Middlebury, Vt.

Life in the middle of Vermont.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Savoring Sweet September

A doe in the meadow this misty morning, her twin fawns nudging insistently at her underside to draw milk. Then two more does, and another set of twins.

Already the leaves are thinning in the trees along our eastern windbreak, opening up views of the Green Mountains. Every day though, the mountains are less green, as islands of maples turn to orange amid the stands of pine.

In my ideal Vermont year, the calendar would have two Septembers -- both of them following along in the arc of this dry but grand summer.

I lost track of my mosquito repellent back in June. Now days of hazy heat are followed by fog and a sweet rain that sparkles asters and beet leaves alike. The nights -- ushered in by the clambering of geese and punctuated by baleful coyotes – have the coolness of the coming months.

Two Septembers? That's right. And no November at all.

We could shift Thanksgiving forward into October like those sensible Canadians do, and then forgo stick season altogether. From autumn leaves straight to silver bells.

The Red Sox would always be in first place headed for the Series, with the Yankees struggling to break .500. Americans would win tennis's U.S. Open, and all of our street paving would have long ago been completed for the year.

* * *

Last Saturday brought more than enough heat to make a swim essential. My niece Clara and her dad (my brother and only sibling) were visiting from Boston. By early evening of that day, we had experienced a good bit of what a September Saturday can offer.

Swimming holes were at the top of Clara's to-do list, but first spent some time in town. We began with the peace vigil on the Middlebury Green, on a day when the vigil marked TK straight years that people had gathered there on Saturday morning to call for peace after 9-11.

I'm usually in a weekly class at the Otter Creek Yoga studio during the vigil, so I was surprised and heartened by the overwhelmingly positive reception that passersby now give the call for an end to the Iraq War.

From there we cooled ourselves in the nicely renovated Vermont Book Shop, exploring the graphic novels that are among Clara's passions. The marquee event was the Farmers Market, which in this harvest season is an abundance of local meat and produce and smiling faces.

We had intended to buy just a chicken from Scott and Suzanne Young's Singing Cedars stand, but greed and hunger intervened. We ended up with salad greens, red potatoes, four kinds of apples, strawberry-rhubarb jam from Karen Leroy, a half-dozen ears of corn and a cantaloupe from farmer-legislator Will Stevens of Golden Russet, and a chat about the vigil with Rich Hennessy, who helps out his son at the excellent Maple Wind meat stand.

But it kept getting hotter. Being in the company of an adventurous 17-year-old, I decided to try something I've wanted to do for 38 years, since I first saw the falls beneath the Battell Bridge. We left the pedestrian bridge on the west side and scurried up to the base of the falls, feet protected by my Chaco sandals and her peach-red Converse.

Up close, the drought-pinched falls were as tame as they appeared from the bridge. We inched our way along the rocks and -- hooting away -- drenched ourselves by standing under a pummeling finger of the falls.

It's said that the son of Gamaliel Painter, one of the town's founders, drowned in Otter Creek. So people must have once congregated at these falls and the waters below. It's not the safest thing to do, I will admit, and I've never seen anyone other than crazy kayakers get fully wet down there. Perhaps there's a local ordinance against it, but who cares?

At any rate, I now rank it as one of the coolest things I've even done in downtown Middlebury, and there have been a number of them over the past four decades.

Our watery wanderings were not done for the day. After visiting the Vermont Soap Factory Outlet and getting a co-op lunch, we headed up to the New Haven River above Bristol.

I've always known these as Bristol Falls, though their proper name of Bartlett Falls seems to be the common parlance. We dipped in about a quarter-mile above the big falls. There, the unusually low water has turned once-treacherous flumes into gently cascading pools, connected by slides that just scream to be slid. (Again here, adult supervision is recommended, but make sure the adult has plenty of young kid on the inside.)

I can report that the 30-foot drop into the big pool below the falls is as thrilling as ever, and so is the slippery journey up under the falls themselves. The massive rock roof makes a dark, noisy chamber, before you push out under the pounding water and into the brightly lit pool.

We had dinner at home that evening on the porch. It was a feast of Farmers Market finds, produce from our own garden, and a French wine from the late, lamented Eat Good Food.
We had indeed been eating the very best food all day long -- sustenance for heart and mind.

As we drank the last of the wine, a solitary doe came out of the woods into the meadow. She looked cautiously around, and began to graze.

* * *
Note: In an earlier post, I failed to give sufficient credit to the South Village developers for their environmental efforts. The new bank is expected to be Middlebury's first commercial building that is LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). And the project's homes are designed to be especially energy efficient.
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