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Adrie Kusserow


Underhill, Vermont

My Garden by Gari Melchers

Each time we came back from South Sudan, Uganda or India, we stumbled back into our serene, pastoral life in Vermont feeling a bit like hungover actors in a play. We deboard the plane jetlagged, drive through humidity thick as moss, and hobble up the stone path to our overfed yellow labs, hippos who bounce cluelessly across the lawn to meet us. The gentlest of green mountains, the sweet round hills. Not one house in our view, only the profile of our mountain.

We come back to healthy, well fed, organic free range families who homeschool or tap their own maples, drive beat up Volvos and teach at local schools. It looks insane to us, and we wobble around almost squinting, the perfect health of them so glaring, all the plastic, shiny newness and right angles, as if we are trapped in a manic commercial for kitchen products.

The first night home East and West are so jazzed in my body, I stay up, manic until morning, the way I always do upon return. I pretend to sleep after we crawl into bed at 3am, smelling of polluted airports, and greasy food, hearing the peepers gossip in their giant communes near the pond, the fresh white bed sheets making us want to weep with gratitude.

Most often we are too tired to even cry. How I love those days after, when we are united in this liminal ghostly energy as we scuttle around the house in our pajamas, avoiding normal humans. We leave each other alone, but let each other wilt, eat, be grumpy.

Sometimes, when the kids don’t know how to handle the wired yet dead weight delirium of jet lag, I dig around my pharmaceutical bag and give each of us a pill which finally lets our minds off the hook. We fall asleep midday and awake disoriented, thoughts slow, dark and gluey, hoping for night again.

After about a week, the kids’ minds settle more and more, but mine stays lost for a while. I come back from long walks in the woods with drooping flowers and revelations. I vow to live my life differently here, resist the consumerism, meditate more, spend more time working abroad. Even through the dreamy gauze of my jet-lagged lunacy, I can tell, the kids welcome going back to school, and are happy to give me a wide berth. But I don’t want them to leave me, our little house where America’s bold and beautiful make no sense.

In the car, they are caught. As we speed down the road on the way to school, me feeling abandoned, I try to bait them, seeing if I can get some company in my lostness. Remember the puppy we picked worms out of at the camp in the bush? They nod their heads, airily, as if absentmindedly shooing a fly, not committing to more.

With that, it’s over, I make myself shut up. They have to move on, I have to let them go, and I do, loving and hating the fact that I too will emerge from this dark liminal pupa to the other side, confident, cocky, self assured, fanning my brilliant American wings.


About the writer:
Recently published work includes, “Quarantine Dreams” and “Revised Lonely Planet Guide to Holy Men.” Adrie Kusserow is a poet and anthropologist teaching at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. Kusserow works with refugees internationally as well as in Vermont. Kusserow has two books of poetry published by BOA Editions, Ltd as part of their American Poets Continuum Series. Poems and creative non-fiction have appeared in The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The Sun, Prairie Schooner, Green Mountains Review, Plume, Juxtaprose and many other journals and anthologies.

Image: My Garden by Gari Melchers (1860-1932). No medium specified. No size specified. Between 1900-1903. Public domain.

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