Summer in Vermont is a glorious time. But in August it flashes warnings of change—and just like when I was a kid eager for new clothes (that back-to-school treat), I feel September pushing toward me. It's harder to stay in the moment. Plans for the change of weather get scribbled, in notes here and there, and on the calendar.
I am more than two years out from the death of my husband Dave, and to most people who knew him, that probably feels like a very long time. For me, it's still a season of deep change, locating the parts of myself that "changed forever" in the years of our marriage, and figuring out how to do, solo, the things we so much enjoyed doing together. Moving to a new home is the most dramatic change in all this. But the emotional shifts are just as big.
That pushes me into poetry, day after day. Poetry and gardening are my anchors, the areas where I know growth will take place. (Historical research and writing the articles and novels related to that are good, too, but they are by definition less emotional, aren't they?)
One Day in Early August
One day in early August, a fresh wind out of September
swept out of the northwest and pulled me out the door, ready
not for frost or snow, but for relief—let the heat wave flee,
let the garden race toward golden melons and squash, let the birds
begin to gather and remind each other: We rise. We fly.
No longer courting or even nesting, but practicing for height.
And I? Despite the brisk air, I’m bound to stay, an old cap
pulled over my hair, a fresh swipe of mink oil over my boots—
my best memories wrapped around me like some familiar
thick sweater, like a snug zipped jacket, like (not yet) gloves.
This is the back road I’ve walked for years, tracking the leaves
in their bold thick greens then slow hint of gold, of crimson.
I saw a tuft of red leaves wave to the corn field;
a cluster of small purple asters, late-summer frills, danced.
Racoon scat I almost stepped on, and deer tracks, and scrapes
from eager turkey feet, from bears, til the low stone wall
interrupted—and a thicket of raspberries rose from rocks
that hid the tiny burying ground beyond. Like last night’s deer
I wedged my toes between the rocks; tiptoed up them
eyes on the red fruit; reached a cautious arm, fingers gentle
as a doe’s soft lip, teasing the swollen berries from the stems
too soft to carry away—quick to my mouth, sweet delight.
If you were waiting at home, babes, I’d find a way to carry
this to you: a photo, a song, a few protected sweets.
Berries from bones? Life from stones? I face a dozen winters,
maybe more, without the warm constant of my true love
at my side. Many things I do not understand, do not see
in the bright swift sunset and the tinted clouds, this edge
between the day and the star-pricked night. Hands in pockets,
tasting the fresh cold air, I call to you, wanting you to hear.