Roadside Schooling

The kids and I stood at an exit off I-91 today looking for an old maple tree. The tree wasn’t hard to find, right near a park-and-ride, the fieldstone remains of a former barn or house nearby. My younger daughter noted the upper, dying branches of the tree had been wired together, and remarked that, rather than taking a chainsaw to the trunk, someone had taken the time to care for this tree. This ancient beauty may yet linger for years.

The evening before, we had listened to a poet read about this former Vermont farm, in his collection Vermont Exit Ramps II. At the terribly sad ending of this story about Romaine Tenney, I watched in the dim theatre as my older daughter’s mouth visibly opened in shock.

On our drive home, I realized how carefully she had listened to the poem, as she gave me solid directions. While the midmorning commuter traffic rolled in and out of the lot, we studied the mountains and the bend of the land, living in the facets of the past’s stone and trees traces, the sunny and breezy present, and the poem, binding the two.

Hello black fly. Thanks for the welcome.
Now I know what Romaine Tenney cursed
and loved here on Tenney Hill Road: the sting
inside blossoming, the black bother
at the center of the eye bent on spring beauty….

– Neil Shepard, “Romaine Tenney”

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Brattleboro, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.