In the backseat yesterday, my daughter’s friend suddenly looked around and asked where I was driving.

I told her I changed my mind; we weren’t headed to Waterbury, Vermont, but were on our way to I-80 and the midwest. In less than a heartbeat, she said, I don’t mind. I’m glad to go anywhere.

Instead, we went to Waterbury, once famed as home of the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane. Bundled in their warmest clothes, the kids and I were there for a procession of illuminated paper lanterns, dancing, live music: primal at its heartbeat.

The girls and I followed at the parade’s end, behind a man who held up a white clipper ship decorated with tiny white lights. Over our heads, a light snow fell from the impermeable darkness. At the end, the girls sprawled in a slushy field and watched the dancers with spinning handfuls of fire.

All the way home, through the night and then brilliantly-lit Stowe, following the familiar road around Elmore Mountain and up the maze of slushy dirt roads home, I thought of that stranger’s arms held over his head, that radiant ship a sailing beacon.

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head….

May Sarton, “December Moon”


Waterbury, Vermont

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