The Co-op is quiet this morning; the town itself demure–wet and waiting–for spring.
The ice spitting from the sky before dawn was the first sign that the winter was willing to surrender, something, before April.
I step through the tiny glistening shards as I cross the parking lot, thinking the day dark and heavy, just as the first flock of geese flies overhead, announcing its return.
The regulars are waiting. Mostly men. Mostly older men. Like an Italian piazza. They talk politics, instead of bocce ball, because this is Brattleboro. One has a wild, silvery beard and could be in Russia, playing chess. Talking treason. Instead he is running for office. Asking for signatures. Interrupting his companions’ reading of the cafe copies of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
There are 8 men now, some a bit younger, one on a computer with headphones, smiling. A single, middle-aged woman unpacks her morning pills, her breakfast, her book.
“It’s like we are home,” says the cafe attendant, as I step up to the sink to wash my dishes. “We all know each other. It’s the way it should be.”
I don’t know any of them, really, but I know their faces, and their smiles, and their bad days. I join them in their morning ritual, a few times a month, when I’m needing an escape from working on the hill, where I live, encrusted in snow.
The mountain across the river is our steady companion, in every season. The Co-op itself sits beside a brook that runs into that river. The black, grated iron along its banks defines and holds the space we occupy: captures our silent gaze, keeps us safe, serves as a leaning place for children tossing pebbles.
As we crest 9:00 am, the cafe empties and fills, new faces, a few women; and the traffic across the bridge and up the main thoroughfare picks up to a hum to fill in everything in between.
A father and son cross the street at the light, beside the tall amber grasses at the corner, which some kind souls planted to remind us that there are other colors coming even when the world has been monochrome for so long.
It is this time each year, March, when I seriously consider moving; but this morning I’m right where I belong.