Tag Archives: cabin fever

A Case of the Screaming Greenies: A Carding Chronicle

 

SH-screaming greeniesLast week, cases of cabin fever started springing up all over Carding, Vermont. The first “victim” was Ruth Goodwin who had a sudden urge for salad and primroses, a sure sign of that indistinct itchiness that afflicts folks nearing the end of winter.

As folks mope toward the Crow Town Bakery, no one’s quite feeling the love even though it is Valentine’s Day.

Or are they?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, 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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From his perch behind the counter at the bakery he owned with his wife, Stephen Bennett was well placed to study the waves of life undulating through Carding, Vermont.

For example, he could tell you—almost to the minute—when cabin fever had started by noting the radiant color of Amos Handy’s ubiquitous Bermuda shorts. Ordinarily, the town’s favorite eccentric was content with khaki or drab olive. But as the calendar nudged its way into February, Amos changed his hue to cyan and shimmering yellow.

Stephen always wondered where he found them.

Over at Cooper’s General Store, Andy struggled to keep his shelves of produce well-stocked and the large pot of well-spiced chili in the emporium’s take-out section was always drained by the end of the day.

Over at the library, Jane Twitchell  found the teens who lounged among her books rowdier and louder. And the pick-up ice hockey game on the town rink never seemed to stop.

Edie Wolfe had a nickname for all the to-doing during cabin fever time. She called it “screaming greenies.”

“We’ve all been too long without gardens and hiking and leaves on the trees,” she said. “We’ve been spending too much time inside.”

By noon on the day of this story, everyone who had drained into the bakery had a grumpy face. Folks sat in desultory circles, complaining and whining about things that none of them would have noticed if it was spring.

Diana wandered out of the Crow Town’s kitchen, her day’s baking done for the moment. She took one look around the room then sidled over toward her husband.

“It’s supposed to be a rather nice weekend,” she said in a tone calculated to carry to the occupants of the table closest to her. Two pairs of eyeballs swiveled in her direction.

“Yeah, I understand it’s going to be clear and in the low thirties,” Stephen picked up the thread of  Diana’s thought. “Got anything in mind?”

“Well, we haven’t cross-country skied the loop around the lake this winter.”

“True. How would you like to make that a bit more interesting?” Stephen asked.

Some eyebrows rose among their listeners.

“Maybe. What do you suggest?”

“Whoever makes it around the loop fastest gets to sleep in on Sunday morning?”

“If you throw in a couple of muffins and a large coffee, I’ll join your race,” Amos said. “And I challenge you to race in shorts.”

“Ah, that’s no challenge,” Gideon Brown said with a laugh. “By this time in the winter, thirty degrees feels like seventy. We could go out there and play volleyball on the court at the town beach in shorts and never feel it.”

“Volleyball? That sounds like a good idea,” Stephen said. “How about volleyball on snowshoes?”

Everyone laughed at the images that Stephen’s words conjured up. But then they looked at one another in the silence that followed, and in that moment, they sensed a quickening in the room.

“Anyone know where the recreation committee stores the volleyball nets during the winter?” Gideon asked.

“Does anyone know how thick the ice is on the lake?” Ruth Goodwin said. “We could set up a curling circle close to the beach.”

“I was talking to Bob Townsend yesterday,” Gideon said. “He’s got his bob house halfway between the island and the beach and he told me the ice is a good eight inches thick all the way across.”

“How about a couple of campfires so the kids can toast marshmallows and make s’mores?” Edie suggested.

Ruth cupped her bowl of salad in both hands. “We could make a tent city for the littlest ones to play in. String ropes between the trees just a couple of feet off the ground and flop blankets and quilts over them to make houses and tunnels.”

Hillary Talbot, everyone’s favorite waitress, raised her now-empty coffee pot. “We could call it ‘Summer in Snow,’” she suggested.

“Let’s hear it for green,” Ruth said.

As more and more ideas poured out from the crowd, Stephen glanced over at his wife and caught her grinning back at him. 

“So, do you really think you can beat me around the lake on skis?” he asked as he slid his arm around her waist.

“Yeah, I do as a matter of fact,” Diana said. “But quite frankly, I’d rather sleep in with you than without you.”

Stephen sighed. “Well, now that we’ve got this ball rolling, I think we’ve got to be there, don’t you?”

