Cloud collecting mountains surround. Unpaved roads ramble. Roadside produce stands are unmanned by vendors. A locked metal box with a slit in the top is seen amongst the piles of tomatoes, squash and ears of corn with a handwritten note beside it:
HONOR SYSTEM- Set your price and leave money in box
No views on politics from this writer. Rather this: Fog swirls across deep sweet ponds. Canoes and boats carry anglers of all ages and both sexes. Wild edibles arrive in Spring: Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms, and Japanese knotweed. Summer brings more: dandelion greens, wild garlic and ginger, milkweed, wild mustard, apples and berries galore…blackberries, raspberries, thimbleberries, blueberries and wild strawberries that are compact and sweet.
Barbed wire fences contain the cows at pasture; brown, white, black. Agricultural heritage surrounds: Small English barns with large hinged wagon doors stand unpainted, grey with age. Yankee barns are built into hillsides. ‘Late bank’ barns are sheathed with clapboards and have wooden ventilator cupolas topped with weathervanes. The rare round barn with a silo rising through the center can still be seen. Gambrel-roofed ground stable barns, usually white, have ample haylofts and milk houses, still in operation.
Brooks twist and bubble over smooth rocks. Lusty forest vegetation and footbridges surround some as yet unnamed streams. Rays of sunlight penetrate tree canopies and kiss ice cold water. Folks hunt, picnic, wade, paddle, fish for trout, hike trails or rest on the banks. More oft than not, these waterways babble in solitude save for the wildlife.
Beavers build homes beside birch and aspen trees. Wild turkeys survive on the nuts of oak, chestnut, beech, and hickory trees. White-tailed deer of the forests, swamps and open brush areas, cavort in healthy herds. Spotted fawns blend in. They graze on twigs, buds, acorns, grass, and wild apples from gnarled trees. Black bears inhabit rough wooded habitats, wetlands and stands of beech and oak. Brown-grey coyotes with black rimmed eyes dig out woodchuck holes for makeshift dens. With instinctive wariness they leave their caves and niches in ledges to go on hunting parties. The Eastern bobcat and Canadian lynx are rarely seen by human eyes but they live, lurk, hunt. Near-sighted moose jump with ease over trees, slash and other fallen debris…unafraid. Rare and diverse birds reside here or pass through.
Barnyardgrass plants grow tall coarse stems from the highly fertile ground. Sprays of color line roadsides and dot pastures and fields. Nitrogen-rich white and purple clover improve soil fertility. Intricate Queen Anne’s Lace with its hundreds of teeny blossoms atop umbrels are common sights. Chicory is everywhere; with its periwinkle blue flowers. Every hue in the rainbow is represented in Vermont’s wildflowers.
But what does Vermont mean to me? I can tell you it is not a tourist destination. I don’t ski its famous slopes in Winter. Nor do I plan breathtaking Autumn drives to ‘leaf-peep.’ I was born a half hour from Vermont’s border and most of my family lives there. I vacationed with my grandmother a few weeks every Summer and sometimes on February and April breaks from school. She had a huge sprawling white house at the end of a dirt road. A brook, where once I saw bear cubs, was a favorite hang-out. I slid down the hillside to reach it, along a wooded path of fallen (slippery) orange pine needles; with my crudely fashioned fishing stick held high-a safety pin for a hook dangling in the air.
I don’t wish to live there, although my father does and it suits him. I need to live much closer to concert arenas, high tech hospitals and a variety of schools to be fulfilled. The fact that Vermont lives inside me is never more apparent than when I gaze out at my own meager Connecticut yard. So much about Vermont perplexes me. Why is the suicide rate so high? Why did people in my youth gather kittens in a pillowcase and drown them in the very brook I played in, when the feral cat population get ‘too high?’ Why did seeing bears in the wild at the age of eight destine me to a lifelong torment of nightmares with bears, chasing me endlessly in my sleep?
It’s not for me to understand any of it. That’s more than alright.
I’ve said before I’m happy with my lot. I’m a visual person. Serene thoughts can pervade the bleakest events. Two of my sons have started their own families. I’ve got a daughter, now an adult, living at home and attending school. I’m kind of glad though, that her flight feathers haven’t fully come in yet. When they do maybe I’ll___________. I guess the rest really is unwritten.