THOUGHTS ON VERMONT
By Sinclair Lewis
In answer to the question of what I think of Vermont - I have given the most signal and honest proof of my admiration for the state by buying a second home here. As a native Vermonter of about twelve months' standing, I speak deliberately on why I came here and what I think of the state.
It has not been my custom to spend more than eight months in any one place. I have traveled through thirty-six states and have lived in eight or ten, in addition to visiting eighteen foreign countries, but Vermont is the first place I have seen where I really wanted to have my home - a place to spend the rest of my life. There was nothing to prevent me from making any other state my home, but I have found in Vermont precisely the opposite to that peculiar thing pointed out and boasted of as "very American": the desire for terrific speed and the desire to make things grow.
I like Vermont because it is quiet, because you have a population that is solid and not driven mad by the American mania - that mania which considers a town of four thousand as twice as good as a town of two thousand, or a city of one hundred thousand, fifty times as good as a town of two thousand. Following that reasoning, one would get the charming paradox that Chicago would be ten times better than the entire state of Vermont; but I have been in Chicago, and have not found it so.
do not want to be so optimistic or so generous as to say that everyone in the state is free from the "quick growth" heresy. I fancy that there are some people in the state who have the get-rich-quick complex, who would be willing to invest $100 in Florida real estate and expect to get back $5,000, or, in other words, get something without working for it.
I have found the Vermont hills easier and happier to live in than the Rocky Mountains or even the Alps. Those mountains may be higher than your Green Mountains, but they do not have the quiet beauty of your ranges, and their starkness does not make for contented living. I like your valleys and quiet towns - and Vermont is not yet bisected by cement roads 100 feet wide, lined by hot dog stands.
Not one hundred miles from Rutland (Vt.), a short time ago, there stood a beautiful old house, rich in memories and associations of a hundred years ago. It was torn down to build a bank. Now a bank is a necessary thing for a community and a helpful thing, but it was not necessary to tear down that priceless old house. That sort of thing is what Vermont must stop. One county of Vermont contains more beautiful residences, rich in memories of long ago, than all of the vast acreage of California.
I can see coming to Vermont, people who will establish estates here - doctors, writers and college professors with long vacations. Such people would be driven off by brazen methods of advertising, "snappy advertising" such as is used to sell Wrigley's gum.
Regard Cape Cod. In what used to be a quiet fishing town they now have "shoppes" where one can buy frocks such as could be used for the opening of an opera in London, or polo clothes for Miami, or aviation togs.
In Chatham one would even find a night club, which, however, as yet has not received great support, the inhabitants still desiring to sleep. The day will come when it will be patronized, and the patrons will get a fiftieth rate imitation of New York. Why one should want more than one New York is more than I can understand.
It was not the hurricanes or fruit flies, but enterprising businessmen, who killed Florida - businessmen with the desire for speed and quick growth who discovered its beauty and ruined it.
What happened to Florida can happen to Vermont. Florida was much harder to get to from the metropolitan centers than is Vermont. The natives did not reap the harvest, but little gamblers from the cities did.
Right now I can visualize a great New York syndicate holding a meeting. Someone will mention Vermont. Probably members of the syndicate will say, "Yes, Vermont. Let us go up there and be benefactors - build a 3000 room hotel on Mt. Ascutney - never mind the road, just get the hotel up."
I can visualize the development in Rutland when the syndicate buys up all available property and builds magnificent Spanish gardens and Czechoslovakian beerless beer gardens to clutter up the landscape.
It is hard in this day, in which the American tempo is so speeded up, to sit back and be satisfied with what you have. It requires education and culture to appreciate a quiet place, but any fool can appreciate noise. Florida was ruined by that mania. It must not happen in Vermont. You have priceless heritages - old houses that must not be torn down, beauty that must not be defiled, roads that must not be cluttered with billboards and hot dog stands. You are to be guardians of this priceless heritage and you are fortunate to have the honor of that task instead of being horn-blowers.
As appropriate today as over 60 years ago, these thoughts comprise a speech the well-known author Sinclair Lewis gave to the Rutland , Vt. Rotary on September 23, 1929.
GOOD NIGHT, BARNARD
The moon sets against the dark autumn sky
Silhouetted mountains border a Maxfield Parrish blue
A single leaf drifts from the maple outside
Bright red like a Vermont Delicious apple
The last of the garden flowers sway gently
Moon lighting deep purples, oranges and whites
The tall and dying stalks of delphinium stand
Like scarecrows against the deepening glow
The smell of the first early autumn fireplace arises
Crisp and smoky, welcoming autumn rain and winter snow
It billows from atop the little red house
I enfold the essence in my nose, my mind
The Fan House is chilled with evening autumn air
A light rain falls leaving gentle sounds
Echoing through the open bedroom window
Curtains billow, blankets are pulled towards chin
POPPY IN SARA'S GARDEN
The stone path winds between blue and white until the
poppy, untempered by the green rod of its stalk,
the crepe paper petals of blood-orange,
the crinkled folds, cupped core of violet fur.
