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 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.
The annual Cider Sale takes place this Columbus Day Weekend (Saturday, October 8th & 9th) on the green at Marlboro North– at the junction of Route 9 & South Road in Marlboro, Vermont; right next door to Applewoods studio. Look for the large white tents & families at work–pressing fresh cider as you watch!
Also for sale under the tents: Grafton Cheddar, homemade apple pie, and other locally baked goods. Enjoy a cup of hot mulled cider & a slice of homemade apple pie with a side of cheddar in the sit down “cafe” or take jugs of cider home with you for drinking or freezing. (Cider freezes well as long as you leave some space in the top of jug for expansion.) Whole pies for sale too!
The historic town of Marlboro sits just a few minutes west of Brattleboro and east of Wilmington, Vermont on the main thoroughfare across the state: Route 9 (aka. The Molly Stark Trail.) The Cider Sale has been a Marlboro tradition for 35 years, raising funds for education. This year’s fundraiser benefits the Marlboro Elementary School Junior High Class with Spring 2015 their field studies in Costa Rica!
Who: Everyone! Locals, visitors, families, (even busses–with care to parking.)
What: Marlboro Annual Cider Sale: fresh pressed cider (while you watch), apple pies, cheddar cheese & more!
Where: On the green at Marlboro North, Route 9, Marlboro, VT, Next to Applewoods Studio.
When: Saturday & Sunday, October 8th & 9th, 9am-4pm.
Why: To benefit educational field study for students from Marlboro Elementary School.
Columbine. When my husband considered shifting from elementary to high school, his safety was my first concern. Who knew that within a decade, violence wouldn’t be limited to teenagers.
“What will be our new normal?” asks a friend.
I think it has already come.
Sobering statistics creep up on us revealing that 387 school shootings have taken place since 1992; and that children in America are 13 times more likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized nations.
“I’m not going to school tomorrow, Mom,” my oldest tells me after we get the call about the threat. “What I learn in a day isn’t worth my life.”
What about 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai–shot in the head for encouraging fellow girls to pursue an education in Pakistan? Shouldn’t education in the land of the free be that valuable?
Or have we become that cheap?
Kelly Salasin, lifelong educator, mother of 2, January 2013
In the East a funeral for a mother; and in the West a funeral for a father–as if pain was a child–requiring a hand on both sides of our state.
Fires and floods, murders and accidents. How much will Southern Vermont be required to take? At first I thought the curse was on Brattleboro, but there seems to be a similar infliction on the Deerfield Valley.
This morning, friends in the West attended the funeral of not one, but two fathers–both killed in the same tragedy–one by accident, the other by anguish.
I headed East for another two taken–Rita Corbin died 11 days after the collision that also claimed the life of her 17 year-old grandson. But it was love, not loss that echoed in Rita’s absence; just as it had after the fire and the flood and the murder. And so it is, that I offer the echo of love to our friends in the West, in the hope that a sweeter balance can be restored.