All the light

Corn and candle

Their barn


Milky Way


The light



The weather reports were iffy, with predictions of rain and thunderstorms, but when we woke in the morning and looked out that huge hotel window things looked promising. There were bands of clouds, to be sure, but streaks of blue and the river 19 floors down shimmered.

Luck held. The day turned glorious with soft meringue-white clouds riding the September breeze. The nip in the air was gentled by a brilliant slanting sun.

The property was scrubbed til it shone. You could see the effort and love of preparation in every detail: the freshly mown lawn, the neatly organized corn field, the taut white tent. They had power washed (power washed!) the old barn. M and I remarked we had never seen a barn so free of dust, cobwebs, mice-made piles of hay.

A milky way of white cloth draped the rafters. The sun slid through the barn walls like a quiet guest. The one you want to stand next to because of the glowing happiness you feel just being near him.

And then the couple, of course they glowed. How could they not? They had each other in that moment, and the sunlight and the spotless barn, and their families and friends and the violin in the corner and the waxing moon transiting quietly above.

And then the fairy lights and the tea lights set in cups of unpopped popcorn and the DJ’s dance lights streaking like colored meteors on the tent ceiling and generations all together on the dance floor making their own vivid glow.

And over all the stars and moon, the Pleiades peeking just over the horizon, knowing their time of white was coming soon.

You have a month like this, of crazy travel, airport security lines, ironing linen in hotel rooms, wearing new shoes, dancing in spite of yourself, wishing the best of love and luck to the couples who are already luckier than shiny coins. You have a month of this and you are changed a little. There’s a nugget of sunlight in your belly that keeps on glowing and will not dim.

Reading Challenge month 8 ~ A book based on a true story

Elizabeth, uncirculated

Here it is the 14th and I’m supposed to be writing my thoughts about this month’s book (which, truthfully, I haven’t finished, though I am enjoying it), but I find myself distracted and impatient—and now days late.

You know how it goes.

I started with thoughts of Queen Elizabeth II, who last week passed Victoria’s record for longest reigning British head of state, but my thoughts are scattering like tadpoles.

For instance.

What did the Queen have for breakfast this morning? I had a slice of apple cake and a cup of “Tardis Tea” while I checked my morning work email. If I were having breakfast with the Queen, I think I might have tried to slip the corgis a chunk of apple. After all, they sit there so quietly, begging so sweetly with their golden eyes. Does the Queen ever slip a bit of roast beef under the dinner table to their waiting, gentle jaws?

I don’t really approve of feeding table scraps to pets, and yet it’s nearly irresistible because it’s such a joy to give that much pleasure to another creature. Last week I made some camelid cookies (I know!) for our neighbors’ new trio of alpacas. We visited them on Saturday and held the treats out on open, flat palms. The least-shy of the alpacas slowly came forward to sniff the offering, then gently glided away.

Oh well. We ate the offered cookies ourselves.

Would the Queen eat an Alpaca-sniffed cookie? I like to think so. The book I’m reading contains great details about palace furnishings, ladies’ evening attire, crown jewels, order of accession, personality quirks, alliances and and antagonisms, but not nearly enough about their pets.

Edward VII (Elizabeth’s great grandfather) loved a little fox terrier named Caesar. I’ve seen a photo of Caesar walking at the head of his master’s funeral procession (reportedly incensing Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was not accorded such honor).

Queen Mary (Elizabeth’s grandmother, and the subject of the book I’m still reading) doesn’t seem like the type to love a dog. She barely seemed to love her own children. It was a different time, I know, but I find it hard imagining her proffering a cookie to an alpaca or kissing a goat on the lips.

But she was only human. She did all the things a human being can and must do. The book doesn’t need to tell me that she had afternoon cravings for something crunchy and salty. That she looking around the house some days and thought, “What a mess.” That she had to trim her fingernails, rub her sore feet, or be surprised by a new grey hair. That she woke up on a Monday morning with a sigh and a sense of heaviness, but was restored by that first cup of tea and slice of apple cake. That she looked at that book she hadn’t finished yet and thought, “Well, maybe I’ll just skim the middle chapters.”


Our books for month 8:

Did you read (or attempt to read!) a true story this month? Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll see you back here on October 11!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th of each month.

Wasn’t it swell?






You start as a ping in pond. A pebble pulsing out perfect ripple after ripple after diminishing ripple.

Moments later your ripple meets another, and, if you’re lucky, it meets another two or three gliding out in sympathetic pulses to the edge of the unknown world. You dance ringlets around each other for a few years, colliding in tears or laughs, sliding away, colliding again.

Later the pond turns to splash, spit, dive. Showoffs, pushing and shouting. Horseplay and running.

Years pass and the surface is a mess with whitecaps. It’s stormy but you’ve learned to ride it out. Good days and weeks, you tuck yourself under a curl and surf with grace. Even better days you toss with the swells and it doesn’t bother you.

