Early morning sunlight dappled across a hillside meadow. Chipmunks chasing each other on a stone patio. French-pressed dark coffee with steamed milk. Local Vermont milk, of course.
Rarely do we get to see a dreamscape realized. Visiting family in Vermont, that is what we watched as we drank our morning coffees.
We hiked into the woods, past the strands of birch trees with their peeling white bark and up higher among the maples, cruising down dirt paths with deer tracks and across another meadow over to the pogue. Pogue. That’s Vermont for pond. Actually that word is not even in the dictionary. If you google the pogue, the search result is a FAQ page from the National Park Service about this very federally managed land in Woodstock, Vermont. The park service says its etymology is not known, but it could be from an Abenaki word or of Scottish origin.
The sky and clouds reflected in the pond, or pogue. The plunking sound of a snapping turtle splashing down from a log summoned us to look. On the way back, we saw several deer, their white tails flashing away in the woods as if they were waving good-bye as they bolted away. Can you see it?
The hiking worked up our appetites. We found pizza at a bar that was just like pizza in New Jersey, my home state, with the thin crust and fresh tomato sauce bubbling through the cheese. Artisanal cheese was everywhere we went, left and right, at the farmers market on the village green, at a “farm and feast festival” in a pasture, at the cheese factory originally built by Calvin Coolidge’s father next to the Coolidge homestead, and on the kitchen counters of family. Can you taste it?
The local-vore food movement is big in Vermont and so is craft beer. Vegetables from my sister’s garden tasted crisper, cleaner, more intense. I think the cool night air enhances the tomatoes and cucumbers by sealing in the flavors. Standing on the hill next to the garden, you have a panoramic view of the stars in the black night sky. We gazed at the Milky Way. At bedtime, you leave the windows open and listen to the crickets as the crisp cool air wafts across the room. Can you feel it?
Each time I visit Vermont, there is a new experience. My sister and her husband took my boyfriend and I to this farm and feast celebration at a cooperative farm. It was rainy Thursday night and the hold farmers sell their goods no matter what the weather. We ate ice cream handed to us by the guy who milked his own cows to make it. The cappuccino ice cream had a warm cinnamon streak.
Under one of the big tents, a band was playing. We ventured in. The tent was striped, like a small circus tent. The band comprised a fiddler in a kilt, a bassist and a singer. Their biggest fan sat next to my boyfriend on a bale of hay. He ribbed me to get me to check her out. She had wild locks of long blonde and brown hair. Her head was swaying in circles and side to side, gyrating, with her fully engrossed in the musical experience. She was slapping her yoga-panted legs and practically bouncing out of her sandals.
She leapt forth and started a tango with a young man who, based on his fluid movements, appeared to have ice dancing experience. Her enthusiasm propelled her to the pole in the middle of the tent, the supporting pole. She switched from hippie chick to burlesque lady and began to pole dance. I was so glad my 11-year-old niece was still outside talking to the nice ice cream man.
The next day, my boyfriend drove an hour to meet my oldest friend for lunch. Literally, he is my oldest friend because we have known each other our whole lives. Mark and I were born about seven hours apart so we met in the newborn nursery. He recommended a music festival and we took him up on the suggestion. It was in a big green field, next to a farm, and craft beer was being served, of course. “Look who’s here!” my boyfriend exclaimed. It was the three-piece band and the wild dancer lady. Can you see it? Vermont is small state.
Sensory experiences can make us feel closer to others in a shared space. I got to visit my other sister’s new home. It is near a cold lake into which you jump from a broad dock for a bracing refresher of what a summer day can feel like. Shockingly enveloped in cold water you forget the unmeaningful and feel close to true nature.
This sister’s house backs onto a brook streaming from that lake and standing in the grass of her backyard you can hear it babbling. Going into her finished basement from a patio door, you are in her painting studio. I express myself with words and she has always been a visual artist. Wherever she has lived, I love visiting her studios. There is a distinct aroma – gesso – which is used to tighten canvass once it is stretched ahead of painting. Her art is bright and vibrant. The use of various colors bring a sense of motion and stimulation. I immediately felt at home in her studio in recognizing these sensory cues that I associate with her. Travelling up a staircase, I saw a print hanging on the wall of a roseate spoonbill and was reminded of my home in the Texas Gulf Coast region. Sometimes you have to go away to find yourself at home again. Do you see it?
Ahead of this trip, I had daydreams about what we would see and do. It is special when the imagined becomes real and you do experience even more. Now, I have the reverie of being their again. Can you see it? Can you taste it? Can you feel it?