Near the heart the shock of purple
spots like dots on a royal butterfly.
I touch its naked abandon,
the raw truth of the fauve in Sara's garden,
the orange-red trust in the unknowable,
the burst-open beingness of its self-expression.
From her pastoral leaning, prime
for leaves in their turning, you see
meadows and mountains at a glance
when fog's not obscuring the view.
By afternoon wild turkey drop by,
filling the empty bands left by
morning mist, sunbursts blinding you
with the grandeur of it all.
That's surely the word: elegance
bordering on opulence,
even if the colors prove muted
by the earth's utter warming.
Defining The Fan House
Bed, plus breakfast
And much more...
Where storm-tossed souls
Can find a shore,
And dull, Old Marrieds
Perk right up.
A place to laugh,
Converse and sup.
May 5 on the Appalachian Trail near Fan House in Barnard, VT
Darling, the loveliest walk through the woods today. I want to tell you about it while it is so fresh in my mind. Buzzy led me in my car to the site on the Old Stage Road (parallels Rt 12) where I left it; then he drove me back to where I had parked at the entrance to the Appalachian Trail that crosses Rt. 12 just a few miles from The Fan House. We began the hike up; it was fairly precipitous and strenuous, with me setting the pace because I can't stand to be behind people who are at a pace slower than I am. Short zig zags up through mix of evergreens and deciduous, with yellow dog tooth violets and white violets along the trail; moved into some beech glades mixed with maples, leaves just beginning to come out; a pond down to the right; freshets here and there.
Then the trail became quite virtually flirty, tracing the west-facing slope at a horizontal, providing some relief from the uphill, and then turning gently up again and scissoring the slope moving to a northeasterly direction. Passed a magnificent stand of birches with two old stately birches that looked like the mothers of all birches. Then straight up to the most expansive meadowland looking, I believe, every direction but north/northwest, showcasing the undulations of the hills here that are in such an intimate, human scale.
Then we climbed over an old-fashioned stile back into the woods, a level terrain with sweet pink flowers along the trail and the cry of an owl that two fellows farther up trail spotted and said had a huge wing span. One of the men has done work on my house and he remembered me as the lady who was the first in the lake two summers ago (my polar bear year). We chatted for awhile; continued on, spotting trillium, spotted adder (a yellow lily-like flower), delicate edelweiss-type blossoms (may have been bloodroot) and purple violets. Stepped by a felled birch whose bark had turned literally silver. On up a slight incline was the vestige with moss-covered stones of an old hearth and partial chimney. Glades traversed by rivulets flowed in front
We walked through what seemed to be but probably wasn't a primal forest of evergreens where passage underfoot became slippery because of the needles. At one point the trail was so level and inviting I started jogging or lightly running. The sense of freedom and happiness in this environment is beyond words. Song birds sang at the tops of very high deciduous trees or gamboled through the bark of evergreens, fresh chips on one tree indicating that a woodpecker had been quite busy. There were a few places where the trail became a bit difficult to site, but if you looked carefully you could recover it and/or the white trail markings on a tree up ahead. We came down off the trail right where the car was parked, ambled across a little foot bridge where signs said 2 miles to such and such a point on the trail and 6.6 to another and vowed to make that another outing. In all we hiked for 1.5 hours and it was like a week's vacation.
Where The Earth Moves Slower
There was a time when the earth moved slower
There was a time when friends lived closer
And knew more of each other's lives.
You, dear Sara, brought the earth to pause for a few days
and we long-time friends could savor one another's friendship
Judy Bonte-Friedheim, June, 2011
Garcia Lorca in Vermont
Federico García Lorca visited Vermont with his host, Poet Philip Cummings.
From the Internet, the following is attributed to Nick Spengler, a contributor to ARTSbtv:
In Vermont "Lorca encountered a quieter solitude. A lengthy section of "Poet in New York" is titled, "An Introduction to Death: Poems of Solitude in Vermont." These poems contain stark images of the natural world: "the moon / was a horse skull / and the air a dark apple," he writes in "Ruin." There are also poems of lost, or persecuted, love." ...
Noah Mease's play, Green Eden, a finalist for the 2012 National NewBorn Festival in New York, "explores the largely unknown story of Lorca's visit to Vermont, shifting from the slowly revealing conversation between the old Cummings and a young Spanish poet, back to scenes of the young Cummings with the visiting Lorca."