On the Fourth of July we went for a ride along dirt roads beyond the woods in our backyard. I guess you could say we were visiting the neighbors. The houses were far and few between. The small towns were quiet. We saw an occasional outdoor BBQ with no more than six or eight people out on the front lawn. Some of them wore masks at their family lawn parties.
After our holiday cruise Rich cooked the lobsters and steak while I made a salad and posted a photo of our drive on Instagram with this caption:
Picture this: Vermont dirt roads, a covered bridge, Bernie lawn signs, old cars in the yard, lettuce and homegrown ganja in the vegetable gardens, tiny houses and RV guests in the backyards. Very few flags flying. Music on the radio, call in your favorite protest song.
Miles from Trump.
One of the songs we listened to was something we’d never heard before. Joan Baez and Jeffrey Shurtleff covering a Byrds’ song at Woodstock. It was written by Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn and titled A Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man.
He’s a drug store truck drivin’man. He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan. When summer rolls around you’ll be lucky if he’s not in town.
We heard about Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore. We’ve seen bits and pieces of it along with the following day’s speech in D.C. I no longer try to change hearts and minds. I’ve learned it’s a losing battle. Anyone who still stands with Trump is beyond redemption. There is no denying their racism and willful ignorance.
Coronavirus has come roaring back with a vengeance in the land of the free and the reckless. I often walk Lake Raponda Road but the lakes were closed this holiday weekend. The out-of -staters whizzing down Higley Hill with kayaks on the roof of their SUVs must have been disappointed.
Two weekends ago we discovered Grout Lake.
We met only one other man who was about our age. He had driven up from Massachusetts to camp for the night. He’d grown up in a town just north of the lake. He told us all the campsites had reserved signs.
“I don’t think this place is full tonight,” Rich said.
“I know but I don’t want to break the rules. I’m thinking the signs might be left from last summer but what if someone showed up at midnight and found me in their spot? I think I’ll head up to my old house. I know the owner and he’ll probably let me set up my tent for the night.”
Again, we’re in Vermont.
I am reading a lot of books. The gym where I work is still closed. I’m sixty three years old and enjoying this time of reading and writing. When I got home from Roanoke I was planning to go through all the old photos and organize things. That hasn’t happened yet. Instead I’ve been writing up a storm.
Back at the beginning of the pandemic when we were in Roanoke, Virginia we took a hike to a waterfall. On the trail back down the mountain we came across what looked like a collapsed cabin or shed and the remnants of a clothesline.
Further along the trail we noticed a cemetery.
“It’s the family plot,” Rich said. “It must be the people who once lived in that fallen down cabin.”
The fake flowers weren’t faded but appeared to have been here for a long time. It was impossible to know how old this cemetery was. There were no names or dates on the headstones.
Except for E.H. Who was She or He? Did He live a long life farming here on Bent Mountain? Or maybe She died in childbirth? These people lived and died leaving no records behind. What did it mean in the grand scheme of the universe? Do their ancestors have any photos or stories or mementoes? Did She paint pictures or do needlework that someone still cherishes? Did he make wood carvings or keep a journal?
The family plot with no names haunted me for quite some time as I tried to write in the condo in Roanoke where we lived and worked for three months during the early days of the pandemic.
Back home in Vermont a luna moth hung by my front window for a few days.
I found this in a Google search of luna moths:
For the very reason that they live for only 10 days as a winged adult after almost a year of growth as an egg, larvae and pupa, the life of a Luna moth symbolizes transformation, transience, the brevity of life, new beginnings, and a lot more. Some even consider them the most mystical of animal totems they will ever encounter.
Was the luna moth sending me a message?
Back home in Vermont I have taken several walks around the empty Mount Snow ski resort.
There have been only three deaths due to coronavirus in Windham County which is where I live. Two of the deaths were the Boyd twins, Levon and Clevon. I didn’t know them but I drive by their farm several times a week. Rich has met their brother Bucky. Their obituary was in the New York Times.
Does it matter if your obituary makes the newspaper of record or if you are buried without a name in a neglected cemetery plot along a hiking trail? What is immortality? I don’t really know the answer. I am an atheist. I believe the only mortality we have is what we leave behind. The memories of our loved ones. The things we create. The stories we tell. The Boyd twins left their family farm and the small community that they were a big part of.
On a recent walk around Mount Snow I saw a rainbow peek out from behind a cloud. It looked like it was headed straight toward the moon. I waited and watched.
I remembered a movie years ago titled Shoot the Moon with Albert Finney and Diane Keaton. I googled Shoot the Moon and found this: “Today, when someone says that someone will “shoot the moon” it is to go for everything or nothing. It is similar to the phrases “to go for broke,””to go whole hog,” and “to pull out all the stops.” In all cases, one would take a great risk. The idiom suggests that there is as much of a chance of success as there is shooting (a bullet, arrow etc.) and hitting the Moon.”
I went back to writing my fifth novel. A shot at the moon if ever there was one. I have been working on this story for three years now, with stops and starts, with determination and despair. Some days are full of inspiration. Other days are filled with hopelessness. Who will read this book?
E.L. Doctorow once compared writing to driving in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. Life is like that too and at this moment in time we are traveling through a thick, heavy fog and I fear we are headed for a deadly crash.
During these days of the pandemic I’ve also seen spectacular sunsets from my deck.
I have stood by still waters and felt peace and hope.
And I’ve wondered why someone climbed this dying old tree to hang a fishing bob on its bare upper branch.
Maybe because it was a challenge. Maybe because it was a hard thing to do. Maybe because no one else had attempted it. Maybe because they were crazy.
Maybe because as Kerouac once said, “My witness is the empty sky.”