Wrong Way Closed

While poor California is burning, Vermont is flooded.

Driving to Burlington to meet my older daughter at the airport, my younger and I are suddenly stopped on Route 15. Road closed. I pull into a gas station and run up to a young man and ask him for intel. He’s from somewhere else and tells me Wrong Way Bridge is closed. That’s all he knows. The Lamoille is impassable at this point — the river, I’ve already seen, has risen wildly above its banks.

I stand there, thinking, unwilling to follow his advice to cut back through the mountains. I’m driving my older daughter’s car, which has — naturally — no paper map.

I approach a man who’s just bought a six-pack of tiny Coke cans, and ask for advice. He’s much taller than me, and bends down to look at my face, putting us at eye-level, then takes me to the edge of the parking lot and tells me where to turn, which roads to follow. It’s beautiful country, he says, where I’m sending you.

He tells me to turn left at the Y, but he’s gesturing right. I ask for clarification, and then he has me repeat the directions back to him, so he’s sure I know where I’m going.

We drive along the western side of Mount Mansfield, through farms with their cornfields shorn to stubble. November. His breath had a vague scent of whiskey, but the directions were spot-on, and countryside? Enchanting.

I think these days when there is so little to believe in — when the old loyalties — God, country, and the hope of Heaven — aren’t very real, we are more dependent than we should be on our friends.

— William Carlos Williams

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Burlington, Vermont