Life Together Divided

Route to VermontLynne and I both loved Vermont before we loved each other.  She had been traveling there annually for 16 years for the Marlboro Music Festival. I had spent most vacations camping in Vermont’s state parks for a decade. We continued the trips together from our home in Greenwich Village, sometimes camping, sometimes renting a house, taking in at least one weekend of the music festival every summer. After a few years of this, we bought a piece of woodland on a dirt road a short drive from the college that hosts the festival.  We camped on our land for five years, and then we had a modest house built on it.

At first, our jobs limited us to weekends in Vermont. Nowadays, we are there most of the time from late May, when we plant our vegetable garden, until mid-October, when the garden has collapsed from exhaustion.

Throughout the summer, there’s no place we’d rather be than at our house, where the screened porch and a glass of iced tea are all the air conditioning we generally need as we savor the food that we’ve grown ourselves. The house and the surrounding woods give us space to spread out, night skies thick with stars, and a level of tranquility that is all but impossible to achieve in the city. Nearby are half a dozen lakes where we can float in our canoe for hours watching kingfishers swoop over the water in arcs between shoreline trees, peering through binoculars at loons looks teaching their new offspring to fish, and listening to bullfrog choruses that bring street-corner doo-op singers to mind. The first hints of fall color in August tear at my heart a little.

By late November, though, any garden sass that we didn’t eat fresh has been canned, frozen, or dehydrated, and its quality no longer depends on being consumed just a few yards from where it grew. The trees are bare, the lakes are iced over, and the canoe is stashed under the porch for the winter. It’s time to get the house ready for the family that has rented it, and treated it with care, for the last 10 ski seasons. We are looking forward to a season of total immersion in theater, concerts, jazz clubs, art museums and the teeming life on the sidewalks that lead to them.

When our tenants leave at the end of March, trees and flowers have usually begun to bloom in Manhattan, and the city is at its loveliest. Still, I cannot wait to get to Vermont if only to see how much snow is still on the ground, assess the damage the snowplows have done to our fences, and stoke the woodstove with the remnants of the winter’s log pile to take the chill from the air.