I cozy up in the chair beside the woodstove,
a peppery mug of chai in my hand,
and turn to face out the French doors,
toward the promise of spring
is all we have
in these mountains
While the valley below swoons with bloom.
I don’t mean to rhyme, but even without sun,
the mid-day light on this hill beckons;
the grass almost greening;
the bulbs almost bursting;
But the branches
Oh those branches!
Weary with waiting
Darkened with rain
Empty and foreboding.
But wait, what’s that I see?
Faint, so very faint,
but definitely something other
than brown or gray or tiresome Evergreen.
Poetry comes to my lips,
but before I can grab a pen to put down the words I say aloud,
and as if my voice is an invocation
I hear the call of the geese
and look toward the pond
and watch them fly overhead.
Maybe it was the tick of the woodstove
or the soup in the pot
that clouded my vision;
Or perhaps: the first blush of spring in the mountains
is happening at this very moment
for all those, like me, who sit still and see.
I miss the Reading Lady on Williston–that tiny road on the back side of town.
She was my favorite sign of spring.
Appearing there on the porch of her aging Victorian.
Layers shed beneath gingerbread lattice
While the season unfolded into summer.
First a cup of tea and a blanket.
Then a glass of lemonade and a sun hat.
And always a book (and reading glasses.)
Well into autumn.
Right there on the corner as I drove by.
Did she move away or worse–pass away?
I like to imagine her on the coast of Maine.
Overlooking the ocean or perhaps beside a quiet bay.
Waves lapping at the dock
Where she reads
While the world
A bit slower
A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.
This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day
Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.
“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”
Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.
“Forced, short-sighted, rushed through legislation,” is how one woman described it.
A discussion of the unintended consequences of Act 46 ensues; and I’m surprised by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me until then, and how deeply it shakes me–not the loss of our precious Junior High, or the loss of our vibrant voice; or how these losses will reshape our school, and our town; but something that strikes at the center of self-governance:
I know not everyone can make it on the first Tuesday in March, and I know that efforts in other towns to shift the meeting to an evening or a weekend haven’t produced the desired results; But our old Town House fills up with body heat and breath and voice and community, and that’s something.
And even in the years when you’re not in a chair or on a bench or at that front table or up at the podium, the gathering holds space for who we are and how we live and what happens here, not just in Marlboro, but all over the Green Mountain state, and even across our nation, as Bernie proved to be true.
Sure Town Meeting would continue for awhile; the old timers here are hearty like that; but the absence of the school budget–ie. the absence of children at the heart of decision making–would hollow out the gathering, until it became a dusty relic of itself.
Just before our Pre-Town Meeting closes, a follow up question about our “Geographically Isolated” and “Structurally Isolated” school comes from the floor:
“If we find that it doesn’t work for our town, can we go back to what we had?”
The response sends a chill through my body, particularly this year:
“Once you take it apart, you can’t build it again.”
I step outside the bakery.
The flakes are wondrous.
Shops along Main Street empty of keepers and customers wanting to see.
All the kids are still in school so it’s just us grownups.
And even if you are as old as me, you can’t help but stick out your tongue, and effortlessly share in winter’s communion. The holy sacrament. Of snow.
Despite the magic, I decide that I better head home.
I drive slow out of town.
I approach a standstill at Route 9, the highway that leads to my mountain home.
I turn into the Chelsea Royal and attempt to assess the situation.
Is that a farm vehicle? A truck?
I turn around. I’ll take the back roads.
I stop for WIFI to share an update in on our community Facebook group, but the power is out at Dunkin Donuts, and at both the gas stations, they tell me.
A fire truck speeds by.
Must be a pole down.
Live wires, someone says.
I pass a vehicle in a snow bank, another in a ditch.
An ambulance speeds by.
A police car.
I stop at my dentist office, but it’s closed.
I stand outside the door and use the WIFI.
I take the road past Lilac Ridge Farm because its flat.
