Chance Encounter.

I pause my afternoon run when a couple waves me down in a little memorial park in Hardwick. I’m guessing they’re looking for directions, maybe a suggestion where to eat an early dinner or the road to another town. Instead, they’re curious as heck about Hardwick.

What drove the economy in the 1800s and 1900s? When was the beautiful granite town office building constructed? Do I know the population?

Weirdly, I know the answers to all these questions, and ask a few of my own. Where are they from? Where are they headed?

They’re from the northern shore of Lake Champlain — St. Albans — a town where I once bought a sizable (and expensive, oh, was it expensive) piece of maple sugaring equipment.

We stand beneath a gold-leafed maple, talking about this and that, and I share my speculations about what living in Hardwick might have been like in the early 1900s. It’s all speculation, as my daughters would readily point out.

At the end, just before we part, they ask if I know someone who lives in town. He’s a high school teacher, and I met his family over twenty years ago. In fact, I live beside his mother-in-law.

We laugh. How little separates us. Then they get in their car, and I head off on my run.

Relish This.

We’re at the point in Vermont’s fall where our world makes me ask, What’s happening? but in the loveliest, most wonderful way. The fall colors are stunningly gorgeous — so much vibrant red, so many shades of gold — the trees silently going about their business. Our hillsides are amazing, but so is each tree an individual marvel.

We’d had rainy day upon rainy day, but the weather looks to be clearing, at least for a short stretch. In New England, heading into later fall, sunlight can be sparse. These handful of days are the time to soak up color and light.

When I stopped on Hardwick’s Main Street to snap this photo yesterday, a man walking by said, “Winter’s not far.”

True, but at the moment, autumn in all her radiance.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

— L. M. Montgomery

What’s Real

Like a quilt, the fall’s early darkness abruptly pulls over us.

Late afternoon, I swing by the library, then pull off my wool sweater and go for a run. The rain falls so hard I appear to be running through clouds. I’m on a loop, so I keep on — there’s no easy turning back to get home. At home, I feed the hungry cats and light the first wood stove fire of the year, just a small one, with a few handfuls of kindling. There’s no turning back for fall, either.

After dinner, the daughters sprawl on the couch. The cats, who didn’t care much for summer, anyway, curl in a laundry basket, utterly satisfied.

Again, I realize I’m looking at this the wrong way: there’s never any turning back, just going on.

The wonderful poet Kerrin McCadden will be reading and talking with me virtually tonight, hosted by The Norwich Bookstore. Check in, if you have time and inclination.

“To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.”

– Thich Nhat Hạnh

Dinner Conversation

These Vermont days unfold one after one, exceptionally warm for this time of year. Mornings, I write on our back deck. By dinner time, the air has cooled, so we eat in our little dining room, while the dark descends around our house.

Over dumplings, my teen shares stories of high school, and we chew over the school’s new open campus policy. She talks and talks. Listening, I realize so much of the past year and a half was this strange virtual world. Her stories are mesmerizing with intrigue and merriment, but also laced through with all kinds of complicated things.

No parenting advice here. While I’m on the phone Friday morning in our glassed-in second story porch, pitching a story, I see a Subaru dash into my driveway. My daughter and her friend leap out, laughing. Before I finish my call, they’ve disappeared, deep in their own narratives. They’re serious students, with long thought-out lists of goals. How glad I am to see them together, cackling. Before I head back to work, I brew another pot of coffee and stand on the back porch, listening to the crickets.

Be well, I think. Be happy. Be very careful driving and keep your eyes open. And return and tell me, some at least, of your world.

…. I bought my friend the newest Mary Lawson novel, A Town Called Solace. She’s loaned it back to me.

He’d assumed that you went to school because you had to learn things, starting off with the easy stuff and moving on to the bigger issues, and once you’d learned them that was it, the way ahead opened up and thereafter life was simple and straightforward. What a joke. The older he got, the more complicated and obscure everything became. ” 

— Mary Lawson
Greensboro, Vermont

A House You Can See Through

On my way home from work last night, I stop by a house in town to drop off a borrowed survey (another long strange story…)

I’d never been to the end of that narrow one-lane road built on a ridge over a lake. The owner’s car is a Subaru the color of mine, but years older. As I walk towards the house, I realize I can see right through the house. The walls from driveway to lake are all nearly all windows.

A breeze moves through the trees. Down the hillside, the lake washes against the rocky shore. He invites me into the open house, where everything is wood and glass, not at all slick and polished, but clean and well-used. The house was built just after World War II by his family, and it’s been loved dearly. He’s on his way back to Europe, and I wish him safe travels.

When I leave, I keep thinking of this house where the sunlight washes right through. I can’t help but wonder if that’s perhaps why he’s so calm. Maybe it’s nothing more than coincidence. But living in a house of wood built by your grandfather, where the sunlight streams in all day, surely would round off anyone’s corners. It’s a good, bright spot — this quiet place.

Hardwick, Vermont

Overheard

Running along the old railroad bed, I pause when I see a couple ahead of me. I know her as an acquaintance, and she’s walking and talking animatedly with a man I don’t know.

I linger behind, breathing deeply, just about near the end of my run anyway. They keep walking. Sunlight filters through the trees over the narrow path.

Then, abruptly, what I realize fascinates me so much is merely the carefree tone of their conversation. They keep at it, talking, their hands gesturing together. Sure, I overhear people; I’m not a shut-in. But I’m mesmerized for these moments by their unmasked and unguarded tone, or maybe I’m just happy to hear their laughter. I live in Vermont, where many people, including myself, are vaccinated and use masks; this makes sense to me. Maybe I’m just enchanted by the warm September sunlight, spilling down through the leaves that are golden and red and beginning to drift earthward.

I linger, following, until they go their way, and I go mine.