Well

Micaela asked if we could build a “well.” It just so happened that the weekend before we did another major purge of our possessions, but for some random reason I kept the rope and pulley needed to build it. I easily tracked them down in the garage and got to work.

While scouring the woods behind our house for the right-size pieces, the kids hammered nails into wood, and Annie picked up metal out of the fire pit with a magnet. Micaela and Emeth built airplanes.

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When Annie was done with the magnet, Emeth asked me to tie a string to it. He tried picking up my tools but the axe was a bit too heavy.

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I finished the well. Success.

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When we went inside Micaela and Emeth dressed up like Rachel and me.

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Quechee Gorge

We visited the Quechee Gorge. It was a scorching 76 degrees. I wore pants by mistake. But thankfully the trail was heavily shaded and mostly cool.

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We walked upstream to the dam, not realizing all the fun swimming was downstream.

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Bridge that crosses the Gorge.

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When we got to the dam, I was expecting a more spectacular view. But the kids made the best of it by finding and collecting cicada shells on the conifer bark.

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We thought about walking the mile to the bottom of the Gorge. But the kids were enjoying walking very slowly, picking up pine needles, observing all manner of life around them, and climbing the fence to get a view of the river beneath.

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Talia did her fair share of complaining, but she pushed through, and I only had to carry her a few times before she’d want to run off with “guys” to see what was up ahead.

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We made it back to the Visitors’ Center. Talia was disappointed it was closed. We observed the bluish-blackish night tomatoes on the vine, got in the van, and drove home. Talia fell asleep.

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Number Nine

Rachel and I celebrated our ninth anniversary! (Together, thankfully.) We dropped the kids off with J.M. “Oh, you’re going to Woodstock? Can you fill this prescription for N- while you’re out?” Sure, no problem. We drove to Woodstock, relishing the opportunity for a few hours of uninterrupted conversation, food, fun and thought.

We went to the pharmacy. I was nervous, wondering whether they’d discover my true identify. “Mr. M-?” They called out, as I browsed the store. “Your order is ready.” In the clear.

“First, I need you to verify your phone number.” Not in the clear. I broke into a cold sweat. I didn’t know J’s phone number off the top of my head. Thankfully, the clerk read it off to me.

“Yes, that sounds about right.” I handed them J’s debit card.

“I’d ask for your ID, but your obviously not J-.”

Obviously not. I smiled, laughed, took the prescription, and walked back over to Rache. She had a large, soft, cuddly bunny in hand. “Should we get this for Caela?” Sure. She’d been asking for one for a long time. We also got a VT sticker for the van.

We popped into Unicorn, then over to the Yarn Shop. Rache picked up some soft-and-cuddly yarn to make something soft-and-cuddly, and a pattern for a cowl she really liked on display.

We walked to the river.

We brought Rilke’s Book of Hours, and read a few poems. Our favorite was “Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte.” Thankfully, only the title was in German.

Then to Yankee Book Shop across the street. After browsing for awhile, and almost giving up, I came across Thoreau’s Walden. I had tried to read it years earlier, but I wasn’t ready. This time, I am.

Hungry, we drove to the Woodstock Farmer’s Market. We picked up a few things, then drove up Prosper Road to a trail head on Mt. Tom. We ate in the parking lot, then ventured forth onto McKenzie Farm Trail to the Pogue.

When we arrived, the water sparkled from a gentle breeze. So gentle I could barely feel it. Dragonflies danced. Frogs hopped. Turtles turtled. It was very, very quiet. How quiet, I thought.

Completely quiet
Barely a movement
Nature’s infinite variation and beauty

Its minimalism — not stark or empty
Just removing distraction so you can see clearly
Like Rilke, removing the walls
we put up between ourselves and God.

 

 

Artistree Class

Each Tuesday evening — for about the last five or six weeks — Rachel took Micaela, Emeth and Anna to a class at Artistree, in South Pomfret, called “Mindfulness and Art.” Last night was their last class. The kids really loved their teachers, Susan and Katelyn, and expressed long, heart-felt gratitude and goodbyes.

