The Truth Is

Monday, March 30

I don’t know what a swallow looks like. A medium-small bird whose wings moved radially flew over the duck pond, and I’m calling it a swallow. I didn’t know wings moved like that, in those tight little circles. It was a poignant bird in a close sky. There’s a war on and I’m looking at birds. Some people have all the luck, even if luck’s not what it used to be.

I wish I could help beyond sheltering in place. Why didn’t I go to med school? I can’t even sew my own mask. I haven’t had a garden since I was six. Lots of people are putting out very good content. Lots of people are innovating in a time of great constraint (but also, the bitter voice says, in a time of great time). Companies that were staunchly against remote work are discovering it has legs. Business goes on as close to usual as it can for as long as it can. Plucky delusion is an American birthright, or at least a capitalist one. A man spent 24 hours under a tree and stopped time. But who has 24 hours?

Wednesday, April 1

Perry saw the stars tonight. We bundled him up at 8: 20, late as we dared, and took him out onto the lawn. Blinged tooth Venus and the dippers. A strung out moon. He quivered with wonder and glee. Earlier that day we’d crouched at the tiny pond before our pool and found two braces of tadpole eggs. At the duck pond, which truth be told is more like an avian shopping mall occasionally graced by two ducks, the tadpoles are in rumspringa. Dinosaurs, Perry called them.

Thursday, April 2

I think today was the day the swallows came. They were like the fingers of a harpist. Rapid, elegant chain reactions. The sight of them pocking the bare apple tree branches made me laugh and whoop. I chugged home ebullient. Peregrine walks himself to the barn and duck pond, frantically affirming what it is we’re about to see. The excavator is the safest bet. The horses are often far on their ridge, by the quarry. Who knows where the pregnant duck’s gone off to. The Canadian geese are making their way down. The Clydesdales of the sky.

Sunday, April 5

Nobody knows where swallows go in the winter. That stuck in my mind the same way that learning only 5% of the ocean’s floor is mapped did. It is nice to think, in these especially hidebound and trackable times, of the as-yet-unknown. 

Did you know that in the late 1700s, a good portion of the scientific and ornothologic community believed that swallows wintered underwater? Even after the notion had been empirically disproven, belief in it persisted. 

The baby is grunting extremely enthusiastically at the dog’s leash he has in both hands. 

Yesterday, Perry happily followed my father around the fields as he mended fences. “Pass me the screwdriver,” my father would say, and Perry would fish it from the big orange bucket. Perry knows hammers, wrenches, pliers, both types of screws. He knows excavators and tractors and rototillers. Construction equipment lies in the intersection of Pownal and Brooklyn.

Monday, April 6

The truth is I miss Brooklyn. The truth is I miss watching TV in a sprawl of limbs on the top-small couch, and sleeping without a baby next to me, and Perry galomphing naked down the hall after his bath.The truth is I miss scanning the daily updates in the daycare app.The truth is there are things I don’t miss, too. The truth is the greening here as I come over the crest of the dirt road that adjoins ours makes my chest hurt, it’s so beautiful.

Tuesday, April 7th

It’s a week into April. The truth is that this is beginning to feel like a new normal. I sleep next to a baby who is a total duck by day and curmudgeon by late night. I don’t know if I’ve slept for more than three hours at a go since we got here. I don’t know if Irv has either, but he doesn’t seem to mind, so neither shall I. Important not to be shown up by a baby.

My father agrees: the swallows are here. Tree swallows, he clarified. Tree swallows are this glorious irridescent royal blue with a slate undercoat. No one knows where they go in the winter, I confided. They go to Mexico, he said. That’s like me going 41,000 miles.

Thursday, April 8th

There are so many different sounds at the duck pond. I’m going to keep calling it that even though I haven’t spotted the ducks all week. The yodel of the whippoorwill, the rapid creaking of the woodpecker, so many trills. The faint slice the waterbugs make as they glide over the reeds. Above it all, the consistent call and response of the peepers. I don’t meditate, but standing at the edge of the pond and listening is close enough.

Patches of squill have bloomed on the mossy knoll in front of a neighoring farm. The sight of them against a backdrop of weathered wood and white-painted window frames — it’s almost as good as the greening hills.

Donna Tartt was right about the mists, by the way. I guess you just have to be here at the right time.

I keep thinking it means something, being in the crosshairs of Shirley Jackson and Donna. My literary greats. It means something to me, anyhow.

Donna, Shirley, the duck pond, the blooming squill. Irving ebullient just to catch my eye. Perry taking in the stars. These are my meditations in this emergency. The truth is, they are good enough for non-emergencies too.

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