It is November and in November it rains a lot and snows a little in Vermont. It rains quite a lot actually. And the wind blows. All of that snow we get over the next few months is mostly water in November.
Now wind has always my favorite bit of weather. But Vermont has these things called Nor’easters. It is wind to the tenth power. Power lines fall down, trees crack in the middle, and the sound floating through the woods is the oldest sounding thing I have ever heard. Wind echoing off the mountains and blowing through the woods sounds lonely and timeless. Sitting inside with a roaring fire and a couple of dogs by your feet makes it sound good. Driving home with your windshield wipers adding to the cacophony makes it sound bad.
One morning this week, it had been blowing for hours and the rain wasn’t letting up, and we were out of everything. I’d been traveling and came home wondering just what my family does for toilet paper anyway when I am away. So I headed off to the store.
I no sooner got on our little main road than the wind kicked up even louder and faster, and I heard a loud crack followed by a POW, and saw a pine tree falling in a crazy slow motion on the road up ahead. This was a big pine tree and its branches covered the road for about 7 or 8 car lengths. Pieces of it were everywhere. I was about the third car behind where it fell. Amazingly, not a single car got hit except for small stray bits of pine. For a few seconds nobody moved. I could feel my heartbeat loud and fast. We were all straining our necks and looking up and around to see if there was anything else. There wasn’t. The wind even slowed down a little so we could catch our breaths. And then, without seeming to think about it much the car doors all started opening and we each piled out into the road. There were also cars on the other side of the tree on this well traveled road, and they all got out too. People started putting on gloves and hauling the broken pieces to the side of the road. A couple of guys drove their car through a field and headed to the general store where a gas powered chain saw was borrowed and they set about cutting up the massive tree. It took about a half an hour to cut enough to open up the road, but nobody got in their cars or tried to drive around. We all spent another half hour hauling the hunks of trunk to the side. Kids and smaller people hauled the littler pieces. The rest of us carried the trunk pieces, sometimes two of us to a piece, over to the side, where another couple of people rolled and stacked the tree.
An hour later, and the road was cleared. Everyone shook hands, got back into their cars and drove off. It was so cold. My eyes were watery and my mascara was runny. I turned up the heat, found some tissues and lifted my hand to my face. The piney smell was everywhere. My gloves may smell like a pine forest forever now. It was in my coat and my hair. Almost like Christmas, it was a gladdening smell and it came with a full feeling.
The sense of community is strong here. We leave our differences behind when we get into our cars. You never know when it will be you stuck in a snow drift in 10 below zero temperatures, or when you will work side by side with your grumpy neighbor clearing a path to get to the store.
Sometimes I miss the anonymity of the city. I long to sit in a coffee shop where no one knows me and I can while away hours undisturbed by the minor chat and cadences of a small village. But more days are like this one was. I am just filled with gratitude for this life and privileged to share with these few other people, this little side of a mountain, in this high valley, in this beautiful place…