By Joanna Tebbs Young
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
There’s a meme I’ve seen on social media that goes like this: “I’m not an early bird or night owl; I’m some form of permanently exhausted pigeon.” Well, I resemble that remark. Somewhat. If I can get up and consume copious amounts of coffee in a short amount of time, then I can “do” mornings pretty well. IF I can get up…
This past weekend, I had no choice. It was imperative that I rise before the sun — on a Saturday no less! — if I was to arrive in Lyndonville, Vermont by 9 a.m. for the League of Local Museums & Historical Societies’ conferences where I was presenting and receiving an award. It was a big-deal day for me. Stumbling around in the darkness so as not to wake my husband, I managed to get dressed and minimally presentable, then tiptoe downstairs to make coffee and make sure my bag contained everything I would need for the day. It was chilly out, and I had to locate the winter gear and dig out gloves for the first time this year. Finally, I was ready to go; bleary-eyed, but ready.
It was foggy that morning, and the white gauze thickened as I drove up Route 4 towards Killington. Reflecting the light of the rising sun, the soupy mist became an orange-pink-gray unlike anything I have ever seen. The trees hugging the road and mountainsides, not as vibrant as they have the potential to be with their reds and oranges, were, to my eye, even more majestic this day in their cloak of yellow golds. Shining through the fog, it was as if they were underwater, shimmering jewels of muted color, or a molten world veiled by a window hung with peach lace. The effect was other-worldly, surreal — almost too perfect. I felt I was driving through a postcard, its image doctored to enhance the beauty of the landscape pictured there.
Suddenly, the fiery herald of a new day flashed a silent Reveille above the fogless ridgeline. I was momentarily blinded as it rose red and orange and unfathomably huge. I could only gasp at the splendor and try not to drive off the road, as I tried to take it all in.
I wanted to stop and take a photograph but I decided against it. For two reasons: one, I’d possibly make myself late, and two: I wanted to remember this. While that may sound strange, I recently heard an interview on VPR which confirmed something I had first considered with some writing friends a few years ago. Taking a photo can limit our remembrance of an event. Our mind delegates that function to the camera. But even more unfortunate, when we are clicking a picture or filming a video, we are looking at the subject indirectly, secondhand. When we see something through a lens, we are watching instead of experiencing it. I wanted to experience this fully and completely. I wanted to live in those incredible colors, if only for a moment. And yes, I can see them even now in my mind’s eye, and so I experience it yet again as I write this.
Even after heading down off the peak of Route 4, the fog remained. It lingered on the road, it floated above the Ottauquechee River, and it obscured the slopes sweeping up from the valley cutting through them. But then, a momentary tear in the curtain, and the sun, risen now and goldenrod yellow, would stream in, floodlighting the burnished palate of trees, setting them aglow.
The fog hung suspended all along Highway 91, where at times as I drove into the Northeast Kingdom, I wondered if the end of the world had come. Not a car was in sight, and a blanket of white wrapped around my visual plane. I could have been in a valley, on a plain, or high atop a mountain for all I could see. Then, once again, the clouds would part and a bright mosaic suddenly flare out before me.
I was almost disappointed when I finally arrived at my destination.
Six hours later, the journey home was more Taps than Reveille, and my drooping eyelids were a reminder that this exhausted pigeon was ready to roost. But then, at the end of a day of unforgettable events, I suddenly woke up to the fact that I was driving into a pink-streaked sunset — over Killington. In one planetary turn, I had managed to be at the same place at the same moments as the sun declared the day begun and when it would be done.
I often marvel at the beauty of this state in which we are so fortunate to live, but October 28, 2017 will now live in my mind as the day Vermont outdid even her usual resplendent self.