This evening I drove down a long winding Vermont road that took me into the cozy town of Tunbridge, home to the annual Tunbridge World’s Fair and the Tunbridge Sheep & Wool Festival (both of which I recommend!). After passing through the town’s main drag, I turned down some bumpier dirt roads, led by my GPS onto the back roads of some other back roads. I was beginning to wonder if I had the right address, but the stellar views of the blazing autumn foliage sweeping through the mountains was well worth the momentary confusion.
I eventually ended up right where I needed to be – a magically beautiful 12-acre parcel of land that my friends Sarah and Jeff just purchased to build a home and start a farm. In celebration of their new land, friends gathered together for a cider pressing party.
We enjoyed conversations while sipping apple cider warmed in a kettle suspended by a make-shift stove of two crow bars and a metal rack over an oil-drum fire. Cleverness maximizing utility. While some warmed, others spun, cranked, and fed the apple press, which was filling pint jars by the second. Apples came from nearby trees and by the buckets-full from each new friend to the party. The evening air was cool, the fire warm, and I made many a friend over shared experiences with the church, farming, and discussing tips and tricks for the inevitably approaching winter. For my first Vermont winter, I need all the advice I can get.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” – Norwegian saying
I was talking to Sarah’s sister Caroline by the fire about things to do and see in Tennessee, when, as fate would have it – it began to snow!
At first, I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or to cry. My heart made up my mind, and I continued to enjoy my cider and the company of new friends. The snow eased up, and I drove back down those winding roads and made it safely back home, feeling warmed and inspired by the adventure and new friends.
On my drive back, I thought of a Mary Oliver poem from her newest collection Felicity —
August of another summer, and once again
I am drinking the sun
and the lilies again are spread across the water.
I know now what they want is to touch each other.
I have not been here for many years
during which time I kept living my life.
Like the heron, who can only croak, who wishes he
I wish I could sing.
A little thanks from every throat would be appropriate.
This is how it has been, and this is how it is:
All my life I have been able to feel happiness,
except whatever was not happiness,
which I also remember.
Each of us wears a shadow.
But just now it is summer again
and I am watching the lilies bow to each other,
then slide on the wind and the tug of desire,
close, close to one another,
Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.
The shadow of winter is approaching, but this time of transition is part of the greater cycle of seasons and shades – both of weather and of self. The joys of spring blossoms, summer heat, autumn colors, and winter white evolve out of melted puddles, treacherous thunderstorms, barren trees, and frozen earth. The good with the bad. The light with the dark. The joy with the sorrow. The gain with the loss. The warm with the cold. It is through each step between that we learn more, come together, and become more faithful and stronger for future seasons and all different shades of weather and self. It is my hope, that after my first northern winter, I too might come out singing.