The last two times, Talia and I came along, picnicked and played on the playground while we waited for “guys” to finish. When done, “guys” ran out yelling, “Talia! We had time to make something for you!” They handed Talia a clear, smooth, plastic bottle with water and colorful glitter inside. “Shake it! Shake it!” Talia was very pleased.

“Guys” ate their dinner then played on the swings.

“Daddy, can you run up and down the hill with me?” Emeth asked. So we ran up and down the hill. At first, Annie and Talia wanted to be held on the run down, but I quickly got tired, and used it as an excuse to take some pictures. “Guys” kept going, holding blankets out, flowing in the wind, pretending to be birds. Talia ran up with them, but was reluctant to run down by herself. So Rachel helped her.

Talia wanted to do it again. So Caela walked up with her. Talia still was hesitant. Then, suddenly, she ran down.

As the sun set over the mountain, they played in the sandbox while Rachel and I walked around the robust and beautiful garden. Not a weed in sight. Leeks and peppers. Flowing cucumber vines. Purple top turnips almost as big as my head.

 

Summer

Summer has been a great time to get out and about! Here are some recent happenings and pictures. (You can click on each picture to see a larger image.)

Feast & Field

Every Thursday at Feast & Field in Barnard they have a farmer’s market, live music, food and drink. We’ve only gone one time, but it was great!

On July 20, Sensible Shoes was playing some old time rock and originals. We walked through the farmer’s market where they were selling local fare and handmade goods.

Our tummies were rumbling, but we wanted to walk around the rolling hills first, and see the grounds. They had a large plot devoted to rows of potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, Brussels Sprouts, Swiss chard, beets, and so much more. At the top of the hill we played on a modern art sculpture. There were no signs telling us we couldn’t, but we didn’t look for one either. We took pictures of the sky.

We headed back to the market and stood in line for pasture-raised pork from Eastman Farm (over not-local rice), and salad. We sat down in the grass on our picnic blanket, ate, listened to music and people-watched for a while, until the kids were comfortable with their surroundings. They soon began running around and around the picnic blanket. Those in front and behind us took notice. Annie entertained them with all her might.

We said hello to the mother and son in front of us. Very lovely people, and it was wonderful to talk with grown-ups for a bit.

We stayed till the music stopped, and people started trickling out. We packed up our picnic, and began walking slowly back to our van. But a classic Volkswagen bus caught our attention, driving up onto the field, the opposite direction of everyone else. So we walked past it.

The owner was very nice. He showed us inside and answered our questions about the Westfalia modifications with a never-diminishing smile on his face. Despite Emeth’s apparent lack of enthusiasm in the posed pictures below, he really loved it. He called it the “Driving House,” and the owner took to it with delight.

 


 

Echo Lake (Camp Plymouth)

Cousins For a Visit

We’ve been frequenting Echo Lake (Camp Plymouth), about 20 minutes away. The water is cool and refreshing, and the grounds are very clean. There are picnic tables and grills, so we’ve been bringing a cast iron skillet filled to the brim with meat and vegetables. We cook the same food at home, but the kids devour the grilled version with much more gusto and enthusiasm.

We met cousins (Kristi, Jimmy, Zach, Anna, and Ella) there, one last time before their trip west. We swam, grilled burgers and veggies, and soaked in the sun. The kids had a great time, and so did the parents. The kids love the swings and playground there.

At home we ate cookies, played and talked. (Sorry Z and A for not making them sweet enough!)


 

Mushroom Trail

There’s a trail head just up the hill from our house. The kids named it “Mushroom Trail.” The next morning, after breakfast, we took the cousins to it. The kids ran ahead, while Jimmy repeated his mantra, “Zach, can you see me!” Talia led the pack some of the way. We found a spot to take pictures, then headed back for water because we were getting thirsty. It was a beautiful morning, and we really enjoyed being together. At home, the cousins packed up, we said our goodbyes, and they were off. A short, but heart-full visit.

