Monday, April 07, 2003

Didn't Know I Was A Country Boy (Until I Met You)

Until I met and married a shy, grounded, sturdy girl who fell off a tractor in her own tenth summer, all I knew of rural New England was summer camps and winter ski holidays; county fair midways and historic homes; long drives north with my family for a week at a rented cabin smelling of pine and surrounded by it. In my memory, Vermont and New Hampshire and later Maine were sporadically populated with ski lodges and quaint main street towns. I never thought about the side byways.

But I left the suburbs behind me, body and spirit, when my now-wife found me in college and wouldn't let me go. Because more than anyone I know, Darcie is rural New England. Her childhood goats jumped through the screen door. She fell off that neighbor boy's tractor. She skiied to work once when the snow blocked the roads.

When we dropped out of college in 1993, she loved me enough to try to make a go at it in and around Boston for a while, first in a series of greasy bat-ridden apartments on Commonwealth Ave, then in the Somerville apartment house under the willow tree. But it was clear that the city was too dense, too anxious-making. When we went back to Brattleboro to visit her parents, she flowered, coming alive again. And I came to love not just her, but the gentle rhythm of what made her most herself: the sound of the brook at night, the fireflies, the clarity of stars. The woman I love carries within herself open spaces and quiet streams. And, since she carries me, too, it has become home.

Her parents still live in on their couple of cleared acres next to that very same farm now mostly maintained by that tractor-driving boy and his wife, nestled in among the barns and the brook and the rolling green-hill cowpastures, at the end of a long dirt road. For my daughter Willow, one actually goes over the river and through the woods to get to Grandmother's house, although it's worth pointing out that one does the same over-and-under to get to the school where we live and work.

To be fair, the wilds of New England aren't a paradise. Although the outdoor air is clean and pure, in the summer it swarms with mosquitoes. After years full of midnight stars, suburban light polution and the stress of the city set my teeth on a knife-edge, but the coydogs howling makes for restless, dreamless nights.

And then there's mud season, the New England month-or-so between winter and spring. It's late some years and earlier others, and duration varies -- last year after two weeks of summer-like sun and heat a freak snowstorm in May set us back a spell -- but the symptoms are always the same: melted snow and subsequently roaring mountain streams swell the land past saturation, and the world turns brown and mucky for a while.

Which is by way of saying that I successfully navigated the the long and treacherous dirt road to Darcie's parent's house this afternoon, a road closed to all but local traffic, four inches of thick slush over scarred and rutted mud, three times in and three times back, in a Toyota Camry with all-weather tires, without even sliding around much. And I didn't even break a sweat. I'm damn proud to be a country boy.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM |

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