Today, the excavator that will carve out the site of our new building arrived. That’s a picture of it, plunked at the end of our driveway. When it’s done, this new building will replace the office and workshop spaces that we lost because of Irene.
It’s been nine months since the rivers of Vermont rose like angry dragons, and beat on our beloved state. Nine months, the same amount of time it takes to birth a baby. And now, finally, I feel like we’re coming out the other end of a dark tunnel.
I guess that is a birth experience, isn’t it?
At times—in fact most times—I never, ever thought we’d reach this point. We grieved, we cried, we explored every avenue for help that seemed like a reasonable possibility. But all we heard was a lot of “we can’t promise anything,” words which really wear on you when your whole future seems uncertain.
Now, in retrospect, I understand that the unwillingness to promise stemmed from real uncertainty on the part of folks responsible for making Vermont’s recovery from Irene happen. It’s been 84 years since we’ve had to do anything like this here so we had to build a whole infrastructure in order to assess needs, figure out the money issues, and put the hands-on folks in place to put the pieces back together again.
Not easy, that’s for sure.
Our personal recovery needs finally sugared out to three: replanting some of the trees we lost; stabilizing our slope; and replacing our lost work spaces.
We’ve planted 125 trees. That’s one.
And now, thanks to this wonderful organization in White River Junction called Cover, we have a grant for materials and a passel of volunteers headed north from Maryland (Dream Builders) in the third week of June to help us raise the skeleton of this new building. That’s two.
And we have reason to believe that three—the most important one of all—will happen.
But right now, we have to do some digging to make way for the slab on which our new workspaces will rest.
The excavator arrived today.
And I have goosebumps.
I had a difficult time getting motivated for gardening this year. Part of it was Irene-us Interrupt-us. Part of it was uncertainty of what gardens and plants had to be moved because of the Irene construction that’s revving up around here.
And part of it is a growing (or maybe that should be groaning) reluctance to take on the body hurt that comes with gardening.
But by mid-May, the general weediness gets to me, and armed with trowels and shovels and a wheelbarrow, I get out there to dig, rip, and tear.
Every year, I use the three-day Memorial Day weekend to tackle my gardens with a full-court press. And every year, by the time Monday ends, I hurt everywhere that didn’t get used during the winter. And every year, I swear I will not do this to myself again.
And then, of course, I do.
So glad to be sitting at my desk today.
Our kayaking season started today. We rose at five (yes, that’s in the a.m.) to get to Grafton Pond in Grafton, NH early in the morning.
This is a popular fishing and kayaking spot around here. The pond is festooned with lots of small islands around its perimeter, and it’s home to several pairs of loons. In fact, Grafton Pond is the place where we’ve had our best loon encounters yet.
But this morning, two broods of Canada geese greeted us, and mosquitoes masquerading as small hover craft accompanied us on our turn about the water. We spotted a flock of loons way off on the horizon, and heard their calls off in the distance. But there were no close encounters of the loon kind.
But kayaks, silence, the scent of pine, cool air.
I found this wee weaver along the path by our river yesterday. She’s a member of the Arachnida tribe, named for the mortal woman from Lydia, in Greek mythology, who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest.
Arachna won the contest, with dire consequences. It does not do to challenge a goddess.
Spiders play many roles in the ancient tales of the world. They are, in many respects, an otherworldly creature, dropping from on high along invisible threads, enticing prey with intricate webs.
Who has not been attracted to a bedewed web dangling among twigs on an early morning? I know I’ve tried my best to take pictures of them, and have yet to be satisfied with my results.
My favorite Spider story comes from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. In this book, which accompanies a wonderful deck of cards suitable for meditation, Spider wove the primordial alphabet as “she wove the dream of the world to become manifest.”
So what tale is this riverside weaver creating for you?
For months after Hurricane Irene’s memorable visit to Vermont, we wondered if this place could ever regain its profound beauty.
During the winter-that-wasn’t, Jay and I often voiced our hopes for the softening of spring. Would that barren, silty plain that had replaced our teeming woodland jungle ever be a place we could love again?
The answer from Lady Nature is a resounding YES.
And the help we needed to recover—stabilizing our slope, replacing the office and workshop we lost—is materializing. Thanks to so, so, so many people
It’s as if we had a convulsive group wake-up call around here, like plants who lift their faces to catch the sun on its travels. I keep flashing on this image of the original Star Wars movie when Han Solo guides his Millennium Falcon into hyperspace for the first time, and all the lights in the sky blur for a moment.
That’s how fast life feels around here now.
Back in December when I hit my lowest point of frustration (should that be the highest point?), I honestly didn’t know if we were going to be able to stay here. Now the odds of that look better every day.
Now when I look out at the island we own in the middle of the White River, the green land that sported ferns and huge cottonwoods and fawns, I understand that if you calculated the odds of anything before you did it, you might just not get out of bed in the morning.
Never tell me the odds.
Last Sunday, a group of friends new and old arrived here in the morning carrying shovels, wearing work gloves, and ready for action.
The action was a soul feeder, planting trees.
It turned out to be a warm day so we were all glad we started in the a.m. before the sun rose to baking level.
What a wonderful group—Susan, Dean, Sally, Kathy, Mike, Randy, Dawn and Lauren.
By noon or so, we had 115 silver maple, red oaks, and black willows in the ground. Isn’t that wonderful! (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)
Jay and I kept ten trees—red oak and willow—that we’ll transport out to our island to plant this weekend. It will be my first time out to the island since Irene though I look at it every day from our windows and yard. It’s got an amazing debris pile on it, and most of the great big cottonwoods that populated the spine of the island are gone. But we gained an amazing beach, complete with sand dunes.
Should be an interesting trip.
I know you’ll have to look hard to see it but there is a short path of rocks through this garden.
I usually spend a great deal of time in the fall cleaning up my gardens, getting rid of the last weeds, cutting back the perennials, straightening up. You know, housework in the yard.
But last fall was unusual. We spend most of September living elsewhere because of the slope failure outside our house. We spent a good part of October moving back into our house once it had been determined that it was safe—for now.
And we didn’t know, for sure, whether we would ever be able to live here again.
Limbo was the keyword back then.
So when it came time to clean up the yard for the coming winter, my heart dragged on the ground. I remember thinking over and over again: Is this the last time I’m going to do this?
I cut back perennials with tears in my eyes most days.
Because of that, the weeds in my yard enjoyed a reprieve. And this spring has been a good lesson in the reasons why I started doing an annual fall cleanup so many years ago.
On Friday, I got out in the yard armed with trowel and hand rakes to tackle this short path. It took a few hours to raise the stones, avoid getting chewed up by the ants who have constructed condo projects under the largest stones (you give them time to evacuate and just clear out the thousands of violet seedlings around the edges), and make this look so much better.
For a while, at least.
This is what it looks like after. Aaaah.
This is Joanne.
Joanne Shapp is a friend, a neighbor, a member of the Northern Lights Quilt Guild (as am I), and she has been inspired by the crop circles that become manifest in Great Britain. In fact, these magical forms inspire her quilting. Yes, these are quilts, made of fabric and thread.
Yesterday, Joanne was the featured speaker at the semi-annual meeting of the Green Mountain Guild, the state guild for Vermont, and a number of her quilting buddies showed up to enjoy her talk. And we were wowed. She did a great job.
To find out more about the crop circles that inspire Joanne’s work, here’s a website that she recommends: