by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
October 15, 2009
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The wind came racing down the mountain last week and whipped the golden and ochre leaves into the air like snow. They fell for hours, swirling around my head and filling the sky. Rapt with wonder, I stood in the center of the dirt road and let them fall around me. I thought I had never seen anything more beautiful. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem "October," the wind enchanted the land with amethyst.
When I finally went inside, I read that in Manhattan the same wind was turning the subway entrances into wind tunnels. A blogger complained that he would be picking the dirt out of his teeth for a long time.
How many times have I thought that I live in a blessed place?
Frost, I'm told, never tried to describe foliage in New England - he said it was the one thing that defied language. But he wrote many poems about apples and autumn. Here's part of "After Apple-Picking":
"For I have had too much/Of apple-picking: I am overtired/Of the great harvest I myself desired/There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch/Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall/For all that struck the earth/No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble/Went surely to the cider-apple heap/As of no worth."
Speaking of cider, the Scott Farm is now pressing a rich and complex unpasturized apple cider that tastes just like liquid apple. Packed in a Mason jar, it has great worth; it may, in fact, be the best in the world.
In October of 1967, the television newscaster Charles Kuralt found his calling with a series of stories he called "On the Road." He did the first one in Vermont, and his very first words were: "It is death that causes this blinding show of color, but it is a fierce and flaming death. To drive along a Vermont country road in this season is to be dazzled by the shower of lemon and scarlet and gold that washes across your windshield."
Scarlet was in short supply this year, probably because of all the rain we had this summer. But even so, Vermont did herself proud with vistas of painted mountains and glowing forests with white church steeples peeking through them.
Great foliage is the reason my little town of Dummerston comes alive on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. The Apple Pie Festival fundraiser at the Dummerston Congregational Church in Dummerston Center has been going on for more than 40 years; it is now one of Vermont's top tourist attractions. This year they made and sold 1,500 pies.
A year ago, I wrote a story for Vermont Magazine about the pie fest and the happy convergence of Dummerston residents and motorcycle gangs that gives it its visual edge. Antique and new Harleys, leather outfits, interesting facial hair and everyone happily eating apple pie in the splendor of fall - how can you beat that?
Before the pie fest comes the firemen's all-you-can-eat breakfast (apple, raspberry and plain pancakes, biscuits and gravy, sausage, Dummerston's own maple syrup, fresh-pressed apple cider, coffee, etc.) down the road at the fire station.
This year, there was a remarkably long line of people waiting to get in. The couple in front of me turned and said, "We read about this festival in a magazine and came up from Connecticut."
It was the kind of thing a writer can wait for all of her life. They were very excited to meet the writer, and I was very excited to meet some new readers. Then I realized that we were going to be waiting a long time for breakfast, and maybe it was of because of my article. Blame me and the law of unintended consequences for the fact that the firemen ran out of pancake batter several times.
When my local newspaper asked people on the street, "Where is the best place to find fall foliage?", the answers were varied: Putney Mountain, Sunset Lake Road, Hogback Mountain. One 11-year-old boy proudly said "My backyard in Dummerston." I know what he means.
I think the best place for color is my road, and every time I drive home I wonder anew at how lucky I am. The vistas are wide here and the trees are tall. The road has been in use for centuries. Sometimes I walk from Dummerston Center up Park Laughton Road and feel the gravitational pull of the road and of the generations of people who have traveled it. It makes me feel small.
It may be one kind of death that causes foliage color, but autumn foreshadows a different, deeper kind of death for Frost.
From "Reluctance": "And lo, it is ended/The leaves are all dead on the ground/Save those that the oak is keeping.../The last lone aster is gone/The flowers of the witch hazel wither/The heart is still aching to seek/But the feet question "Whither?"/Ah, when to the heart of man/Was it ever less than a treason/To go with the drift of things/To yield with a grace to reason/And bow and accept the end/Of a love or a season?"
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a freelance columnist and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.