Help me figure this out. The situation: spring arrived, the snow melted, leaves erupted everywhere, and flowers bloomed. Warm weather quickly became the norm. Edith and I had a splendid summer—hosting guests, working in our gardens, exploring Vermont, playing our instruments, and writing and reading. What seemed like a few weeks came and went. And now, suddenly, it’s October. Hence two questions:
1) How can six months have passed so quickly?!
2) Is there a tear in the space-time continuum that’s letting all those days, weeks, and months leak away into some other realm of the universe?
If you have any answers to either or both questions, please let me know ASAP. Just dial 1-800-TEMPUS-VOLAT. Operators are standing by.
On the plus side, the autumn has been wonderful so far as well. Edith and I have enjoyed visits from several couples. We also had some splendid family time with Cory and Robin, abundant time to write and play our instruments, and good weather for hikes and outdoor work. The gardens have provided us with lots of flowers and vegetables. One strange bounty was simultaneously a flower and a vegetable: the always bizarre, always wonderful, always otherworldly artichoke. I’d never tried growing these before, but my first effort somehow succeeded. (Beginner’s luck?) We managed to harvest two mature artichokes before a series of hard frosts killed the rest.
My labors in a much different garden—writing—also led to an unexpected yield. After
almost four years of attending to other commitments, I started finding time to revisit three old book projects. The oldest and most difficult of these suddenly showed signs of life. Three months of strenuous effort led to my finishing a first draft. The book in question is Seven West, a memoir-like novel about the six years I spent working on a neurology/neurosurgery ward during my twenties. I began writing this book in 1974; I’ve struggled with it off and on ever since; and now, following more than 41 years of intermittent work, I’ve completed a plausible draft. In the meantime, I’ve also made progress on a second novel, and I’m continuing to write essays about aspects of living in Vermont for a book provisionally titled On Hyland Hill. (The semi-snarky, still-tentative subtitle: A German-Surnamed Mexican-American Buddhist Moves to Vermont and Contemplates Life, Literature, and the Pursuit of Enlightenment.) All of these projects have benefited from the isolation and inspiration possible when I leave the house and walk down to what Edith and I now call The Writer’s Shack or simply The Shack. (In addition to the benefits of cozy surroundings, the view, the light, and the silence, note the Belgian beer evident on the right.)
And the visits I mentioned? We’ve had lots of wonderful company. Among our out-of-town guests were Jim Barszcz and Jane Seiden, good friends from Maplewood, who spent a weekend with us in early October.
The only shadow falling over Hyland Hill in recent months was a terrifying close call on October 5th: Cory happened to be a passenger on the Amtrak Vermonter that derailed that morning. By sheer luck, he and 90 other people on the train escaped injury when the engine and three cars went off the tracks. Seven people sustained injuries, none of a life-threatening nature. Typical of Cory, he stayed level-headed about the accident even in the immediate aftermath and, along with several other twenty-something passengers, he prepared to offer assistance to other people who had been evacuated from the train and had gathered nearby. Then the first responders arrived quickly and started attending to everyone. Right after the accident, Cory had texted to alert us of the situation; Edith and I drove fifteen miles to the town of Northfield; we waited among the firefighters and police until the situation clarified; and we then picked up Cory at nearby Norwich University, where the Office of Emergency Management had transported the passengers following the evacuation. We were all relieved to have such a speedy and uneventful outcome rather what could easily have been a genuine calamity. When Edith and I asked Cory how he felt, he replied, “Okay but a little tense.” He seemed pretty damn cool to us! (Cooler than his parents, certainly.)
As for the tear in the space-time continuum that’s leaking Time into some other realm: I’m still worried about what’s happening. In fact, I find it scarier and scarier. This problem needs to be fixed. Could NASA maybe send some astronauts out there with a roll of duct tape and patch it up . . . ? Or maybe we just have to cope with Time’s swift passage. (Buddhists, among others, would have a few things to say on this topic.)