(HOST) With signs of spring stirring in the north country, commentator Willem Lange is contemplating the essence of Vermont.
(LANGE) All winter, except on the coldest days, we keep the heat in the bedroom turned off and the window open. Not only does that promote closeness; it also saves fuel, and feels like camping – without having to go outside during the night.
We can also feel the weather. Soft-falling snow dampens every sound outside and muffles the house like a thermos bottle. The ceiling of the bedroom glows whiter than usual. A storm drives snow against the windows like sand. A heavy wind ruffles the curtains and brings the thump of the occasional falling tree or branch. A winter rain drips from the eaves and warns us to go down the driveway slowly the next morning to test the traction. The sound of the plow rumbling by in the small hours, its yellow lights flashing dimly on the bedroom walls, comforts us.
Now, the equinox is almost upon us. Some of the neighbors start their stoves at evening to ward off the chill. Before bed, they toss in a few more chunks and close the draft and damper to hold the fire all night. The stifled stoves smoke. The smoke strikes the cold air outside, settles in the valleys and in the trees, and drifts in the window.
The deer are everywhere. They watch cautiously as I shuffle down the driveway or out to the garage, and hop only a few feet up into the cedars. They don’t seem to mind being seen, but they do mind if I stare.
A breeze brings us the smell of boiling sap, and briefly I regret that we don’t boil anymore. That aroma is purest Vermont.
I attended a conference once over on Lake Champlain. Loggers, farmers, conservationists, foresters, legislators, professors, and media people, convened to discuss the essence of Vermont, its present state, and future.
It was May; all the windows and doors were open. About mid-morning a farmer close by and directly upwind of the conference began spreading manure on his fields. He must have known what he was doing; I picture him with a wry smile as he sent his blessings downwind toward the collection of cars and trucks so obviously from away. The smell was really powerful, but nobody wanted to be the first to acknowledge or complain about it. Finally the moderator could ignore it no longer, "That, ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "is the essence of Vermont!"
Other essences of Vermont steal through the open window. The firewood I left last fall for another year is emerging. Tangles of wind-felled dead spruces to be piled and burned. Boat and canoe to be varnished before the year’s first voyages. The evocative breezes have evoked more than I desired. I lie awake wondering where to begin, and briefly wish to be a woodchuck, who can take a look outside, decide spring’s not going to happen yet, and tunnel back under the covers.
This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.