remyThe weather forecast advises we’ll be having an average day tomorrow.  I think it will mean raking leaves without wearing a coat, digging up carrots and putting the hose away. But it becomes something more when neighbors climb the fence to cut down the large aspen tree limb that fell into my yard two months ago, still hinged to the main tree trunk in their yard.  Smooth, white bark. Dried leaves crunching underfoot.

The father trims, the son stacks limbs with me. We all notice the stout Y-shaped piece at the same time.  If this is an average day, I think, I would have it more often. The son takes the sling-shot limb and sets it aside, keeps his eye on it as we haul armloads of twigs and limbs out to the curb.  Here in Montana, the garbage truck will come by one day this week and haul everything away. All but that stout Y-shaped limb.


Marching soldiers know to break out of step on bridges.


He makes vegetable beef soup from soup bones the butcher saves for him. And when the soup is done, sometimes he drives to town with a Tupperware bowl of soup for me. Since the last time I saw him, a door stopped working at my house. It hadn’t worked for weeks and I hadn’t mentioned it to him. I might have–had we talked–but he lives his life mostly without a phone.  And also, this: how can I ask someone to fix my door when I have nothing otherwise to give him?

So when he showed up with the bowl of soup, he noted that door was not working. He set the container of soup down on my counter and went back outside for the tools in his car.  Soon, the door was working again. A long time ago, in a relationship now far gone, he told me (he reminded me) I was intelligent enough to repair broken things. I didn’t have to  be the person who puts a working TV set on top of the television set in need of repair. But I tended to do that–my mind being often elsewhere, tangled up in sheaves of music, liquid baths of photos emerging in the dark.

We didn’t have time to share a meal as there was only enough time to ride with him on his errand:  to  purchase a sack of socks for his semi-invalid mother. She likes purple and she likes thin socks.  And she likes the organic apples I buy in five pound bags, which I split with her whenever her son comes to town.


“Part of the mythology that  they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power.  Power is not brute force and money; power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.” ` Winona LaDuke


We had been friends for a dozen years, sharing over long-distance phone calls the carpet booms and sound maps in our separate lives. Last year this stopped when we came head to head on a subject we’d never debated before: Gay marriage. His stout upbringing didn’t allow room for him to consider sexual orientation had nothing to do with nuture. I didn’t realize we’d parted ways until enough holidays came and went without his sweet late night phone calls wishing me joy and grace.  He married, my cousin died. I solemnized my son’s marriage, his favorite niece developed cancer.

And then his father passed away, which I read about on his wife’s Facebook wall. I sent him a letter and a card, wishing him well.  One late night shortly after, he called. Resonant harmonies, cashmere mittens. Covenants, he told me sideways, exist not just between man and wife, mother and son, brother and sister. Covenants even exist between you and the clerk who sells you apples from the farmer who irrigates with water from the channel dug through the valley long before his trees were ever planted.


A scientist is one who is sure you have a stout copper tube in your home. So, get it out, the scientist says. Stand it on end and take the sturdy magnet you also have on hand, and drop it through the tubing.

Do you think the magnet will fall straight and true as all matter falls? The scientist, yes, is wearing a white lab coat. Three pens in his chest pocket. He’s cute when he gets excited, when you say that yes you think the magnet knows how to fall.

But the magnet changes because of the copper. It can no longer fall fast. It falls in a circular, slow sort of boom through the tube of copper. Between the properties of copper and the properties of the magnet, an eddy current is formed, creating a force that opposes the magnet’s fall.



About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

13 responses to “covenant

  1. I’m taking this up to bed with me to read again. Breathing in, breathing out this world you craft in a way that seems effortless. I know it’s not, and so I thank you, Sherry.

    • redmitten

      andrea, thank you. mostly i move through my days compiling what catches my attention and yet not my full understanding. i put it in my pocket and after a few weeks i empty my pockets and sort through each item, posting them here, trying to see what the bigger picture might be.

  2. Beautiful. I’m still seeing that Y-shaped limb (and a Y-shaped tree is part of my personal story) and that falling magnet. I perfectly understand the stacking of unrepaired things…

    • redmitten

      kathleen, what a beautiful way to put it: the stacking of unrepaired things. a title for a book of poems i’ve yet to write, but one that explains my life to me. the Y-shaped tree is part of your story- oh see how these things connect? the neighbor boy is now 16 and steals everyone’s heart. at once he is emerging as a man, and yet the boy in him tuned to that limb. and why do i say “yet”? a man who saves a Y-shaped limb is a wondrous thing.

  3. Lovely piece of writing along with a magnificent response to Andrea.

  4. wuffda

    My copper pipes told me they are too busy being plumbing, and have no time for magnets. Perhaps when they retire….

  5. There is more than one type of magnet and people and things can be brought together with words.
    Simply deep and probing writing Sherry that opens a personal door for so many reasons. There are many ways to be abducted by aliens…… nice to be released to this, grounded again by this way of very special insight you freely share.

  6. “…there are many ways to be abducted by aliens,” as Soloneili noted, the foreign parts of ourselves that hip-check us off the track or more subtly discourage us away from what some part of us knows to be true. Sherry, this is so rich and beautiful and touches me with all the recognizable moments. It is your soup, your way of bringing the twigs together, that helps us see that, as I believe, all things are connected. Love to you.

and then you said:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 51 other followers

%d bloggers like this: