Where I live, in Stannard Vermont, it is still winter and snow covered, and the mud is still stiff with ice inside it. The road is not all rutted and squishy soft, and there are flakes in the air. When I moved here I learned to call it “sugar snow”, and that sounds so nice, but it’s hard to find sweetness in the return of below zero nights, and thick ice on the walk way to the road. In the middle or beginning of a pandemic. I am pretty isolated, compared to a lot of people I know, so exposure to someone possibly carrying the virus is almost impossible. The weather has been trying to warm, so there is lots of fresh air and trees trying to wake up, but no breathing people . The other night I took the dog out for her last little outing, the wind was doing it’s thing, and I did have a flashlight, but all was too dark to see outside of the beam. As I walked, with the hood of my jacket pulled up, and the wind knocking things around in the wreck of an empty house that is across the road, and the empty trees blowing back and forth, were clicking making a sound between wush and wish. It is so empty on this road at 11 at night, no moon, my peripheral sight was blocked by the hood on the jacket, and the cadence of mine and the dogs feet on the snow sort of echoed inside the hood, which caused an aberration of sound . After finding a safe pace , it sounded like someone trying to silently rush up behind me, I knew that it was the combination of wind inside the hood, and that the string of the hood was probably moving against the canvas of the jacket, in a rhythm. That did not stop my heart from becoming scared, or from turning around quickly with flashlight, trying to see/stop someone that was not there. It was a Blair Witch moment, with my physical body sensing something that my mind knew just could not be. Or could it?
There could be ghosts in that half burned building across the way, the gutted and open house with 3 walls standing, old insulation and lumber and tarps covering a burn hole in the roof, windows set in rotten walls, just a hovel since the man died there. The man was named Ernest, but he was known as Dusty. He and his wife built that house, and there were about 15 acres, right across the road from me. The first thing I see every morning, out my window, are his woods. Ernest and Blanche were starting a Nursery Business when I first moved here. They also had 2 foster kids, boys, who would ride around on their bikes. They were civil enough, they had known the man who built my little house, were friendly with him. He had dropped dead, and his niece sold the roughly finished house, to me. They were civil , but I don’t think they liked the fact that they suddenly had a lesbian neighbor who had all these ideas about deep bed organic gardening, but over the years we remained neighbors enough. Dusty would have a chance to express his societal beliefs. He hated government and regulations and everyone who liked social programs were probably communist. Except that he received a check every month because of social services paying him to house foster, at risk children. Anyway, he got terribly old and Blanche got terribly old, disease ridden with diabetes and arthritis and heart trouble. There was a really bad house fire up there over 10 years ago. They made Blanche move into a nursing home after that, but Dusty stayed on in that mostly burnt house, I guess he had a couple of rooms that could be heated and kept from the elements. He took ill with a bad heart and someone convinced him to have surgery, after the surgery he somehow convinced them to let him go home alone afterwards, and I guess someone said they would look in on him. He had a dressing on his chest, from open heart surgery. The someone who was supposed to look in on him found him dead on a mattress, bandage off, and apparently he bled out. Dusty had been told to the leave the bandage as is, and he probably did not. He probably did exactly what he wanted to do, as he had all his life, because “people think they are experts and dont know nothin”.
This is a long story about a possibly haunted road, that I took my dog out on the other night, and then got chased back in my house by the ghosts that walk around out there at night when it’s windy in the trees. My house with all four walls warm and lamps on, with living people and tropical plants in the bathroom.
Its a pandemic, and if Dusty was alive he would never follow one guideline because it is all made up stuff by the government, to control us. He knew that because if it was really a natural virus, it would only make Chinese people sick, it wouldn’t affect white people, or, in his case, French Canadian americans. I don’t think it will affect too much of this French Canadian wood lot I live on. This windy western ridge at the bottom of Stannard mountain is geologically ancient. The woods have come and gone, logged over a couple of centuries by some of the families here, the old French Canadian logging families. Soft wood and hardwood growing in cycles, some old maples, still sugared. On my little spit of 5 acres, there are a few massive white pines, I have had about 15 of them logged over the years, as they were ready to die, but still good enough to barter for 4 years worth of winter heating.
This winter will probably hold on , using up all the firewood straight through April. The Pandemic is being monitored by everybody, because its 2020 and as isolated as I am, there is access to 24/7 information. Amazing, isn’t it? Amazing that this ridge on the slope of a mountain, with soil that is mostly sand and gritty mountain wash and beds of clay, have sustained these trees for centuries, Pines and balsams and spruce, logged, then birch and maple and ash and poplar and beech and tamarack, farmed, then soft woods again. I swear if you put your shovel in the land here, you will find no quarter, the rocks will stop you, if not the internet of roots, from brushes to grasses to trees to saplings and back again. That’s the information I want, whatever the earth knows in this place, right here and now, is essential to longevity. Not Dusty’s , maybe not mine, but these rocks can tell you anything you want to know about anything.
Isolation and ghosts and a pulsing road that can make your own footfalls feel like a predator is right there, behind you. Gone when you turn around.