It seems that everyone in Carding feels the same way that everyone in the country is feeling—tired, jittery, unfocused, and burdened by malaise.
Or fear. There’s an awful lot of legitimate fear mixed in there as well.
Now Edie Wolfe is usually a stalwart when it comes to being intrepidly optimistic. So her friend Ruth Goodwin is very troubled when she finds Edie in a rather dark mood.
But these two friends are fighters, and I bet they can find a way forward. I bet you will too.
This Chronicle is part one of a three-part tale.
If this is your first visit to Carding, Vermont, the little town at the center of my four novels, then welcome. If you’ve been here before, welcome back.
Ordinarily, Edie Wolfe treasured the solitude of working in her backyard garden at this time of year, harvesting the last tomatoes, pulling up the garlic then braiding its tops together before hanging it up to dry, setting the heads of her sunflowers out where the small birds can feast on them.
But everything was so disconnected this year, making her once-treasured solitude feel like a burden. She missed going to the library and sorting books with Amos Handy in the Swap Shed in Carding’s recycling center. She missed the serendipity of random chat in the aisles of Cooper’s General Store. She missed the bustle of students and staff in the Carding Center for Traditional Arts.
And then there were all the events that never happened this year—the foolish and hilarious raft race on the Corvus River in early spring, the May plant sale and summer concerts on the green, the Carding Fair and Quilt Show, the local garden tour, and librarian Jane Twitchell’s annual Tolkien trilogy read-aloud at the town gazebo.
Edie straightened up slowly, letting her back muscles ease into place. The tub of weeds and garden debris that she’d been filling needed emptying again. Her dog Nearly was snuffling behind the wood pile that served double duty as a fence along the side of her ample yard.
Ordinarily, these were the details of life that she treasured about autumn in Vermont.
But everything was so disconnected this year.
With a deep sigh, Edie hoisted her full tub up to her hip, carrying it as a mother carries a toddler, and made her way to the compost pile behind her garage. Earlier in the morning, she’d left half a cup of tea sitting on the stump of a long-gone ash. It was still there, now lukewarm to her touch.
She tossed the dregs to the ground, and then decided she needed a jolt of strong coffee. Walking back to the house, the pungent scent of the onions she’d uncovered earlier crowded around her nose, begging for attention. There were three rows of them, plump with the chemicals that would make her eyes tear but her soups delicious in winter.
Edie paused for a moment to appreciate the beauty of their light brown skins and pale green flesh against the dark earth.
“Did you know that onions are the only vegetable that’s used in cooking in every culture on the planet?”
The unexpected voice made Edie jump and whirl around. It was Ruth Goodwin, Carding’s indefatigable mail carrier and Edie’s long time friend. She waved a catalog over her head.
“Would you believe this one is for spring seeds?” Ruth asked.
To Edie’s astonishment, her friend’s words made her cry.
“Hey, hey, what’s the matter?” Ruth made a hugging motion in the air.
“Really, this social distancing stuff and this virus stuff and the dreadful news and the awful, awful, awful campaign for President by that…”
Ruth raised her hand to stop Edie’s flow of words. “Remember, we promised not to say his name out loud,” she said. “So what you’re saying it’s this twaddle and balderdash and harshness and bunkum and gibberish and the very real horror of life right now that’s getting to you, right?”
“YES!!!” Edie shrieked. Nearly whipped around the wood pile, barking and growling, bracing himself to face an intruder that was, somehow, visibly invisible.
Ruth took off her mask, letting it dangle from one ear as she made her way to sit on Edie’s back steps. “Yeah, me too. I’ll take a cup of coffee if you’re going to brew a pot.”
Sonja Hakala lives on a river in Vermont and is the author of the Carding, Vermont novels and the upcoming Red City mystery, The Broken Moon.
The Carding, Vermont novels, in order of appearance:
The Road Unsalted
Thieves of Fire
The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life
Light in Water, Dancing