Diana’s grin spread across her face. She could barely hear Stephen because of the hubbub in the bakery. It was a good sound, solid and hopeful instead of weak and whining. She’d lived in Vermont all her life so she accepted the fact that cabin fever was real. You could see it in the strain on people’s faces as they shuffled about in their heavy coats and boots. The isolation and cold got tougher to bear for so many people. The only sure cure was action, preferably in a group, especially a group that liked to laugh.

Suddenly she straightened up. “Hey folks, does anyone have any ideas on how we could construct a temporary warming hut so that we can get the older folks out of their houses so they can watch? I mean, how many times do you get to watch people play volleyball on snowshoes wearing shorts?”

Heads turned toward Amos Handy. There were lots of very skilled folks in Carding but when it came to rummaging and making do, no one had a patch on Amos. He was renowned for his ability to make splendid somethings out of nothing.

His fingers were already moving his beard around, smoothing it and stroking it, a sure sign that an idea was cooking in his head like an egg on Stephen’s griddle.

“It’ll have to have windows and something for a door,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of big replacement windows stored at my house that could do, I think.”

“We can use lawn chairs for seating,” Edie said.

“I’ll bring in the portable heaters that we use on the job site,” Gideon said.

“Okay,” Ruth said, looking up at the clock. “Today’s Thursday which means we’ve only got the rest of today and tomorrow to get this set up. Let’s hustle.”

And just like that, the people of Carding found a cure for their cabin fever.

By the way, Diana did beat Stephen around the lake on skis, but just barely. She enjoyed sleeping in, especially when her husband woke up beside her.


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.

A Case of the Screaming Greenies

Last week, cases of cabin fever started springing up all over Carding, Vermont. The first “victim” was Ruth Goodwin who had a sudden urge for salad and primroses, a sure sign of that indistinct itchiness that afflicts folks nearing the end of winter.

As folks mope toward the Crow Town Bakery, no one’s quite feeling the love even though it is Valentine’s Day.

Or are they?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, 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.

Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s story. Sure hope you’ll stop by.

SH-screaming greenies

Hearts Schmarts: A Carding Chronicle

sh-hearts schmartsJudging by the red and pink displays in the stores around here, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

And so is the peak (pique?) of cabin fever.

To those who know her, Ruth Goodwin is a barometer of cabin fever. She tries to control it, that irresistible itch to do something—anything—different, especially if it involves the color green.

So far, she hasn’t been successful.

Let’s see how she does this year, shall we?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. Carding is the small town (population 3,700 or so) that no one can seem to find on a map of the Green Mountain State. But you can find it any time, 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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Ruth Goodwin needs sunlight in her life like a plant needs it for photosynthesis. That’s why there are windows on three sides of her kitchen.

That is where she’s standing now, sipping from a cup filled with her favorite brew, cocoa laced with strong coffee, her own special kind of mocha.

It was early—Ruth is an up-with-the-sun riser by habit and inclination—and she’s standing in the middle of the warming room, her face turned to the east so she can watch the pale wintry glow of the sun ooze into the sky. The light at this time of day—a shade of dusky twilight tinged with silver—was one of her favorites. She’d been taking an online class in watercolors—a secret she shared with no one—and had discovered that capturing the qualities of light like this was on-beyond-difficult.

The fact that so many artists before her had discovered the same thing did not mitigate Ruth’s frustration which is why she kept the class a secret. All the work she’d produced so far was either consigned to the wood stove or tucked into a little-used drawer in her quilting studio.

The sun’s inevitable rise revealed the palest breath of blue in the sky. It was the only color that was not brown or gray or white. Even the pines on the opposite hill looked black.

Ruth sighed and shifted her stance to stare out her western windows. The last vestiges of the passing night still ruled here, but just barely. No color could be seen there, of course.

In her morning ritual, Ruth always saved the panorama to the north for last because it was the longest view. In February, it revealed miles of snow-covered land rolling away in a series of gentle slopes that stretched past the point of no return. 

Ordinarily, that northern perspective calmed Ruth, a daily reminder of why she lived in Vermont. It was always beautiful, no matter the weather or the season.

But by this time of year, it had remained unchanged for too long.

Ruth was an old hand at winter so of course she recognized the symptoms of incipient cabin fever. I know you do, too. It’s that indistinct itchy feeling you get when you’ve been inside too long. What you need is a good long walk in the woods or a visit to an art museum or a shopping trip for something new that you don’t need.

