Sunday, November 15, 2015

Far over the misty mountains old

When we were planning to come back to Vermont,  we had some concerns: was it wise to go back to a place we had loved so deeply? What if our memories had cast that infamous rosy glow on our time here? Was it like trying to step back in time?

And indeed, the first few days here were like stepping back into a memory. It was late fall. The maple leaves had fallen, but the gold-brown leaves clung to the oak trees, and the willows had not yet turned.

As we walked through the forest at Mount Philo, we watched golden leaves hang and drift through sunlit misty air. "Why, oh why didn't we come three weeks earlier?" we asked one another every day in that first week or so. But it was all exactly as I had remembered it, my favourite time of the year in Vermont.

The sense of unreality was undoubtedly exacerbated by the fact that we had visited Hogwarts on the way here.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

In 30 degrees heat, children and adults were dressed formally (long pants, long-sleeved shirt, house tie, covered shoes and socks, wool-lined cape with a house crest) for dinner in Hogwarts Great Hall, buying wands from Olivanders, and and chattering about Quidditch. In those strange two days, what was real seemed to slip away - on the way to the hotel, our cab driver seemed equally mystified by both our destination ("Vermont? Where's that? Canada, is it?") and our point of departure ("New what? New Zealand? That's in Scotland, right, by your accent?").  I found myself trying to explain the basic principles of rugby to him: "So, it's like softball, right?" he said when I'd come to a stammering halt.  No. No, it really isn't.

Speaking of rugby, this family of kiwis got their priorities right at Disneyworld....a friend of Em's was live-streaming the game by holding her phone out to the TV

Celebrating a great All Black victory!

After a few days, the intense yet hazy sense of dislocation passed, as it does. But still there persists a remnant of that feeling that time and space are not operating in predictable ways. We are back in the cottage by the lake, looking across to the shadowy Adirondack mountains. Our first days were about reacquainting ourselves with the people (and dogs) in this community and catching up on their news, taking familiar walks, visiting our favourite places (Dakon Farms and the Flannel Shop were high on the list). Lizzy went back to her old school and rejoiced to be back with old friends. We picked up our old car. On Sunday we went back to Trinity Church and it was truly lovely to be welcomed back by old friends. And then back to UVM, and to my dear friends in WID, and it really felt as I'd stepped back into a loved, alternative life that had been simply running alongside my New Zealand life all along.

OK, alright - yes, I agree - I've watched way too much Star Trek and Dr Who in my time. And yes,  Bruce and the girls always smile indulgently at me when we're watching one of these programmes and someone says "You can't mess with the space-time continuum" and I sigh a happy sigh. And yet, and yet... "how's life in the future?" I hear Em saying to her friends in NZ.

Image result for picard Space time continuum

Nevertheless, among all that is familiar and constant, time and memories have made changes. The Spinones of Long Point, Broli and Falco, are smaller than we remember them now that we have one of our own.  Our neighbour by the lake is negotiating a new relationship. There are a few unfamiliar faces in the WID department. The girls' friendship groups have kaleidoscoped into new patterns. Most vivid (and joyous) of all was a change that met me as we walked into Trinity Church. Two years ago, a young couple sat on the front pew, sobbing through every service, the wife frail, pregnant and dangerously ill and having to make the kinds of decisions you'd pray no-one ever had to make. As we walked through the doors of the church, two little girls with strawberry blonde hair were dashing around the foyer, and their father greeted us with an open  smile I'd never dreamed of seeing on his face. I watched for the next hour how the community held and nurtured this family - how different people played with the twins, carried them out of the church for the sermon, held them on their hips as they walked to communion so their parents could have a rest. This community had prayed for a miracle, and now they were living out that miracle.

Change and constancy are a part of all our lives - of course, we know this - but you don't see them clearly until you go back into a loved life, the life you don't lead. I am rejoicing in the old and the new. As I look over the lake, to the misty mountains behind Lake Champlain, I find myself back with Tennyson:

The hills are shadows, and they flow
      From form to form, and nothing stands;
      They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

Nothing ever stays the same; even mountains shift and flow in the minds and memories of generations, and in the tectonic changes of millennia. We live with the old and the becoming new. In Vermont I can somehow hold them both.


  1. I'm glad you love Vermont just as much as ever, even with all the changes x

  2. What a wonderfully rich account of your first few weeks. I'm so glad it is all you remember, and more xx

  3. Such poetic imagery Lisa — thank you!
    Speaking of the intricacies of time, a favourite movie of mine is The Lake House :-)