Aside from my parents’ house, my grandmother’s house in Vermont is the only place I walk into and instantly feel home. It’s especially lovely at Christmastime, when Massachusetts generally hasn’t gotten much snow, and Vermont feels like a peaceful winter wonderland. The house can be chilly but is always filled with warmth; the cozy fireplace, the quiet, and the old family portraits and heirlooms make me want to stay forever. Life is simpler up there. My daily schedule often looks like this: wake up, drink coffee, do yoga in front of the fire, eat a piping bowl of oats, shower (sometimes), read, listen to old family stories, lunch, go for a brisk walk, read some more, maybe do the Times crossword with Dad, make dinner, watch a movie (often of the Rogers and Hammerstein/Gilbert and Sullivan variety), crawl back under the covers, repeat.
Vermont makes me feel like I’m in a Robert Frost poem. On a chilly, sunny walk with my Mom this week, “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening” kept popping into my mind:
Whose woods these are, I think I know
His house is in the village, though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…
But, as I learned in middle school English, that poem is probably about death, and that’s not really my M.O. these days. I prefer the themes of two other poems by Frost, both of which remind me of my father: my favorite, Birches, which he once memorized in its entirety (it’s a long one); and a second, better known rhyme, and the first poem I ever committed to memory: The Road Not Taken.
In third grade, we were asked to memorize and recite a poem, our first assignment of this nature. It was a big deal both in the classroom and at my house. I distinctly remember standing in my old bedroom, at night, my father coaching me through each line:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
This post came into my mind as a way to share the entirety of that poem, both as a sweet memory of my father, as well as a (painfully obvious) corollary between the poem and my current situation: “I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. Duh.
Instead, I’d like to share possibly one of my favorite excerpts from Frost: the last lines of Birches.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away,
Never to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, until the tree could bear no more
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.