The Road Half Taken

The Road Half Taken

Route 9, after Irene; Marlboro, VT; Kelly Salasin, all rights reserved

Yesterday I drove down my hobbled road, snow encrusted, and turned onto Route 9 for the morning commute to Brattleboro–and didn’t give it a second thought when the flow of traffic stopped, and became single lane, as if it was as natural an occurrence as the mindless speed.

I was surprised to find myself relieved rather than annoyed by the delay.

“They haven’t abandoned us,”  I said to my empty car.

In this post-Irene world, road work had become the norm, and we’ve appreciated every moment of it; but then they were gone, leaving our roads were delightfully “passable,” and eerily unfinished.

Last week over a foot of snow arrived before the plow poles were anchored along the dirt roads or the guard rails finished on Route 9.

I don’t need to explain the significance of guard rails, but here’s the thing about plow poles–they show us where there is and isn’t a road.  When everything is white, it’s hard to tell, particularly when what was once road, no longer is, because it was half-eaten away by water, and restored, but never fully so.

The lower half of my road is one of those. A few weeks back when they put in the temporary bridge at Neringa, someone dropped a lot of rubble on the sides of MacArthur so that the truck filled with dirt could  make it to the site without toppling over. I bet the rubble is fun in a truck. Not so much in a Honda Civic.

When I can’t stomach the bumps, I take the back way to Brattleboro. It’s all dirt, and it’s slower, but it’s predictable, though the potholes are propagating and the ruts where one road meets another are deepening.

Though it’s been two months since Irene, I find myself having flashbacks on this particular day–hauntings from the night we drove home after the flood.

I can see the ghost of a car dangling into a crater near Robb Family Farm. I can see Ames Hill strewn with rocks. I can feel the fear that we might not make it.

So many roads were taken by Irene and so many still hobble. Some friends have only just had their roads repaired, while others have had repairs washed away by the rain. Stopping for a work crew, in the middle of the morning commute, is a comfort now instead of an annoyance; something I once took for granted; like the permanence of highways and country roads.

Kelly Salasin, November 2011

For more on Irene & Vermont roads, click here.

Advertisements
Weak in the Knees

Weak in the Knees

detail, Turner, visipix.com

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

For more on Irene and VT, click here.