Secrets: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Lilacs in budIt is so hard to resist the flowers of spring. And today, Carding’s renowned queen of mail delivery, Ruth Goodwin, is going to yield to temptation.

But you can’t tell anybody about this spot of hooky.

Let’s invite ourselves into Ruth’s yellow Jeep and go along for the ride, shall we?

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.


The aroma hit Ruth Goodwin in the face as soon as she stepped out her front door. The scent of the deep purple lilacs in her yard was nearly overwhelming. Across the hill, she could see white clouds of blossoms covering the apple trees in the Tennysons’ orchard.

Her beagle, R.G., hesitated on his way to the Jeep where he had planned to ensconce himself in the passenger seat for the first of his many daily naps. Why was his human sniffing the air like one of his fellow canines?

He snorted and sat down. R.G.’s first law of dogdom was to never waste energy trying to figure out people.

“What an incredible spring,” Ruth murmured. “Time to break out the colored pencils and camera. Be right back, R.G.”

The dog yawned then shook his head until his great floppy ears whirled about his head. Waiting sounded like a good plan to him.

For years, Ruth Goodwin had had a secret. In the world at large, it would never be considered a big deal. In fact, folks in Carding would have been floored to find out that Ruth had any secrets at all because she’d always cultivated a reputation as forthright and open. But we all have our little privacies, don’t we?

Ruth’s secret was her drawing, particularly her colored pencil drawings.

Particularly her botanical portraits.

As a child, she’d adored the tales of Beatrix Potter and studied the detailed illustrations of her favorite author until she’d learned nearly every line, every shade and every hue in the tales. In her teens, Ruth had been appalled to discover that Potter’s lifetime ambition to be a botanist had been stymied by her father because he did not deem it a suitable endeavor for a woman. That’s why Beatrix had turned her keen eye toward illustrating children’s books, much to the delight of millions of readers.

But still, ambition thwarted is ambition thwarted, in Ruth’s opinion. So Ruth, unencumbered by male opinion, decided to pursue a private career in botanical illustration in honor of her heroine.

And in order to remain unencumbered by opinion of any persuasion, Ruth kept her efforts to herself.

While Beatrix Potter had wielded watercolors to bring Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck to life, Ruth eventually decided to use colored pencils because they were far more portable, no water required.

In the winter months, she sketched the purple and white glories of red cabbage and the seedy interiors of hubbard squash. In summer, Ruth turned to beets and watermelon and beans and zucchini from her garden.

Fall, of course, was dedicated to brilliant leaves, acorns, and goldenrod.

But spring—aah spring—now that was the season for flowers. And in Ruth Goodwin’s opinion, this was one of the most glorious springs she’d ever witnessed in her beloved Vermont.

R.G.’s wait was soon over when Ruth bustled out of the house to stow her pencil case, sketchbook and camera under the Jeep’s driver seat. “Come on, R.G., let’s hope the mail is light. We’ve got blossoms to visit.”

But as often happens, Ruth’s hopeful morning tumbled downhill into a day full of delays. The delivery truck with its tubs of mail had a flat tire so it was late arriving at the Carding post office and that, in turn, made Ted Owens, the postmaster, late sorting Ruth’s deliveries.

And instead of a light mail day, her mail totes were stuffed with Memorial Day sales flyers and festival announcements. Then her daughter Sarah called with a reminder about their Saturday date to pick out a wedding dress, and Ruth had to catch herself before admitting that it had totally slipped her mind. Sarah’s fiancé was nice enough but Ruth remained unconvinced that he was the right guy for her strong-minded daughter and that had a tendency to push thoughts of her daughter’s upcoming nuptials to a nether region of her mind.

“Not my choice. Not my choice,” she reminded herself while aloud she said to Sarah: “The Bridal Place. I remember. I’ll be there, rest assured.

All of which meant that by the time Ruth and R.G. got on the road in earnest, they were already 45 minutes behind schedule. Then they got stuck behind the Tennyson hay wagon and then they had to detour around the asphalt patching on Route 37 which made them just in time to get behind the kindergarten school bus delivering its tiny passengers home for lunch.

With a sigh, Ruth tuned into Dirt Road Radio to catch the noontime weather to see if the rainy forecast had changed since she’d listened to it while she ate breakfast. In Vermont, you just never knew. The Green Mountains could delay the rain until evening. But alas, it was not to be. The forecaster was adamant: It was to be rain, clouds and drizzle for the next three days starting about mid-afternoon. 

Not good drawing weather by a long shot.

By late morning, Ruth still had one heavy tote of mail left in her back seat. Her intrepid beagle turned his mournful eyes in her direction, a signal that it was time to stop so he could stretch his legs. Ruth gazed up the hillside to her right and thought about the remnants of an old orchard tucked into a deep fold of the land up there. Some of those old trees were crabapples renowned for their ecstatic pink hue. And off to one side there was an old cellar hole where now-wild lilacs proclaimed that this had once been a home.

Ruth considered the crabapple-and-lilac combination some of the best flowerage in the Corvus River valley.

She looked at R.G. whose emotional state had changed from mournful to hopeful. Turning up the hill would make her late with her mail deliveries. But right now, the sun was still shining, the grass and new leaves were oh-so-green and…

…the mail could wait.

Remember, you can visit Carding any time 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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