Thursday, July 20, 2006

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Photo: This is Buddha and me in the town of Stowe, Vermont. I'd just finished rummaging around at the library book sale where I bought a great collection of works by Checkov and also a volume of Anne Morrow Lindburgh's diaries and letters, War Within and Without.

The excuse to go to Vermont was to take our son Brian to the "Long Trail." He is walking this trail for a month. Originally, I was going to let Allen take Brian and I was going to stay home and write. But then I thought about what the Dali Lama said, that you should go somewhere you've never been at least once a year. I'd always wanted to see Vermont.

I'm not a lover of travel. Moving vehicles scare me. I become a complete wreck psychologically while traveling on roads. I have a hermit's temperament. I like a familiar place and I like to dig in and create my own rhythm for the days. I am in my glory when I can get up whenever I want, feed and pet my cats, tend to my little chickens, and work on various artistic projects at will.

I know there have been many writers who have been stay-at-homes who have written perfectly gorgeous and important works without venturing much past their front porches. But lurking in the back of my mind is always the suspicion that I need to get out and DO something, at least once in a while, to know life better, to FEEL life, to move beyond my self-made days. I'm married to a man who loves to GO and to DO, so this helps.

We took Brian to the Long Trail and stayed in our tent near the trail head. It was pouring rain. The wind whipped our old tent around and knocked it loose from its moorings. The floor filled with water and the wet walls slapped against my back. I stared into the darkness, wondering when the night would end. Once, I noticed I could see my own hands and told Allen I thought day might be breaking. He told me daylight was a long way off. Such events teach patience.

We snapped lots of photos of Brian as he set out on the trail and then drove to a camping area near Stowe. We got a site with a "Lean-to," which is a 3-sided structure built off the ground. Ours was a walk-in site, so it was quite private. Surprisingly, we were able to sleep inside the lean-to without the tent: a few mosquitos but not bad. It was great not to have to set up the wet tent, great to be able to look out at the trees and listen to the frogs, smell the sweet mountain air. The rain had stopped and we had nothing but a few sprinkles here and there the rest of the time we were there.

On the first day we went to Stowe and I checked out a library book sale. I couldn't resist! What a great sourvenir of Vermont: A collection of works by Anton Checkov published in 1929 with the Vermont Library stamps on several pages. Think of it: this book is nearly eighty years old. Checkov's works were not translated and therefore not widely known until after WWI, so this must have been one of the first collections of his published in the United States. Reading a few of the stories back at the lean-to I understood for the first time why Checkov is considered a master writer. The psychological depth of his characters is amazing. This understanding of human nature and motivation is something I just now feel I'm getting a handle on, if even just a little bit. Sometimes I wonder if it was easier in Checkov's time to understand humanity. Was there more time for studying fellow human beings and for self-reflection then? Somehow I think there was, but I don't want to take away from Checkov's accomplishments or make excuses for my lack of artistic output. The writer's way requires self-determination and a certain amount of faith in the process, a willingness to free fall through the imagination and create works that may never be read by anyone, no matter when the writer was born.

On the second day we walked a trail up to Sterling Pond. I thought several times I wouldn't make it. It was steep and took a lot of climbing. Someone had told us how beautiful it was up there, and I was determined to make it. Adding to the difficulty was the hot and humid weather. It was too bad we ended up going to Vermont at the beginning of a heat wave. I was happy later to hear younger, fitter people say that is a particularly difficult trail because I found the going excessively tough. I'm hard headed, though, so I made it. The pond is so clean and is a favorite swimming hole for locals and campers. It was late by the time Allen and I (and Buddha!) arrived, and we were the only ones there. Buddha had no trouble going up or down the mountain.

On the third day we walked a few more trails and on the fourth day we rested. Our last night there was the most lovely. We made a campfire and looked for a long time at millions of stars.

10 comments:

ckays1967 said...

MY FRIEND.....


This post has the elements of a book in it.


I was enthralled and would buy the whole story, if there was one to buy.



I stared into the darkness, wondering when the night would end. Once, I noticed I could see my own hands and told Allen I thought day might be breaking. He told me daylight was a long way off. Such events teach patience.

Anonymous said...

What treasures you found at the library book sale. "...and then he left." This is such a powerful ending, and the writer, by portraying the disconnection with such a light brush, seems to understand and sympathize with the melancholic temperament, don't you think? Teagrapple

beths front porch said...

Travel is a mystery and stretches us, I think. I too believe we should go somewhere new at least once/year. My favorite Chekhov story is the one in which the old cab driver tries to tell each of his fares throughout the day about the death of his son, and finally tells it to his old horse, the only living being that would truly listen to his heart's sorrow.

Thank you for sharing your Stowe trip.

cpc said...

When I was in college, I was "directed" to read Chekov's Cherry Orchard or something close to that. I remember it being insightful, but very very difficult to get past all of the Russian names.

Enjoy Vermont and the Green Mountains. You will be back to the flatlands before you know it.

ggw07 said...

Thanks for all the Vermont photos and impressions- The camping in the rain and the stars- the bookstores and Chekov- Yes- all magnificent- which we've known for years- Glad you've made these discoveries- especially thanks for the reminder- "self-determination and a certain amount of faith in the process, a willingness to free fall through the imagination"- as I'm exploring new genre lately- falling and keeping going-
Gretchen

Paul said...

As a post script to your Vermont experience, may I recommend the book "A Stranger in the Kingdom" by Frank Mosher.

V said...

Aw, it`s so exciting to see a series of Theresa posts to ponder, especially about Vermont.
Stowe is a beautiful town, isn`t it?
.....We took Brian to the Long Trail and stayed in our tent near the trail head. It was pouring rain. The wind whipped our old tent around and knocked it loose from its moorings. The floor filled with water and the wet walls slapped against my back. I stared into the darkness, wondering when the night would end. .....
My son & I once were camping in vermont when a giant thunderstorm stalled over us. Very fearful, we had to abandon our tent & sit in the overhang in front of the bathrooms. The next day we spent hours drying everything in town.

V said...

I`m back.

I would never have thought to stop at the Stowe library & find such treasures. I guess I lack the background and passion.

The very first book of any substance that I read which was not a school assignment was lent to me by a friend, a high school drop-out who didn`t work, didn`t do much of anything. Another Russian, Fyodor Dostoevsky, "Crime & Punishment". What a wonder!

Your posts have really made me reminisce about so many trips to Vermont. With my son, with S. Some wonderful times.
V

Vicky said...

What a beautiful post, my friend. Your sweetness and openness shine through. Thank you for taking us along with you to share the beauties and treasures you discovered. I, too, love Chekov. There is an openness about his writing, as well. He is able to stare into the souls of his characters and reveal them to his readers. That scene you describe is very touching. Note: "he smiled CULPABLY" - so he believed it was his fault that the marriage was that way? And thank you for the insights into Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life. It sounds like she was accepting of her lot, but who knows? Maybe if societal standards had been different...

Tom said...

What a great travelogue entry, Theresa. Book sales are really grand. Books are sort of like works of art that get sold and traded from place to place until they become very old. Checkov is a fine souvenir. I haven't read many Russian authors besides Dostoevsky, so I will have to give Checkov a try real soon.

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