> jumping into life.


The bike path begins just behind our house - or I should say, a bike path, as Burlington has several - and winds its way to Colchester to the north. About 3 miles down, there's a dirt path that veers off into the Ethan Allen Homestead, and thence to the Intervale. The fields where I learned to cross-country ski last winter are shoulder-high in corn now, most of them, though some are pasture. Some of the trail goes through wood and meadow, with butterflies - monarchs, swallow-tails, and purple and white and blue ones I didn't know - birds, and bees flitting around, chipmunks startling into my path, determined runners who did not return my greeting, and then eventually the blueberry fields. I now have a blueberry mead - or, more properly, a melomel - in the fermentation closet, next to the new batch of sauerkraut.

The last batch has been moved to the fridge; the last batch of pickles was finished this afternoon and we'll start a new one after the farmers' market tomorrow. A new bird at the feeder, but I couldn't tell what it was. How is it almost August?


Corn tassels. Orange tomatoes. Thunderstorms. Home.


Two days of sun lapse back into chill and rain. We make lasagna and tea, consider baking bread. Outside, a chickadee slides off the top of the birdfeeder; her space taken by a sparrow; hers by a grackle; hers by the cardinal family, all swoop and flash. In this cloudy light they look orange more than red, and we have learned to tell the youngsters from their mother by the color of their beaks. From the kitchen I can recognize their chirping, and we stand at the mudroom window to watch. Last night they came flying about us as we ate our dinner in the garden.

Every day now we are making plans, changing them, tearing them down and building anew. Last night on our walk we talked about why we so much like it here, had few reasons we could speak out loud, except that it feels right to be here. It feels good to be here.

Cucumbers turning into cucumbers; cucumbers turning into pickles! A tomato almost the size of my fist, and growing. Cilantro bolted. Finches at the birdfeeder. Nasturtiums going to seed, potato flowers falling, blueberries falling off the bush.


Pie number two (deep-dish, one crust, blueberry): success! Sloppy, juicy, better-eat-it-all-today-or-it'll-get-soggy, delicious success.

Four juvenile cardinals now accompany what I can only assume to be their father to the birdfeeder; one pepper yellow, almost orange; one bolted beet; corn knee-high and a bit; blueberries falling off the bush; carrots the size of my fingers; almost time to pull out the lettuce and replant.

Still no job.


Lunch from the garden! Kale, onions, greenbeans and rosemary, with blueberries for dessert!

My all-local (well, except the sugar) blueberry-raspberry galette last night was a big, soggy, unsalvageable mess, which put me in a foul mood. I'm going to try again today, except maybe I'll make pie proper, because at least that's less likely to fall into pieces as I try to get it out of the oven, and I am therefore less likely to have boiling blueberry-raspberry goop all over the floor and myself, and I am therefore far less likely to be in a foul mood.

However! My refrigerator pickles are already delicious, we have a gallon crock of sour pickles going, and last week's sauerkraut is getting good and krautey. We did end up missing strawberry season before I could get my jam done; any ideas on the best way to preserve blueberries? (Pie goop?)

The five-year plan has recently been revised to include the idea of being the pickle people at the farmers' market. We spent yesterday moving all our backpacking/climbing/camping gear out of what had been the gear closet to make way for a fermentation/preservation closet: J's brewing equipment, six gallons of mead, the canning stuff, the kraut and pickles.

As addictions go, it seems pretty harmless.


Also: whosoever it was that sent me this book, thanks!


My winter-itch has been finally relieved this week; Christmas in July, or something. Four days solid of rain, big tumbling thunderstorms that blacken the sky, lightning so close we duck our heads and laugh - ecstatic, terrified laughter - as the thunder crashes into our bones first and then our ears. After two days we learn the pattern of the storm:

First a wind that lifts the sticky humid curtain of the sky, pushing the trees and the tomato plants to one side. A few fat droplets of rain and a far-off-sounding, ominous-seeming thunder rumble. You think you've got time to swim out one more time to the end of the dock where the cormorants keep flying back to sun themselves each time you swim away. Then: the skycurtain drops back down, suddenly lightproof, and it is dark enough to see the lightning arcing sideways across the whole black bowl of ugly clouds. You swim like hell for shore, the lifeguard yelling; you stuff your groceries in your backpack and sprint for home; you pause the movie and stand out on the porch, where all your neighbors are doing the same, all eyes skyward.

Then comes the storm.

The few fat drops turn all at once into rain, and you are soaked in the fifteen steps between garage and front door, you are soaked standing on the porch under the awning. The ominous-seeming thunder is an apocalypse taking place directly overhead, each battering drop of rain strobe-lit every twenty seconds as God hunts for you to smite. You are five years old and hiding under the kitchen table. The world is going to end. You duck your head and laugh your fearful, gleeful, this-is-why-people-built-houses-in-the-first-place laugh; you think of Muir up his tree; you wonder if the neighbors would notice if you ran outside naked; you wish your mom was here. Your heart stops; your heart is singing louder than the thunder; your heart is pure mammalblood and thrill.

Then, suddenly, you remember to count between flash and crash: God's terrible searchlight is moving on. You laugh again, the same way you might laugh after you broke down sobbing in public and finally noticed the staring crowd: Did all that emotion come out of me? Goodness, how silly. I don't even believe in God.


It is a fortuitous coincidence that a six-gallon carboy, just cleaned after racking a batch of mead, fits perfectly into a four-gallon canning pot full of sauerkraut-to-be that needs to be weighted. In a few weeks we'll have a whole lot of sauerkraut; in about a year we'll have mead.

Soon we'll be putting J's brewing pots to use as canning pots to make pickles and strawberry jam (strawberry season is almost over!), then blueberry jam, then tomato sauce...

Last winter's experiment in local eating made it clear that if we're interested in more than beets, potatoes, carrots, beef and cheese on our plates, we need to expand our skill set as well. I started with sauerkraut because I was spending $6 a pint on it once or twice a week (I really like sauerkraut, and I really like this sauerkraut in particular), and then I noticed that cabbage was about a dollar a pound. VoilĂ , three gallons of the stuff for a mere $15. Well, thirty if you count the pot I got at the thrift store, but since I suspect I'll be using it for some time, it doesn't really count. And anyway, that's still only $3.75 a pint so I win. Once the cabbage is coming out of my garden, it'll be pretty much free.

The garden! Two peppers, each more than three inches long and several more pepper nubs; a dozen tomatoes; two dozen tiny purple green beans; enough lettuce for a salad every other day; nasturtiums everywhere, marigolds everywhere, chamomile everywhere; potatoes peeking out when we dug under the mulch; cilantro and basil and spearmint, oh my!

Also, we discovered at the library a whole new Attenborough series that we haven't seen yet, which I'd long since ceased believing was possible. Basically, it's a good life.


The valley is a spirit-place, a good place, but it is not home.

There walks in that valley a ghost. A ghost of me; she is the ghost of the me who stayed. She is proud and lean and hollow; she will be a priest; she will devote her life to that place and that practice, and she will never be whole.

She is angry with me. I left her there to brave the winter alone, I missed her jukai, and I stole her only love.

She will whittle her self down as surely as any desert plant, the economy of heart that turns verdant leaf to spine. She is made of flame and Dharma, single-pointed concentration. She will become empty and call it Awake. Perhaps she will wake; perhaps I am trading enlightenment for love.

She stood behind me during zazen, her hot hands on my shoulders, her hot eyes in my skull. Her hair is shorn, her rakusu sewn, her vows taken and dearly bought. I was glad to meet her; she is not me.