Hawk cries atop the dead Birch in the South.
Camp Neringa treble.
(MacArthur Rd, Marlboro, 2012)
Against my better judgement, I signed up to work the cheese “stroll” following the annual Heifer Parade, thereby prolonging the mayhem of Brattleboro–instead of making the mad dash out of town right after Bernie waves–which is when the crowd cheers and moves en masse toward the fair upon the “Retreat” Grounds–which I might have to check into after today.
When I descend the steep hill from the Town Green to the fields below, and find my way to the Co-op’s tent, I am surprised to discover that I won’t be standing right behind the platters of cheese like I’ve seen workers in aprons do in years past. Instead, the role that my husband and I are assigned to is: behind the lines to cut the cheese. (I never noticed those people before.)
I’ve never cut the cheese either, and as I attempt to learn the varieties in front of me, I wonder why the coordinator doesn’t just rely on member workers from her own department. It would make her job simpler; but she says that she likes to spread the wealth. And spread, we do; because Casey and I are assigned to the spreading table.
Olive and herb goat cheese.
After an hour, I find myself in a rhythm of cutting and spreading, discreetly placing the broken rice things dipped in cheese aside for my own covert snacking; and carefully wiping the leftover cheese crumbles from the cutting board onto my salad for the lunch I will eat when this two hour shift is done.
I’ve never realized how sensual a cheese can be; and despite the heat and the crowds, I am happy. I don’t care how much cheese people eat, and whether they appreciate it, or whether they consider visiting the Co-op to buy it, because I am one with the cheese, and its virtue transcends consumerism.
I am so happy (and a bit delirious) that when it is finally time for me and cheese to part, that I decide to stick around at the fair, and listen to music, and dance, and eat my salad with the assorted cheese crumbles.
Somehow cutting the cheese made the difference between fleeing from–and floating through–this afternoon in Brattleboro.
I am still on the grounds when the day closes, licking brie from my fingers.
It’s not that cheese is new to me. I’ve visited France. And I’ve always appreciated the cheese department of the Brattleboro Co-op–back to the days when Henry cut the cheese.
Jasper Hill Creamery.
Champlain Valley Creamery.
Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.
Now when I’m shopping, I pause even longer at the cheese counter… My husband and I pick up one familiar soft friend after another, and gently caress it like a lover. We consider signing up for the same shift next year, and in the meantime, we decide to make a date with a baguette, a bottle of wine, and some artisanal cheeses from around our state.
Kelly Salasin, June 2011
ps. Casey & I did sign up to work the cheese stroll in 2012–and cheerfully reported to duty–even in the pouring rain.
for more on the Brattleboro Co-op:
Ask around and you’ll find that I have a hard time surrendering summer, and that’s putting it mildly. As soon as we pass the Summer Solstice and the days begin to grow shorter, my pond cronies tease me about the sun dropping behind the mountain a minute earlier each night.
As flirtatious June heats up into toasty July and then releases into cooling August, true friends hush others when words like “autumn” or “school ” are spoken in my vicinity; while others openly mourn along with me.
But this year is different, at least this morning–midway through September. Today, I am willingly relinquishing my rules for prolonging summer (and I am almost welcoming the changes the new season brings.)
Maybe I’ve evolved. Or maybe this is just an intermission of enlightenment, and tomorrow I’ll be back to my old ways–chasing after summer with flip flips or pond dinners and alternately taking her departure personally.
It may be that I’ve had my fill of sadness this summer–from my son’s diving accident at the pond; to my best friend’s collision at the beach; to the loss of innocence at our community Co-op; to the devastation that rocked my state.
I don’t want to spend any more time being sad. I feel so much appreciation and love and tenderness; and in the grace of that flow, even I can surrender summer.
Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT 05344
I had the opportunity to connect with a renown naturopathic doctor friend of mine, who just happens to live locally; and we touched on the stress people are feeling following the floods. A light bulb went off when she said that this can manifest in different ways–even in physical injury.
I excused myself from the small gathering and called home right away. My youngest answered the phone and brought it outside to his father who was chopping wood.
“You know how Aidan has been hurting himself so much lately,” I said. “Maybe give him a little extra attention tonight. It could be fallout from the floods.”