One night you pause, and you see the pattern for what it is: hundreds of wavelets, criss-crossing each other in every direction, inscribing a singular pattern: your life, your family, their lives, the saxophone player’s life, the horse’s life, the bartender’s life. The next minute, the next beat, the next and the next.

And then you all get up to dance.



Upstream from us just a couple miles is the Elizabeth Mine, a now closed copper mine that produced some 8,500,000 pounds of copper in the 150 years or so that it was open.

Downstream from the mine is the western branch of the Ompompanoosuc river, the river that runs through the valley below our house and that feeds the waterfall we hear from our open summer windows. And through that river ran, for all those years and since, the rain and groundwater runoff that trickled through the mine’s tailings piles, picking up sulfuric acid and dissolved metals on its way.

21 years ago, nothing of any size lived in the west branch. The insects were killed by the contamination; nothing larger that ate the insects could survive. People were the life in the river. We swam it, we waded it, we hiked it, we did everything but drink it.

Somewhere back a couple decades ago, people started getting serious about cleaning up this mess. Years after that, serious work began on capping the tailings piles so that they were no longer exposed to rain, weather, and erosion.

At some point, we started to see tiny inch-long fish in the river, and crayfish, and lots of insects. We’ve had two generations of dogs whose hobby it’s been to stand in a shallow part of the river watching those little fish and wag their tails in greeting.

Late last week, the dog and I took our customary walk along the river. We’ve had a dry spell and the river’s running low for the first time all summer. The dog decided to go in for a wade and I followed. I was in up to my ankles less than a minute when I saw a flash of silver alongside a half-submerged rock.

A brown trout, nearly 8 inches long, lay on its side, pinned to the rock by the force of the current. It hadn’t been dead long. I was delighted and dismayed. A fish that size is unheard of in our river, and yet there it was: a miracle, a treasure—and dead.

I turned it over in the water to examine it. It was perfect. I don’t know what killed it, but its scales, fins, eyes, all were just as if it had been skimming below the surface of the water minutes before.

I took a picture to prove I hadn’t dreamt it up, and then left it as it was to feed some other creature.

On the walk back, I thought about abundance. How things appear where you least expect them. How a leaf-littered trail gives up a woodpecker’s feather. How a hay field is a wildflower garden. How a small tree branch can hide seven crows. How a single minute in a walk can contain an entire mystery: the ripple, the fish, the sun sparking a golden streak across the water’s surface, the dog’s tail wagging, the human leaning low over the fish, the life of a river returning hour by hour.

The Sunday buzz


Every visit to the hive is a bit like opening a gift that I’m a little wary of. Not because I’m afraid of the bees, but because I’m afraid for them. After last year’s disappointments, we’re just never sure what we’re going to see.

Each time, we approach the hive with quiet excitement tinged with a dab of worry: what if they’ve swarmed? What if we see no eggs? What if they’re all just… gone?

We smoke the entrance, happy to see commuters coming and going. The incoming foragers weighed down with bright orange luggage is a good sign.

And then we lift the hive lid optimistically…

And there they are, nearly oblivious to us, making a great buzz, tending their community, raising their young, filling their cupboards with precious orange and yellow pollen, and putting up the white-capped honey for winter.

Because today is August, full, hot and droopy with summer, but they know what the ragweed bloom tells them, what the sun’s angle tells them, what the night-time crickets tell them.

Still right now in this heat, sweat dripping off our brows, gloves, camera and all sticky with propolis, the thick buzzing all around us, summer is not going anywhere, not for the moment.


Hours later, I’m writing this. A Sunday night and the dark is coming on. A wise friend recently said that August is the Sunday night of summer. It’s okay. There’s still a little bit of time to stash away some honey. And the earlier dusk? Well, then, we’ll just have to go out and watch the stars until we get sleepy.


Honey and brood

Pollen sacs filled

Winter stores

Getting them on record

Sweet as honeydew

The Decemberists stage

Not entirely by plan, but this summer became our summer of concerts: The Weepies, Idina Menzel, Neil Young, and The Decemberists, the last of which found us at the end of July on a lush green lawn on the grounds of Shelburne Museum.

There’s something thrilling about hearing live music outdoors on a summer evening. The acoustics of open air. The sad whine of the harmonica. The reverberating beat of the drum. The rhythmic jangle of the guitars. And the heat of the day and glare of the sun, at first nearly unbearable and then, as the evening draws on, imperceptibly dissolved into the atmosphere.

There’s something about it that can fix the moment so fiercely in your memory that you can nearly feel the heat of the summer evening and the sway of the songs years later in the remembering.

All the attached memories are there, too. Or will be. The funny guys waiting in line in front of the gate, talking about shows they’ve been to, and how to pronounce “biro” and “gyro”. The friendly couple behind us who, it turns out, had been to many of the same shows we had. Watching the crew prepare the stage. The opening act’s sound check. The gate opening and the crowd fanning out to claim the best spots on the lawn.

And then there’s the daughter, nearly 16, who finds her place to stand right at the foot of the stage, next to that friendly couple, while her old parents set up the chairs, beach towels, and a picnic.

