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Summer in Vermont

Saw a red and white hot air balloon floating over Winooski on my run by the river this morning. Crossed the footbridge and greeted a woman with one of those wands throwing a ball to her dog in a clearing in the woods just past Waterworks, across from Chace Mill that used to turn cotton fibers into fabric. Over a century ago, Lewis Hine shot photos of French Canadian boys walking barefoot on the factory floor there, their jobs described as “back-ropers in a mule room,” the captions on digitized versions of the images like fragments from a dead language. The waterwheel is gone but its ruined housing remains. On the first floor, now, is a vegan cafe, and a yoga studio. But, of course, you already knew that.

The Jazzfest just ended and I missed Brian Wilson at the Flynn last night, playing Pet Sounds front to back. He’s going to play again in July but it’s already sold out. Would have like to have seen that, but will have to settle for the album box set I bought used a few years back. The second disc includes a recording of the string overdub on “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” that is so sublime it could stand on its own. Might be the last chance to see this genius live, but nothing to be done about it now. Didn’t find out about the show until the night before, after walking down to the end of Church Street to City Hall Park—a vigil for the victims in the Orlando shooting. It was mostly quiet, except for some muted conversation, some laughing, some crying, and later, a brilliant brass band dressed in black and red. I talked to neighbors and friends and colleagues there in the crowd of around 2,000. My daughters saw Bernie speak for the first time, but probably not the last. I hear that when he isn’t running for President, you run into him around town all the time.

My neighborhood book club is trying to rope me into reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead this summer, and my buddy Steve Nelson adds that if I’m going to read it, I have to read Ceremony first. My reading list is already pretty ambitious, what with teaching a new class in the fall and playing catch-up from the school year. Right now I’m working on Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps, reading it slowly and enjoying those precise sentences of such gravity and depth and reality, the best ones resonating like an empty well. The world is so superbly alive in his pages, and seems to mutate again and again into something even more lush, more thriving, at least as far as nature is concerned. As another revolution rumbles and sputters in the deserted streets where the protagonist finds himself, the utilities shut down, and the insects start flowing out of the faucets into houses, hotels, restaurants, everywhere humans once called their home. After Carpentier, I’ll finally spend some real time with my colleague Erik Shonstrom’s Wild Curiosity, hopefully get inspired to do some kayaking, stargazing, hiking, and to just generally get lost and dirty in the woods.

I won’t be able to do even half of what summer offers you in Vermont. There will be many days at Oakledge Park’s Blanchard Beach, where the flat rocks jut out over the water like they were made for humans to lay on them, where you can see the Adirondacks and the armies of sailboats moored in Burlington Bay and the rest floating across Lake Champlain—my daughter and I counted 28 the other day. At North Beach the burger and creemee shack is now open, guys from SkiRack sitting under a canopy, offering bikes to rent and ride out onto the causeway to the Champlain Islands and back. Sundays we’ll go to Mirabelle’s or Maglianero for pain au chocolat then walk to the playground on Perkins Pier; we’ll go see a colleague in Waterbury who keeps bees and taste the untouched honey; we’ll take the two-hour drive to Montréal and go to the Science Center and the old city and have fresh French bread, maybe look up my old buddy Jean-Francois, Shakespearean, baseball enthusiast, overall lovely guy; we’ll walk around the corner and watch the Vermont Lake Monsters play, sit in one of the oldest grandstands still in use and eat the popcorn, play the games and sing the songs between innings.

Some days we’ll just picnic in the front yard and catch conversations with neighbors passing by, my daughters darting in and out of their teepee, down the sidewalk and around the house, the adults sipping seltzers or ciders or some atomic IPA you can’t get outside of Vermont, as the afternoon slips into dinnertime, as the city itself enjoys the relative quiet with the triplexes nearly all emptied of students, as the infinite lake presents an entirely new palette for sunset, as all these details in this new place accumulate into home.