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Mending Wall, Rock Slides, Freedom Day, and Other Trivia

August 2nd Bennington, VT

Hallelujah! Freedom Day.

Yeah, if you see our FB or Insta pages, you’d have seen our bragging about being suddenly, and for the first time ever, out of debt to the Man. The house sale was finalized, and with the proceeds we were able to pay off everything, and we are left with a few bucks to dream with. Buy a hot tub? A few super cheap acres in some developing nation? A couple of solar panels? A thousand pounds of pinto beans??

In the meantime, we walked.

Oh, and, I RAN! There hasn’t been a day in the last 53 years that I have not run on the first of August. That day in 1970 I ran around the block three times, setting off a maelstrom of racing and running (hyperbole alert) that would last a half century.

This was my first run this summer. I made a rule that I wouldn’t try to run until 8/1 so as not to injure myself and ruin everything. A year ago I ran 52:00 on trails in Duluth, one month after surgery to reattach my hamstring.

I’m trying to be better to myself.

Julie’s ankle is still useable, and her knee is ugly but operational. She gamely hiked up the longest hill yet, through construction zones (Vermont is one long construction zone, after the floods. It’s actually very sad to see all the roads and bridges washed out, homes with piles of belongings in the yard.)

(These folks are going to have a hard time getting home)

(Off she goes!)

One worker looked at the “MaineCalifornia” sign on her back and said, “You know, that arrow is pointing the wrong way.” She retorted, “Well, the roads sometimes change direction.” It was an ongoing conversation… “jogger coming through,” “watch out for cars; people are shitty drivers!”

I paused to advise one flag guy ( the ones that tell you to go ‘Slow,’ or ‘ Stop.’) that he could use his down-time to do squats, or jog in place. He laughed, agreed, and said “the hardest part is standing still.” I said, “for me too!” and trudged on.

One fun thing to do while passing the miles is examining the construction of the classic New England stone walls. They’re all dry-stacked of course. There are old old old walls barely visible along the edge of the woods, 300 year-old maples growing up out of the rubble. The standard Vermont technique seems to be two rows of horizontal flat stones with fill in the middle, forming a 2-3 foot wall, about 3’ high.

The most interesting variation on the theme was a wall I saw today. It was maybe a half mile long, and constructed of VERTICAL flat rocks. Well, see the photo. “One picture is worth a thousand…”

(Maples can live 300-400 years!)

(You have a dirty mind)

(I love this wall)

(...both sides of the road for 1/4 mile)

We’ve landed in a driveway in rural Bennington VT, the product of Julie’s-mom’s-neighbor’s- friend’s charitable gift of letting us stay here while they are at a wedding in Italy. What an awesome place. We couldn’t find a grocery store on our way here, but guess what? They have a farm stand by the road, literally 20’ from our car, with greens, onions, salsa, and, I- shit-you-not, homemade Sriracha! It’s karma for Julie not swiping the “last remaining bottle of Sriracha in Vermont” (server’s words) from the restaurant last night.

(Don't do it!)

And, speaking of stone walls, we are camped just a few minutes away from the home and burial place of non-other than Robert Frost! So I’ll close with these words: (ah, hell… I was going to just stick an excerpt in here but it’s such a great poem here’s all it.)

Tomorrow we will go pay our respects to the master.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

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