During the opening act, the crowd by the stage is manageable. We can still see that 16-year-old’s head of gorgeous hair. By the time The Decemberists have appeared, the standing crowd has reached our blanket like the incoming tide arriving at our sand castle. I join the crowd while M stands his ground, preserving our tiny acreage.

The band is playing. They have a catalog of soft, sad, folkish tunes, but tonight is for rock’n’roll and it’s loud and we’re all dancing and singing La de da de da, de di de da de da until our voices are cracking with exhaustion.


I can’t see H. I can’t see M. But I know we’re all singing, nodding our heads, reaching arms into the air. I can feel the rumble of the bass and the driving beat of the drums through the ground, through my feet, up into my chest. We’re out of eyesight, but I feel bound to them by the music.

In just a couple years, that girl will be on her way, further from us than that July summer stage. That girl who would cling to us in tears at daycare drop-off, who wouldn’t willingly go to a birthday party or “play date” on her own. That girl is in the front row, making friends with people we don’t know, and having the best night.

At the end of the show, the audience scattered, but she hung out by the stage, hoping for a souvenir. She lucked into a used Colin Meloy guitar pick, but then felt compassion for the woman next to her who desperately wanted it, and gave it to her, and then immediately felt sad for giving away such a prize. To the rescue, her father, who convinced a stage hand to give her Colin’s set list, and then spotted one more pick lying on the stage. He’s tall and with a determined jump-reach he snagged it and put it in her hands. Parents are sometimes still needed.

Colin's set list

I think we would have happily listened for hours, but it was over and with so many songs we still wanted to hear. How greedy we are.

We have everything, absolutely everything, and still we want more.

Did I mention her smile? Did I mention how I danced in a crowd of strangers? Did I mention how, even now, I’m feeling a catch in my throat, thinking about the distance between that night two weeks ago and today and whatever comes next? Did I mention the moon? The huge moon, nearly full and rising behind us after the sun set behind the stage?

Reading Challenge month 7 ~ A book based entirely on its cover


Maybe it was the title. Maybe it was the background colors. Maybe it was the way the title appeared in a doubled, hurried font. I can’t explain it, but I kept seeing this book’s cover and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

It’s strange, isn’t it? The artwork, such as it is, is mostly just words. Lettering. There’s the suggestion of landscape—a darkening blue sky, a blurr of trees, a dark mass of land, and perhaps at the bottom, train tracks—but that’s all smeared behind the book’s title. What could be so compelling?

Maybe it was the hint of the train ride (you know how I am about trains)? The view through the window as we speed by an unfamiliar landscape. Maybe it gave me an impression of summer adventure where all you have is the pack on your back and a train ticket in your hand.

It niggled at me. I’d see it on a bookshop shelf or in an article about current books, or on a website and I’d wonder about it. I didn’t know anything about the story or its author. I felt somewhat annoyed by its insistence, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Eventually, I succumbed to its come-hither whispers and went looking for it at our local bookshop. I couldn’t remember the author, so I scanned the shelves in the fiction section knowing it would make itself known. But it didn’t.

I turned to my right, my eyes flew across the “Mystery” shelves and there it was, smirking at me.

A mystery. Why was I surprised?

I bought it knowing nothing more about it than its cover, its title, and its price. I took it home, set it on the counter, and let it simmer there for a bit. It was no less beguiling in my own home.

I read a few pages to get a taste, and I rapidly fell into its charms: a summer page-turner with enough spine-tingly mystery to make you want to stay up late to find out what happens next.

I immediately distrusted the narrator. I knew exactly what sort of ride I was in for, and I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a story narrated by multiple, perhaps unreliable characters. It’s about knowing versus imagining. Fiction and non-fiction. It’s about glimpses and what you know and what you don’t know and what happens when you observe the world from the speed of a train. Or what happens when the speed of your own life insects the speed of another’s.

The Girl on the Train is not my usual type of book, and I doubt I would have picked it up if not for the cover, but I’m glad I read it, and I give full credit to the cover’s designer, who knows about the seductive power of a speeding train, the glimpse of a blurry landscape through a window, and a book in your hand as the train gallops down the tracks.

Our books for month 7:

We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll see you back here on September 11!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th of each month.



This past week I was acting tour guide for a new found poetry group called Found Poetry Frontiers, a spin-off group from the PoMoSco project devised by fellow Found Poet (and Vermonter) Susan Powers Bourne.

Each week, the designated guide explores his or her local area and then creates found poems about it to share with the group. Meanwhile, other participating poets can share poems they create about the same area.

This week, I wrote seven poems about Thetford, Vermont, ranging in topics from its history to its topography to its politics to its poets. You can see the ones I wrote here. You can see the full Thetford collection here (including those of other participating poets).

While I enjoyed the process of mining my town and its history for found poetry, I think I enjoyed reading what others created even more, seeing my “hometown” through others’ eyes. Here’s one of my favorites.

On Monday, we’re headed to Mumbai, India. Are you interesting in joining as poet, reader, or both? You can read the details here.