Rte 91 northbound to Vermont
I have been away - away in body, away in mind, away in spirit.
Years and years ago my then husband, our four children, and I moved to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We were part of the massive back-to-the-land movement of the early-mid 70s, a migration from city to rural life that caught us up and swept us northward until we found a piece of land we could afford. There we built a log cabin from scratch, raised pigs and chickens for meat, planted and harvested a large garden, went without running water and electricity for a few years, and generally lived the life of pioneers, though we did it without a covered wagon and we went north instead of west.
That was in the past, in my former life as wife and helpmeet. A few years into the adventure I became a single mother, then an empty nester, then an ex-Vermonter, moving back to Massachusetts and the town in which I'd grown up. Still, every year since then, I've returned to Vermont to visit old friends. One in particular just turned 102 and I spent the last few days helping her celebrate (albeit sedately).
with my friend Lora two years ago on her 100th birthday
The trip to Vermont is always an emotional one. Thirty-five years ago, I fell in love with the sky-piercing mountains, the wind-ruffled pines, the sight of field upon field of corn or cows or upland hay. I gave my heart to the hilltop where our cabin stood, to the trees that were sacrificed for log walls, to the fierce winter winds, the spiraling hawks and the foraging bear. Going back is like moving through time
The trip up is one of recognition, and of registering the changes. I still get excited when I pass the Welcome to Vermont sign even though I have hours of driving ahead of me. When I visit in the springtime like this the clock spins backwards - I leave leafing trees and forsythia bushes the color of butter behind me. Each mile lessens the amount of bloom until I am two weeks behind myself and the trees still hold ink sketch branches against the sky. The fields show only a hint of green under last year's brown, dead grass and the air is noticeably chillier.
Once I reach the town we lived in and stop for gas, I begin looking for familiar places. Where's that little restaurant we used to have lunch in sometimes? Oh, there's the school the kids attended, there's the museum with the lions guarding the entrance, there's the store I worked at in town. Most often I drive clear to Barton to visit my oldest friend. I spend a few days with her and we go gadding about, or sit talking, talking as though we were word-starved. Going to Vermont is anticipatory and welcoming
Leaving Vermont is different. I cannot do it without being reminded of the reasons why I left in the first place. I pass the restaurant where I saw my husband with another woman, the courthouse where my divorce was declared final, the turn off to our old homestead. My throat starts to ache and I blink back tears. All the years between have merely eased but not erased the sorrow of giving up a dream, of having to sell the kids' childhood home, of leaving behind a beloved place. I drive for 100 miles before I register the budding leaves on the trees and the gentling of the mountains. Another 150 miles and I am home again, home among familiar landmarks and the space I've made for myself here.
In a day or two I will wake to find all traces of sadness and guilt lifted. I will be back in the here and now amid the blossoming trees and the greening grass. I will have remembered my previous lessons of impermanence and the futility of mourning forever something once loved and lost. I will be back.
the patio I built myself for myself