Something—anything—that gets your blood moving.

As Ruth rinsed out her cup in the sink, the sweetened caffeine in her mocha started infusing her nervous system with energy that had nowhere to go. She needed to do something—anything. She thought of several ideas in quick succession but rejected them all because they seemed like too much trouble.

Something, she thought again. I’ve got to do something. Anything is better than this standing around. What I need is a salad, she finally decided. Eating something green and crunchy ought to get the ball rolling.

Since her refrigerator and freezer were full of soup and stuff she’d put by from her gardens back in September, eating salad meant taking a trip to Cooper’s General Store in the center of Carding.

Clad in boots and gloves and a heavy coat with her beagle R.G. by her side, Ruth stamped out to her car and let it warm while she scraped the sparkling morning frost off the windshield.

R.G. helped by planting nose prints on the inside of all the windows as he paced from the front seat to the back seat of Ruth’s yellow Jeep.

The sun was amping up the blue of the sky as Ruth descended the hills toward the center of town. She deliberately took the long-way-round in order to enjoy more of the scenery. The sun was now strong enough to warm the inside of a car and R.G and his person delighted in the glow on their faces.

Ruth returned several waves as she swung around Meetinghouse Road in the center of town. Since she delivered the mail to most of Carding, her bright yellow Jeep was well-known. R.B. added a yip now and then, sensing a lift in Ruth’s spirits.

She parked carefully, making sure her vehicle faced the sun so that her beloved beagle could bask while she shopped.

Andy Cooper always seemed to have a sixth sense about what his customers wanted. Generally speaking, he didn’t waste the space in Cooper’s with paper and plastic gewgaws that thumped his customers over the head with whatever holiday was next on the calendar. He carried a few green and red items at Christmas and scarecrows at Halloween. But most of his store was dedicated, in Andy’s words, to “stuff real people can really use.”

So Ruth found a pile of carrots and cauliflower just inside the front door. Plastic boxes of mixed greens cuddled up to tomatoes that Ruth doubted had ever seen a garden. But in Vermont in February, they would do.

She had a good chatter with Corker Smith who was stocking wine in a far corner at the back of the store. It was a place that Corker had chosen specifically for this task because it was out of the sun but near the cheese. 

Ruth’s morning continued to get better with every interaction and every vegetable. She was just starting to smile when she came around the last corner of the last aisle. There, in a rather artistically inclined display, was a small pyramid of candy hearts under a colorful umbrella next to a turnstile of heart-strewn cards in every shade of red and pink known to humankind.

Ruth stopped short. It wasn’t so much that she disliked Valentine’s Day. As made-for-consumer holidays go, it wasn’t the worst offender of her waste-not-want-not sensibilities. That designation belonged to the repugnant “Black Friday” shopping scream on the day after the best holiday of them all—Thanksgiving.

It was just that Ruth was not a big fan of the color pink. She blamed that circumstance on her mother, Enid, who never let a day go by without wearing a pink something-or-other. If that wasn’t bad enough, Enid had insisted on frilling out her only daughter with pink skirts and pink sweaters, shirts, and even shoes.

The other kids noticed, of course, and christened Ruth with the nickname Pinky, a sobriquet that stuck to her until she was in her mid-teens and buying her own clothes. She hadn’t worn the color pink since. 

She stood there, hands gripping her cart full of green salad fixings along with a container of pesto and another of guacamole, huffing at the pinkish display. 

“Something wrong, Ruth?” Andy Cooper asked as he trundled up the aisle lugging an open container filled with small pots of primroses.

“Heart schmarts!” Ruth’s voice shuddered with revulsion. She grabbed two pots of primroses and placed them in her cart. “What we need is flowers!!”

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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.

Hearts Schmarts

Judging by the red and pink displays in the stores around here, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

And so is the peak (pique?) of cabin fever.

To those who know her, Ruth Goodwin is a barometer of cabin fever. She tries to control it, that irresistible itch to do something—anything—different, especially if it involves the color green.

So far, she hasn’t been successful.

Let’s see how she does this year, shall we? Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s story, the first of two parts, about Ruth Goodwin and her battle for an oasis of green in the gray world of February.

Remember, you can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles any time by clicking the magic button on this page. That way, the weekly Chronicles will appear in your inbox without any further effort (except for the reading. of course) on your part.

sh-hearts schmarts