The Girls’ Landscape Widens

The school day was unexpectedly cancelled for my sixth-grader this week, and so, while I was working in the air-conditioned world of Burlington, my daughter spent the steamy September day at a friend’s house, doing what she described as “all kinds of things.” Those things included cribbage and trampoline, but also biking down the dirt road to Number 10 Pond to swim.

At the day’s end, I drove out of Burlington’s traffic, along I-89, and through Montpelier’s end-of-day busyness, and then I was in some of my favorite local terrain, the small but steep hills of Calais and Woodbury, where the land rises right out of the myriad ponds, and forests abruptly give way to valley views, where old stone walls mark tended fields, and gardens with giant sunflowers, their heads bent down down, are profligate at this time of year.

I passed almost no traffic on these dirt roads, until I met the two 11-year-old girls, sweatily pushing their bikes up a final slope, soaked and sandy towels wrapped around handlebars, their faces radiant.

These two friends had biked a fair distance, zipping down hills, surrounded by the beginning of autumn’s easing-to-gold beauty, to the pond surrounded by woods where “only old ladies” were swimming. I could imagine the water’s stillness, and how sweet and cool it would feel on hot and dust-covered skin.

Those were my two pieces of Vermont that day. Before leaving the friend’s house, the girls and I talked for a little while, the humidity thick, drawing up the scents of soil and plant, the girls’ faces flushed from their travels and ready for more adventure.

… I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions.

– Lucille Clifton