Mother and I were married in October over half a century ago. That first winter, I worked in the woods near Lake Placid for the New York State Conservation Department. I loved the work; but I was only in my twenties, and I noticed one day that most of the other men, who were two or three times older and, like me, up to their thighs in the snow, didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I was. I had an attack of insight that day that moved me to pack up my family and return to college to finish my degree. Those other men were stuck, whether they liked it or not; I was able to visualize a way out because I hadn’t abandoned hopes of a better future.
About thirty years ago, my construction business went broke. Mother and I lost house, tools...everything but a patch of woods in New Hampshire. It was depressing almost beyond description. This time it was Mother who insisted we wouldn’t be destitute for long. With the help of friends, we scraped together what we had left, spent a winter in a tiny shack with no water and a high school-age daughter, and almost before we knew it, were up and running again. On our visits to the laundromat, we often met folks who, like us, were living in tough situations. But talking to them, we could tell they weren’t seeing better days ahead, as we were. It was our hopes that made all the difference.
Well, now we’re old, and what Shakespeare calls “the multiplying villainies of Nature” begin to swarm upon us. It’s impossible to see exactly where we’re headed, but it’s hard to imagine it’ll be any better than where we are.
The end of December is not a great time to be harboring thoughts like this. As I look out the window from my desk at four o’clock, it’s already too dark to walk in the woods. But the Old Farmer’s Almanac at my elbow reveals that tomorrow the sun will set a minute later, in less than a week the day will be a minute longer, and after that it’ll be a pell-mell rush to the vernal equinox and spring, only ninety days away. How’s that for a hopeful expectation? An old country song says it best: “Put more water in the soup, there's better times a-comin’.”
This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.