My doctor friend also touched on nutritional and supplemental support for post traumatic stress, which hadn’t occurred to me, and I wondered if the Co-op might put together a end cap display of products for that. Between the murder and the flooding, they could use the extra support themselves.
Unlike my friend the doctor, I didn’t watch the flood come across the road and into my house; and unlike my new colleague at work, I didn’t see it take out my entire road. I also wasn’t there at the Co-op Tuesday morning a month ago when a shot was fired inside.
And yet, I am emotionally and physically spent from August as if I had been everywhere.
What do I need, I ask myself. What would soothe me?
…some soft music, a cup of chai, time walking with a friend.
It was ten years ago this month, when I had to rock myself into letting go of the heartbreaking strain of 9/11. I walked my dirt roads, soaked in the changing colors, and restored my sense of self and place.
May we all find what soothes us as we rock ourselves into the changes life brings.
Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT
To read more about the devastation in Vermont, click here;
I can’t concentrate at work. Each day I am more tired. And even though I am eating right, getting exercise, spending time in quiet, I’m feeling the toll of so many days of angst.
Today, I drive through West Brattleboro, for the first time since the flood, and I am surprised, and almost sickened, to see edges of black top missing, dangling into run off, yellow line and all.
I haven’t been on Route 9 since the days I walked it with dozens of other neighbors to take in the devastation; and this neglect of Western Avenue leading to Route 9 brings the trauma of that pilgrimage back.
“Road Closed,”says the sign at the base of the road, and so I turn my car around, and then roll down my window to check in with another driver who looks perplexed.
“What am I supposed to do?” he says. “When I came down from the college to go to the store, that sign wasn’t there.”
“You know the back way, don’t you?” I ask. And he shakes his head ; so I say, “Follow me.”
I always feel better when I help someone. It gets me out of myself, and channels my grief into something that moves, instead of puddles.
It hadn’t occurred to me when I decided to head toward Route 9 that I was avoiding Ames Hill. Though I’d driven back and forth on it a few times already, I had always been a passenger–like I had been the night that we tried to make it home to Marlboro during the flooding.
Ames Hill was nightmarish then, with only a single, rugged lane, flanked by deep caverns beneath the jagged edges where the road had been eaten away.
Once we made the decision to proceed, there was no turning back or pulling over; and if we abandoned our car, which I would have liked to do, emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to get through.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was making sure that the young man in the van with out of state plates was following me–past Lilac Ridge with the bright sunflowers, and around the turn to head up toward the Robb Family Farm where the cows used to moo.
It was then that my body began to re-live the tension of that nightmare ride home, even though there was a boy playing ball on the lawn in the afternoon light instead of a car dangling over a deep ditch in the dark.
I noticed my stomach tighten, without any thoughts, and I realized that my body had some more letting go to do, even if my mind didn’t.
I tried to get onto Route 9 this morning too, but there was work going on, and I didn’t want to interrupt it, so I turned around and took the long way again.
As I passed the post office, I realized that it had been days since we fetched the mail, and so I stopped, and heard how Marshall spent three hours trying to get to work last week, and finally headed back home to Brattleboro, where he took a long walk with his wife, and saw all kinds of unusual things in the water: propane tanks bobbing, an actual car, and even a house, upside down, floating like a boat on its attic.
Perhaps we need to get my friend Susie and other artists to create a large canvass upon which we can all release what we have seen.
Another Lisa took a trip down the Augur Hole yesterday to help Peggy move back in, and Lisa’s stricken face said more than any words to describe what it was to see that road missing, and the wide, rocky stream bed that was now it its place.
I haven’t been to Wilmington, but having lived there for several years, I feel a strong kinship to that community. I can’t imagine what it must be to see the devastation downtown.
As I climbed the stairs to second floor office this morning, my legs were heavy with this grief–and that of Texas, and of Japan, and I noticed that the flood had carved out much more room inside of me for compassion, and that it was taking more energy than I was used to giving.
And then there’s today’s murder at the IHOP in Nevada which brings back the grief of our own killing at the Brattleboro Co-op; which is a sour place to end this post, leaving me weak in the knees.
And yet, as I come down MacArthur Road, past John’s place, and Jason’s apple trees, and Gail’s berries, and Robin’s sky, I notice that the sun, though hidden by the clouds, is shimmering its way through in a perfect offering of light.
Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT