the door, new book in hand, catching the bus, paying our fare, snagging seats at the back.

And the bus deposits us in the middle of Northampton and we’re famished and the only thing that will satisfy is a burger and fries and lo and behold there’s a burger place, where we end up sitting by the open front windows, reading H’s new book and watching people drift by.

And then we have the afternoon to waste, because the concert doesn’t start for hours (though we want to line up earlier than that because it’s first-come, first seating) and waste it we do, window shopping, talking, hanging out in a cafe.

NoHo cafe

Later, we line up outside the Iron Horse (sixth in line) and listen to the people around us talking about concerts they’ve been to and concerts they’re going to, music they love. And the line accumulates behind us, which feels more than satisfactory. It feel like we’ve somehow earned our spot, though, really, it’s nothing other than by virtue of being able to take the day off so that we could arrive early.

Iron Horse

And the doors open at the appointed time and the waitress offers to seat us at a little table for three to the side and I’m the sort of person who usually says, “okay” at someone else’s suggestion, but, instead, I point to the table for six that’s right in the center, touching the stage, and ask if we can sit there. “Sure. If you don’t mind sharing the table.”

I don’t mind in the least.

And then we’re ordering snacks and drinks and craning our necks in the direction of the front door because M is supposed to be coming through that door any minute (he’s driven down to meet us) and then finally he’s there and walking towards us and we’re all where we’re supposed to be, together, all at the same time, on a warm August evening.

It’s become perfect and the concert hasn’t even started yet.

And the opening act, Kim Richey, is fun and she sings some gorgeous songs that I didn’t write down so now can’t remember but I do remember the feeling of hearing them and wanting them to go on and on.

And then she’s done.

And then he comes on stage. And he’s older than he used to be. And so am I. But his voice is true and pure and he’s got that mischievous grin and he starts playing and singing and then we know, yes, this is going to be great.

And it was. He couldn’t possibly sing all of the songs I wanted him to in one concert, but he sang a lot of them.*

Nick Lowe

And we were right there, and he finished a song, and he looked down at our table, at our upturned faces, and he lifted his eyebrows and said, “Thank you,” and it seemed he was saying it right to us. So I said, “Thank you” back.

This close

He won’t remember that. He won’t remember how we sang along, practically every word, practically every song. You could tell he was having fun, but it was just another stop, another concert on the tour for him. But I won’t forget what music can do. Or what being in the place where you want to be with the people you love feels like. Or how you know a favorite song from the very first note. Or how it feels to drive up a dark highway late at night, homeward bound, songs on the radio, songs running through your head, reliving the day, already forging an imperfect perfect memory that will last and last.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lowe. May there be many more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*August 20, 2013, Iron Horse Music Hall set list

Where’s my Everything?
Heart
Long-limbed Girl
Raging Eyes
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
She’s Got Soul
I’ve Let Things Slide
Has She Got a Friend?
I’ve Trained Her to Love Me
I Live on a Battlefield
A Dollar Short of Happy
Cruel to be Kind
Raining, Raining
Traveling Light
Stoplight Roses
Sensitive Man
Somebody Cares for Me
House for Sale
Without Love
I Knew the Bride
When I Write the Book
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding
Tokyo Bay
Alison

52 Photos ~ Where I would take you

Take me to the river

Last week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project was to take a picture of a place I would show you in my town.

We have a small town. There’s a combination post office/village store/gas station. The store doesn’t stock much, but if you need a bag of chips, or a dusty can of soup, or a dozen eggs, or the newspaper, you can get it there.

There’s a town hall. A town garage. A community center. Several schools. Several churches. Several cemeteries.

There’s a beautiful nursery where we buy our apple trees and blueberry bushes and other perennials.

There are many farms. Many trees (the maples are tapped for sap this time of year).

We have two covered bridges.

We have a dam.

One cafe.

A bank.

A river.

With two branches.

Which is where I absolutely would take you.

The west branch of the Ompomanoosuc river runs through the valley behind our house. Most of the year, H can hear the river’s waterfall from her bedroom window. Right now the river’s run is mostly locked up in ice and snow and the waterfall is just a ripple.

In the summer, we go to one of the swimming holes, and pilfer the day. We hike up the river (water up to our knees) and play in the riffles. We sun on the rocks like sleepy seals.

The picture above was taken last week, before the vernal equinox. Now that it’s spring, the difference is that there are six more inches of snow on that layer.

I’ll tell you what.

I’ll take you to the river, but let’s wait until July. We’ll pack a picnic of a sourdough loaf, a round of bloomy goat cheese, and quart of sweet strawberries. And a thermos of ice-cold lemonade and a jug of beer. We’ll wear our sunglasses and sunscreen and sunhats and moan with our heat-induced laziness. And we’ll try our darndest to remember what winter felt like.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.