 

Later that day I hiked further, curious about what was ahead. I didn’t reach the end, but it was very peaceful. I reached a rock that was a sort-of-overlook. I could see Mt. Ascutney behind the tree line. I took some pictures, then sat down, and enjoyed the sunshine and quiet.

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Anna’s “5 Birthday”

Annie turned five! She wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. John, Janet, Noah, Max and baby O came over to celebrate. We sang happy birthday, played, talked, and ate our cookies with milk and raspberries from our neighbor’s bushes.

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Morning Walk

Rachel and Emeth went for a morning walk. Taking pictures of all the color around us.


 

Summer Harvest

Keeping ahead of all the weeds has been challenging, but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the garden. I recently noticed some of the potato plants wilting. Wondering if they were dead, and if potato bugs had eaten the spuds, I pulled them up to discard. I started raking the soil onto the plants next to it, when to my great delight and surprise gorgeous, red potatoes rolled out.

Some of the cherry tomatoes are ripening. They are extremely sweet and juicy!

We continue to get buckets full of kale, and lots of radishes. We’ve also gotten one or two cucumbers and zucchini. The plants look healthy, and should hopefully start pumping them out soon. Pleasant surprises, all around us.

The kids like to play in the dirt.


Re-arranging

Rachel’s been enjoying a bit of re-arranging in the home.


 

Mt. Ascutney

Last Sunday we picnicked at Mt. Ascutney. About 1 mile up there was a picnic table and grill. I lit the coals while the kids started building a bridge across a rain-water drainage ditch. I helped them find sticks and bark to strengthen it. Emeth and I showed off our jumping skills.

We hiked back through the woods to a trickling stream. Just up-stream Micaela and Emeth discovered a very mossy area. They named it “Mossy Trail.” Annie preferred “Acorn Trail.” Both live on.

 

 

After our picnic, we drove to the summit. The view was incredible. When we got out of the van Annie said, “I can see for miles and miles! I can see Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s house from here! I really can!” (You couldn’t.)

 

Annie wanted to take a few pictures. I handed her the camera asking if she could take a picture of me and mommy. We posed. She snapped, looked at the picture, then said, “That’s the best picture I ever took.” Then handed me the camera and ran off. And she was right!

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Behind the lookout there was a small trail inviting us into the piney-woods. The ground was covered with pine needles, and very soft beneath our feet. The kids pretended they lived in the forest, built modest shelters, and collected miniature pine cones for food. Rachel said the abundance of lichen meant the air was very pure.


 

Song Garden

We crossed the border into New Hampshire to visit The Song Garden. There’s a tea house, and you can pick your own flowers. We grabbed baskets and scissors for each, and walked through each garden area snipping flowers. The kids absolutely loved it. Row after row of flowers. So many varieties. Talia especially loved the Cosmos. Emeth was at first drawn to the sunflowers, but found plenty more for his bouquet.

Talia would walk up to a Cosmos and ask, “Is this dead? Can I pick it?”

Annie saw Nasturtiums and said, “We have these at home!”

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We picnicked, played hide-and-seek, walked through the labyrinth maze, and played on the slide. Talia asked before trying, “Is that slide fast? Then I’ll try it.” It was.

She got hot, so I took her dress off. She ran around in her unders, but they kept falling down.

 

 

At home, Micaela and Rachel arranged and re-arranged flowers. “Mom, flower arranging is so fun!”


 

Night

Most nights conclude with an episode or two (or three) of Mr. Rogers. “His real name is Fred,” Emeth likes to remind the others. They love Make Believe time, but Emeth insists on calling it Maple Leaf, perhaps influenced by the character in Tumble Leaf by the same name.

They interact with Fred. He says, “I like to eat cheese. Do you?” And Talia responds, “Cheddar cheese is yummy.”

We dim the lights, brush teeth, and try to settle our full hearts and minds. Emeth sometimes talks till he falls asleep, mid-word or sentence. He asks questions that don’t have definitive answers. Like, “Which could hurt you more: a crocodile or a hippo?” Questions that I find difficult to process with my sleepy mind. But still, we talk on. With each of them, letting them get out their questions and thoughts before bed. And soon we fall asleep, ready for another full summer day.