Tag Archives: spring in vermont

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.

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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.

The Traditions of Spring

At this point in the year, Vermonters assure themselves that winter is absolutely, finally and resolutely gone. No more snow! No more snow!

Of course, we have had snow in the middle of May.

But we don’t want to think about that.

Tomorrow, we’re going to take a tour around Carding with Ruth Goodwin as she makes note of the rituals of spring. Here’s a sample of what’s in store.

SH-Violets

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.

Spring Cleaning: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Snowdrops

While dogwoods may be in bloom elsewhere, Vermonters still have to contend with snow on the ground.

Watching the white stuff melt is like watching winter in reverse. The fluffy snow on top coagulates into ice crystals that act and sound like glass beads when you walk through them. And when you get to the very bottom of the snowy mounds, you find the sheets of ice laid down in a fury of December storms that brought the dreaded wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain to the area.

But where there’s melting snow, there’s hope for spring, right?

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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The flu has been making the rounds in Carding, Vermont. Ruth Goodwin nicknamed it the “kinda-sorta flu” because you kinda feel like you have a cold and you feel sorta achey. The overall impact on those under the influence of the virus is a weak of extreme lethargy brought on by an inability to take in enough oxygen because of congestion.

Everyone’s been drinking pots of herbal tea laced with echinacea in between naps and watching the last of the winter snow melting away into spring.

Edie Wolfe was one of the first Carding-ites to succumb so she’s now on the healing side of the equation. She’s on day six of her self-imposed regimen of fluids and sleep. She’s read three books so far but can’t remember any of them, consumed the last of her candied ginger from Christmas (a present from her sister Rosie), and now she’s pulled a comfy chair up to her front window so she can watch the sun play with the puddles spreading out from the mounded snow at the end of her driveway.

Of course you know what happens when you sit still. You start to notice stuff.

“Hmph,” Edie said as she leaned forward to run a forefinger over the windowsill. “You can tell I haven’t dusted in here for a while.”

So she moseyed out to the kitchen for her tote of cleaning products, a sponge and a bucket of warm water.

And the windowsills got a thorough cleaning. Then the top of the honey-colored wainscoting got the full treatment. As she nudged her chair to one side to reach a far corner, Edie realized she hadn’t vacuumed since catching the flu. So the vacuum came out of the closet.

Before too long, she was moving furniture to get at all those hard-to-reach places normally hidden from public view. That’s when she realized that Nearly had left his nose prints all over the lower pane of the storm door on the front of Edie’s house. While Edie had her favorite chair, Nearly, being a wee cocker spaniel, preferred sitting in the sun streaming in the front of the house as he surveyed the great world beyond his home with Edie.

As she washed the windows in the front door, knowing full well that her dog would lay down new signatures as soon as she was done, Edie’s gaze drifted out to the porch that wrapped around the northwest corner of her house. Some of the accumulated detritus of her autumn cleanup was still there, abandoned when the winter’s first storm hit Carding.

She sighed, a roll of paper towels in her hand. It was a truism widely acknowledged in northern New England that whatever is still outside when the first snowflakes fall will still be there when the sun comes up on the vernal equinox.

“I should have taken that stuff down to the basement,” she told Nearly. “Do you think I should do that now?”

The little dog’s tail fluttered with excitement. It had been days since he’d had a proper walk and he was up for anything that encouraged Edie to step outside.

“Okay. I guess we can do that. I’ll get my coat.”

Over the course of a year, the daytime temperature in Vermont can range from a very frosty 20 degrees below zero to a sweltering day in the 90s with humidity that makes it almost impossible to breathe. This wide disparity means that the terms “warm” and “cold” are relative. In January, anything above freezing is considered warm. In mid-August, anything below 65 is “pretty cold for this time of year.”

Today, at the end of March—a month infamous for its unpredictability—the thermometer in Edie’s kitchen hovered around the 40 degree mark, and with the clear sky and light breeze, it felt positively balmy outdoors.

She zipped up her work jacket as she stepped outside, sniffing the air for that first tantalizing taste of spring, the scent of wet earth. Nearly hopped down the front steps, turned to look at Edie and when she did not follow, he hopped back up.

“Sorry, little guy, I don’t think I’m up for a walk today. Be grateful we’re outside.”

She contemplated the detritus. It was mostly flowerpots, some emptied of soil, some not. There was a short stack of five-gallon pails, useful for all sorts of projects. Every household in Carding had at least four of them. 

Next she unearthed a rake, it’s wooden handle splintered at its halfway point.

“That’s right. I was going to replace that. I wonder if Andy has any handles at the store,” Edie said.

Nearly’s ears pricked up at the word store. He hopped down the front steps, turned to look at an unmoving Edie, and then hopped back up, albeit with a lot less enthusiasm.

“Hey Edie. Good to see you up and about,” Ruth Goodwin called from the infamous yellow Jeep she drove on her rounds for the U.S. Postal Service. “How are you feeling?”

“Better now that the sun is shining and it’s spring.” Edie gestured at the still-deep piles of snow as she walked down the steps. “How soon do think it will be before this is gone?”

Ruth pointed at the ground near her friend’s feet. A clot of white snowdrops were poking up through the snow beneath the bare branches of a sleeping lilac bush. Edie gasped with pleasure. 

Ruth squinted up at the sky. “Oh, I think another week, ten days at the most. It’s supposed to be clear all week, you know. Hey, I thought you were going to replace that rake’s handle last fall.”

“Yeah, you know how it is. The best laid plans…”

“Yeah, I was just at the Coop. Andy’s got a big display of seeds and he was putting out the new gardening tools when I was there.”

“Really?” Edie shaded her eyes to look across the green at Cooper’s General Store. “Now that does sound inviting. This kind of weather makes my fingers itch for digging.”

She looked down at Nearly, his face all smiles. “Well, it probably would be okay if we took a short walk. What do you think?”

The cocker’s tail disappeared in a blur.

“Well, will you look at that,” Ruth said. “Just when you thought it couldn’t go any faster, it does. Looks like you’re committed to some perambulation now.”


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.