I stop for a photo. I pass Round Mountain, and use my mind to capture its majesty because I need traction now as Ames Hill Road begins to climb.
Cars without snow tires or studs or without steep slippery driveways like mine are pulled to the side of the road or stopped altogether in the middle or somewhere else, unintended.
I consider pulling into the Robb Family Farm myself, but all the spaces are taken. I remember the night of Irene, how this farm was the turning point, of no turning back, and how passing it, even months later, brought back the terror of that drive home. Of roads eaten away by water. Of a car, hanging in a ditch. Of trees strewn everywhere. Of boulders appearing where a dirt road was supposed to be.
One more turn up hill, and there are too many cars paused, and I become one of the casualties, and slide to the wrong side of the road, but still on it, and kind of out of the way.
Others speed by.
My heart swells with envy for AWD and especially trucks.
They resent me, and those like me, in the way.
I roll down my window.
I talk to a friendly guy named Jeff, heading to town, who offers to push me.
I don’t think that’s a good idea, I say, just as Jeff does a dance that takes him swiftly to the ground.
Other drivers stop to make similar suggestions.
I hand out my last Lake Champlain Valentine chocolates to each one–to my brother in law who was one of the cars I passed earlier, but then passed me after he put chains on his tires; and to my neighbor who volunteers with the Fire Department and who radios in about the condition of the road, and who helps spin my car downhill and temporarily into a driveway; and to the guy in the truck who later tells me, when I start to head back down to town, don’t do it, it’s worse that way now, cars allover the place.
And so I sit in my car on the side of the road, facing the right way now,
And hope no one hits me.
And change my mind about which seat is the safest, and whether or not I should wear a seat belt.
I have my laptop, but I’m too anxious to work.
I inventory my car’s contents.
I pick up trash.
I inventory my trunk’s contents.
I change my seat three times.
I regret my generosity with the chocolate, just a little bit.
There are no snacks in car, not even left behind on the floor or the seats. The kids are grown.
I have three blankets, and a flashlight. Nightfall is about an hour away.
A pair of gloves.
I have water. I even have chai.
But I have to pee so I can’t have either.
I could pee outside. I have tissues.
The snow bank is too deep. The road too slippery. The house across the road empty.
Cars heading uphill slow to a trickle.
Cars downhill still at a standstill.
Then, wait, what’s that?
It is, IT IS!
A SANDER barrels by, spraying delicious, dark chocolate dirt across the road.
I wait until the road around me is completely empty, and then I climb over the stick shift, and into the driver’s seat. I back up. I spin around. I decide on heading up hill–the direction I was forced to abandon over an hour earlier.
I don’t see another soul. I climb out of Brattleboro, past the sheep farm and the apple orchard, and approach the line into Marlboro, neatly delineated where, to my dismay, chocolate ends, and vanilla begins again, and yet the familiarity lends comfort, even without traction.
As I crest the last climb, the snow suddenly stops, and the sun arrives, welcoming me home, or mocking all the dark drama down below.
I pass the cemetery. I pull over to take a photo of the sky passed Liz and Craig’s.
The road beneath my feet is slick.
My neighbor, the fireman, passes me by again.
I turn downhill onto MacArthur, the road which bears his name.
I drive even slower. Test my brakes.
Wave past his aunt’s house.
The world is milky white and silent and stunning.
I photograph his grandfather’s house from below.
I forget that John died just last month.
I approach my own land. I slow for a man with two dogs,
and then accelerate again to get up my driveway, but pass it when I find it overflowing.
How has so much snow fallen in such a short storm?
I continue down to Camp Neringa, turn around in the driveway, exhale when I don’t end up stuck or in a ditch.
Tuck my car on the side of the road.
Hike up to my house.
Look back at the narrow path of my boot prints.
Gather wood from the shed for the fire.
Sit in the dark as the sun goes down.
Hold a flashlight.
Wait for the power to go back on.