Spring Beauty: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Spring BeautyIt’s been a wet spring in Vermont and the river levels have been higher for longer than normal.

Earlier in the month, we had a brief respite of non-rainy days, enough to bring the Corvus River low enough to make it safe for the annual Amnicolist River Race.

Sixteen-year old Faye Bennett, her brother Wil, and their two best friends, Suzanna Owen and Dave Muzzy, came in second—though they hotly dispute the ranking.

No matter. Life moves on. It is spring, after all. And Faye, who often confides in her beloved Uncle Dan, has a new wrinkle in her life that she wants to discuss.

This is their most recent email exchange.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Dear Uncle Dan,

I had the weirdest thing happen to me during river race week.

I think I may have fallen in love.

It all started when I nearly fell out of our raft toward the end of the race. It was a close thing. And it was Wil’s best-friend-since-forever, Dave Muzzy, who pulled me back into our makeshift pirate ship.

Dave and I have known each other since we were in elementary school and he’s stayed overnight at our house more times than I can count. So why is it that I suddenly noticed that he’s an interesting and funny guy? And that he has beautiful brown eyes?

I know you’ve been listening to me whine about Brian Lambert for a while now (I’m sorry about that and I promise this is the last time) about how cool I thought he was, what a good time we had together and then what a rat he turned out to be.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he dropped me like a glowing ember from a wood stove to go back to his old girlfriend, Sheila, the one from Martha’s Vineyard. The worst part about the whole fiasco was his cowardice when it came to telling me what was going on.

It was pathetic.

But then a couple of days before the raft race, I ran into this very same Sheila in the Coop. She was by herself and I was just going to walk on when she stopped me…to apologize. She claims she didn’t know anything more about me than I did about her.

But that was not the most interesting part of our conversation. That came at the end when Sheila said that the reason Brian broke up with me is because I scare him, that I’m too smart and figure things out that he believes I shouldn’t be able to figure out.

Can you imagine? Seriously, you could have whopped me off my feet with the proverbial feather when Sheila told me that!

I didn’t tell anyone about that conversation until after the race when Wil, Suzanna, Dave and I went out for pizza. (Fiorello’s is doing a new pizza with artichokes now and it is yummy!!)

Well, you know Wil—he just howled with laughter and offered to tell Brian about my math grades. (I truly suck at trigonometry. Who needs to know what a cosine is anyway?) 

In other words, he was no help at all.

But Dave took me seriously. He told us how Brian complains about his dad all the time. “Mr. Lambert doesn’t like to be questioned about anything which leads to a lot of arguments with his wife and his kids,” he said.

“Yeah, we’ve been at Brian’s house a couple of times when they’ve gone at it,” Wil said. “Makes me appreciate the Moms and Dads…”

“And Uncle Teds,” Suzanna added.

“Yeah, and the Uncle Teds we all have.”

“The thing is,” Dave went on, “If you pay attention, you realize that Brian’s just like his Dad. In school, he does this thing with guys where he gets all harsh and nasty if someone knows something he doesn’t. Personally, I think he’s insecure about a lot of things so he pushes people away. I suspect that’s the real reason why he won’t try out for basketball in college. He’s afraid somebody might be better than him and Brian can’t handle that.”

So then I asked Dave: “Are you afraid of me? Are all the guys I know afraid of me because they think I’m smart? Because if that’s true, that’s really sick.” That’s when I noticed that Dave has beautiful eyes. 

He laughed. “Nah, I’ve seen your report card, remember? I figure I can keep up. Besides, I don’t have any patience for people who are deliberately ignorant and I think that what Brian did to you was deliberately ignorant.”

That night, after we all got home, Dave texted me to ask if I wanted to hike up to the old Small farmstead on Sunrise Hill. I haven’t been up there since Dad, Suzanna and I released that red-tail hawk back into the wild.

It’s a beautiful spot but that was the same day Dad’s truck slid off the Hooke Road bridge and he nearly drowned so I’ve been sort of superstitious about both places ever since.

I figured Dave was asking all of us but when I texted back, he said no, he was just asking me.

That made me feel funny and I almost said no. But then I thought, why not?

I met him in front of the library, hoping that Wil wouldn’t see us. I love my brother (don’t you ever tell him that) but honestly, he’s getting to be more of a pain the closer he gets to graduation. I know he’s nervous but seriously, I can’t wait until it’s over so he can go back to being his usual jerky self. That I can handle.

I could tell Dave was kind of nervous when we first set off but after a while we got into oohing and aahing over all the wildflowers on the trail. I’ve never seen so many spring beauties in bloom at the same time. There was one slope that was carpeted with them. I took pictures with my phone and I attached one of them to this email so you’ll miss Carding and come visit soon.

We both brought stuff to eat and drink and we spread it all out on a big rock when we got to the top. The view of Carding from up there is like I imagine Rivendell looked to Bilbo Baggins the first time he saw it. You can see the Crow’s Head Falls way off in the distance and the river snaking through town and the spire of the Episcopal Church.

After we finished eating, the two of us just sat there cloud watching. And then we were holding hands. And then we were snuggled up close with our arms around one another.

I don’t think either one of us thought much about what we were doing or what it meant or could mean. It just felt right, really all right.

And then we kissed one another. More than once.

And that felt really all right too.

Is that how it works, Uncle Dan? One minute you’re standing on one side of a line and the next minute you’re on the other side and you have no idea how or when you moved?

I’m not sure but I think I floated back down the hill. We barely talked except for Dave asking me to go to the senior dance with him and for me to say yes.

Dave graduates with Wil next month and then the two of them are taking off for Costa Rica to volunteer in an eco-agriculture program for six weeks and then they’re off to UVM for school. And I have plans for after I graduate next year and I don’t want to get attached to anyone who gets in the way of doing them, no matter what. 

I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this but it’s kind of knocked me sideways. Any advice Uncle Dan?

Love as always,
Faye

•••

Dear Faye,

I have three observations to make about the new turn in your relationship with this young man. Take them or leave them as you will.

The first is: Good friends are very hard to find. As you said, you and Dave have known one another for a long time. No matter what paths your lives follow, you now both know that there’s someone out there who “gets” you, who will take you in no matter the time of day, and who will come to your aid in every crisis. You can depend on Dave. He can depend on you.

Believe me, dear niece, that is more important than anything. That’s what your Mom and Dad have, a deep friendship built on trust with a bunch of love thrown in for good measure.

Second, one of my favorite expressions is: Blessed are those with no expectations because they will never be disappointed. In my opinion, unmet expectations are one of the banes of human existence.

Look at what you know about this situation: Dave is your friend, he likes you a lot, you are both incredibly comfortable in one another’s company, so much so that you don’t feel the need to talk about your relationship.

In my opinion, messing with that is just asking for stress and hurt feelings. Let it be.

And third, I like Dave. I’ve always liked Dave. And I’m an extremely good judge of character so it’s all good with me.

Will you cry when he goes off to Costa Rica and then UVM? I expect so. Would you stop him from going to either place? Of course not. Is there a possibility of the two of you having adventures together at some point in the future?

I, for one, will be interested to find out what happens.

Love from wherever I am to wherever you are,

Uncle Dan

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Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

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