Monday, November 23, 2015

Frost country

We've settled in now. We have a clear weekday routine in the household, with an early start: Bruce takes me to the bus stop on Route 7 at 6.45am on the days I'm working at UVM, the girls are out of the house by 7.10am. Bruce luxuriates in 8 or 9 hours of peaceful work, accompanied only by the birds and assorted wildlife in the back garden, until the girls tumble out of the bus at around 3.40pm, and then he comes up to Route 7 to pick me up from the bus at 5.30pm.
I've had two fruitful weeks at work: it's exciting to see the results of my research put into action in a new context. The opening lecture was well attended, and workshops have been going well - lots of enthusiasm, lots of discussion about writing and science, and now we are starting the meetings about where to go next with this material.

The weather so far has been unseasonably mild and clear (to the frustration of our energetic friends who are polishing their skis and willing the forecast to signal that snow is on its way). Saturday was the first morning since we've been here that we've woken up to temperatures firmly below zero. We set off in search of a dead poet early in the morning under a clear washed-pink sky and fields frosted (appropriately) in white.  

Robert Frost is one of my favourite poets. My very first English assignment at university had a Robert Frost poem as its subject, and I've read many of his poems so often that they're almost part of the way I think. Last time we were here, we visited his country cabin in Ripton and walked the trails that inspired much of his poetry. This time we were heading to Bennington, for his grave, and for the house he lived in from 1920-1929, where he wrote some of his most famous poems, including my favourite, "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening".

 Overshadowing Bennington is a giant phallic symbol...uhum, did I say that out loud? - sorry, obelisk on the top of a hill. The Bennington Battle Monument commemorates the Battle of Bennington, a hard-won fight in the War of Independence:  set amongst beautiful, historic, colonial mansions, the monument casts its shadow over the humble homes in the valley. Bennington seems an unlikely place to be be held in thrall by so much testosterone: it is a small, quiet town which feels weighted down by its history. 

We found Robert Frost's grave in the lovely cemetery of the Old First Congregational Church.


The grave was in a quiet place, and fringed with nickels placed by visitors. So, as well as adding nickels of my own, I left a New Zealand coin to say that we'd been there.

We enjoyed Bennington: the locals were friendly, and there was a lot to do in such a small town. We ate in laid-back cafes which served locally grown food and were furnished with old, squashy sofas.

 We visited two amazing chocolate shops.
Emily wishes to consume the chocolate moose

So much to choose from!! Chocolate turkeys anyone? Salted caramel chocolate snowmobiles? Curried chicken cashews??

We visited the Bennington museum, which hosted a collection of Grandma Moses paintings...

This was my favourite, named "The sugaring".
 I asked Bruce as we walked around the gallery if he liked them and he said "Not at first - I thought they were too Christmas-cardy, but then you look closely and they're so full of life." And that's what I love about her paintings too: the way they portray the energy of a community life.

The museum was guarded outside by (don't blame me, it's the testosterone) a rather iffy "Spirit of America". Hmmm. Really?

We drove through three beautiful covered bridges.

Finally, we made our way to Robert Frost's house outside Shaftsbury.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall (thanks, Jerry!)
 We couldn't go inside - like everywhere else now, it is "closed for the season," but to sit on the stone walls and look out at the birch and apple trees, all features of Frost's poems, was all pleasure.

How many times in this blog have I returned to this theme of "the road not taken"? But let's not go there today. Let's simply say that this was such a satisfying day, walking through a sleepy old town full of ancient memories of battles and glory, and poetry.


  1. I particularly like the sound of Bruce's routine :-)

    That second photograph of the girls in the chocolate shop is a classic.

    1. Yes,Pete, it took some effort to stop those girls from buying enough sugar to last for a year!

  2. Two people I SO love and admire, Robert Frost and Grandma Moses. I always remember walking with Jill through the woods near her home and saying "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep..." we were flying out that day back to NZ!

    1. Jean, my first ever English assignment - on "Stopping by woods" - was in Robert's class! I'll never forget him reading the poem out loud. And yes, Robert Frost and Grandma Moses in one day - what could be better??