Musings . . .

on the passing scene


For Carol M.

Sitting around the campfire on my brother’s farm with friends late one night last summer, I stood up to shake out a stiff knee when I lost my balance and stumbled backwards, falling and catching my hand in the metal spring of a folding chair that snapped shut like a vise onto my knuckles. It was the very definition of a ‘freak accident.’

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When Life Gives You Lemons…

While having morning tea at a friend’s place recently, his teenaged son came into the kitchen still tousled with sleep to tell us his dream – a nightmare, really. It was about an evil takeover of the world, the details still vivid in his grainy voice and frightened...

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The Healing of Humiliation

Who doesn’t have stories? I certainly do. Growing up in wartime in a family of frightened Jews, I took in their fear and anger with every breath. My child’s body was acquainted with grief, and I learned to swallow down tears until I could no longer feel the sorrow,...

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Healing The Past

In my late teens, my brilliant but troubled boyfriend asked me to marry him. I wasn’t ready to think about marriage, but he put a ring on my finger anyhow and declared us engaged. He was a bit of a bully and I was a confused kid. For another two years I took it off...

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Antidotes to Poison

When I was pregnant with our first child, I had a dream one night of a rainstorm that rained drops of meat, rather than rain. Hungry people danced in the streets, grabbing for the falling food and stuffing it into their mouths. In horror I watched them double over in...

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The Dilemmas of Being a Benefactor

For Darryl, Kate, Cassandra, and Jerry

When Herb, my husband of many decades died almost four years ago, I was left with an inheritance just gracious enough to realize a lifelong ambition to buy a farm in order to give it away. That is, I have dreamed of removing land from the speculative market economy and putting it into the public trust in order to challenge our assumptions about what is called “private property.” The idea of owning pieces of the earth and doing with it whatever we pleased seemed crazy to me. I didn’t believe in it for a minute, so this windfall of discretionary money could be just the ticket to challenge it.

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Getting Along!

At a gathering recently I was chatting with an African-American friend about gentrification in our town, and the inevitable lack of affordable housing for young folks and for people of color. “When I was growing up,” he told me, “there were fourteen of us living in...

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for Taylor and Brighid

I stood in the Security line at the airport behind a Buddhist monk from Thailand, and watched helplessly as the agents roughed him up, opening his bags and tossing the contents onto the floor. They were probably following orders to harass people who looked “foreign.” I helped him gather up his things and move them out of the way of passengers following close behind, saying over and over to him, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” When I handed him his sneakers, both of us were close to tears. He put his palms together and bowed, whispering,


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Expect The Unexpected

for Alex and James

Everything was ready for the wedding last week at Red Clover in Vermont, where my brother Leon and his partner Deb have lived and farmed for decades. My nephew James was marrying his sweetheart Alex, and on the hillside overlooking the valley an arbor of birchwood stood festooned with sunflowers and goldenrod for the ceremony. In the meadow below, tables were set up in a big white tent and people starting to take their places alongside the pond while my daughter Rebecca took out her viola to play the processional music. The one year-old flower girl threw petals onto the grass and the bride, radiant on her father’s arm, took her first steps down the flower-strewn path to meet her groom beneath the arbor.

It was pure romance!

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Crisis Into Adventure

for Joanna Macy

This morning, idly reminiscing about my youth, I recalled the time I mistakenly took a bus north from Paris to the town of Chars, rather than the bus south from Paris to the town of Chartres, not realizing my mistake until we got to the last stop, Chars.

Ou est la cathedrale?” I asked the driver in my best French. He looked puzzled and assured me there was a nice little church there, but no cathedral. I insisted that there was a cathedral! We finally untangled my mistake in the café at the end of the line, to the great laughter and kindness of the good folk of Chars who put me up for the night, fed me and laughed uproariously at my mistake. It wouldn’t surprise me if I am still part of the town’s folklore.

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Photo of Carolyn North by Susan Wilson

Carolyn North

Photo: Susan Wilson