Tag Archives: summer in vermont

And the People of Carding Danced: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Carding dancedThere are lots of good reasons to live in my part of Vermont. During the summer months, those reasons include a proliferation of free concerts in White River Junction and Norwich as well as just over the Connecticut River in Lebanon and Hanover, New Hampshire.

The music has been exceptional this year from classic rock to the blues to rockin’ country to Celtic to reggae, folk, funk, and big band.

As you can imagine, this summertime pleasure has inspired a Carding Chronicle.

Carding, Vermont is the fictional town inspired by the region known as the Upper Valley that straddles the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. I think it’s an exceptionally wonderful place to live. There are now four novels about Carding for you to enjoy. You will find links to them below.

Thanks so much for stopping by and please introduce all your friends to Carding.


By the middle of August, the grass on Carding green showed the marks of many feet around the gazebo on its western end. Paula Bouton smiled at the town common’s trampled condition. It was, she believed, a testament to the best concert season the town had ever had.

“That was a job well done,” she told her assistant, Tim Yu. “I do believe you scheduled something for everyone.”

He grinned, pleased with praise from the town manager. “And there’s still one more to go.”

“Indeed,” Paula said as she finished off the last of her morning’s second cup of tea. “We’d better get ready for the onslaught.”

The Carding Summer Concert series has a very long history, as these things go. Its advent stretches back to the early 1990s when Ted Owens and Diana Bennett and Bruce Elliott decided that their band, the Belmont Street Irregulars, was good enough to perform publicly. Though originally planned as a one-of, it was such as success, the town decided to make music on the green a summer tradition.

During that first season, a high school band concert followed the Irregulars, and they, in turn, were followed by a jazzy swing combo. Pretty soon Cooper’s General Store set up an ice cream truck, then lawn chairs appeared, and finally, the younger families in town showed up with strollers, picnic suppers, and blankets.

As a general rule, the adult members of the audience stay in their seats during a concert, tapping their toes or nodding their heads in time to the music. The children, however, are an entirely different story.

Freed (mostly) from their hovering parents, the kids take full advantage of the empty space in front of the stage and the gaps among the blankets and chairs, running, twirling, and tumbling to their hearts’ content.

The youngest teenagers gather near the sycamores in the center of the green, all of them knowing they are way too cool to dance. Instead of boogying, the boys check out the girls, and the girls try to figure out what the boys are thinking. Further back from the stage, the older teens participate in elaborate-though-unrehearsed rituals that sometimes include strategic retreats into the green’s darker corners.

As the years have passed, the air of the green has been filled with classic rock, reggae, Celtic music, country bands, salsa, an annual appearance by a local pops band, different varieties of funk and folk, and once, to everyone’s great delight, a polka band that managed to get everyone on the green to dance at the same time.

Even the young teenagers.

Paula was especially excited about this particular concert. Ever since her engagement to Ted Owens, she’d been trying to persuade his father, Robert, to break out of his assisted living apartment and come back to Carding for one of the musical events. She’d seen pictures in the town archives of Robert dancing on the green with Ted’s mother, Anna, and so she looked for a big band to play the last Carding Concert just for him.

After a bit of hemming and hawing, the older man finally agreed, and Paula wanted everything to be perfect, and that, of course, made her anxious.

In order to relieve her anxiety, she got in her assistant’s way all day as he organized the farmer’s market that had become an intrinsic part of concert nights. He heaved an enormous, though inaudible, sigh of relief when Paula finally left to pick up Robert.

Now Robert has Parkinson’s disease which is why he opted to live in an assisted living facility. He figured that taking care of him would be too much of a burden on his son.

Ted disagrees but Robert has won the argument…so far.

The older gentleman had had some misgivings about the effort it would take to return to his hometown. But those misgivings disappeared as soon as his feet touched the grass of Carding Green.

So many friends and former neighbors stopped to greet him, it took Paula nearly thirty minutes to guide Robert to a seat close to the bandstand. Then she brought him dinner from one of the farmers market vendors, a plate of stir-fry with chicken and noodles.

While he ate, his granddaughter, Suzanna, proudly towed several of her friends over to meet him.

Robert thought it was all perfect.

When the musicians showed up, a murmur of anticipation rippled through the crowd, and Robert leaned forward in his seat. “Is that a big band?” he asked his son who had settled on a picnic blanket near his father’s feet.

Ted nodded. “Yeah, Paula found this one special for you.”

Robert looked around the green, noting the number of gray heads mixed among the other colors. “It will be special for other people as well. I can guarantee you that.”

As the music started to flow through the warm evening air, the band moved seamlessly through Big Band classics from “Take the A Train” to “Stompin’ at the Savoy” to “Tuxedo Junction.” The youngest children swept through the crowd, squealing as they chased one another from one corner to the next. Some of the teenagers peeked out from among the trees. A couple of women started dancing with one another off to one side while the rest of the audience nodded and clapped.

At first, Robert swayed from side to side in his seat, a big grin stretched over his face, his feet keeping time. Ted reached over to take Paula’s hand.

“I think you have a real hit on your hands,” he said. Paula nodded. But then her eyes widened and she pointed over Ted’s shoulder.

“Look, look.”

Robert had risen to his full six-foot height, towering above his walker. He raised his hands above his head to clap. Then he began to sway his hips in time to the music.

At first, no one else followed his example even though you could hear folks saying “Look, look” all over the green.

As they watched, Robert held out his hands to Paula. “I can’t swing the way I used to when I danced with Anna but I can’t sit still when this music is playing,” he said. “I think I can take a few steps. What do you think?”

“I think you’re wonderful,” Paula said as she matched his uncertain gait. Robert’s grin widened. And then, as the first bars of Benny Goodman’s “In the Mood” drifted through the summer air, stars appeared along the edge of the mountains, and the people of Carding danced.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, has just become available for your reading pleasure. All the Carding novels are available on Amazon or you can order them through your local independent bookstore.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you’d like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

And the People of Carding Danced

There are so many summer pleasures in Vermont it’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet with all your favorite foods.

But summertime concerts on a town green have got to be at the top of everyone’s pleasure list. Lawn chairs, sunsets, picnics, the joy-squeals of children, and the mix of generations reminds us all how much we have in common.

In Carding, Vermont, music-on-the-green concerts start at the end of June and finish up just before Labor Day. Tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle takes you there for the last concert of this season.

I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow and in the meantime, here’s a sample of what’s in store.

SH-Carding danced

The Light of Water Dancing

Hi folks–The full moon rises at 6:57 p.m. today. Since I’m often inspired by benign lunacy, I decided to time the latest wave of the Carding Chronicles with the monthly phases of the moon.

Please keep your eye on this space for an upcoming book sale because I have some inventory that I’d like to share with you! As my friend Dana likes to say—Carding books make great gifts.

And now on with the story.

Turtle 3 for ChronicleVirginia Somerville sighed loudly as she stretched out on the lounge chair she’d positioned just-so on the porch of her cabin in the Carding Campgrounds. It wasn’t summer until this moment arrived—early morning with nothing to do but listen to the kingfisher cackle as he hunted around Half Moon Lake.

I have hours and hours of time, Virginia thought, with no principals, no parent-teacher conferences, no students, no grades, no tests, and no lesson plans.

In other words, the days of teacher bliss had commenced.

A turtle plopped from a log into the lake shallows as Andy Cooper slid by in his kayak. Every summer, Andy and his brother Charlie (both avid photographers) set themselves up in a friendly competition, choosing some obscure subject or another to see who could get the “best of.” This year, the subject was spiders and spider webs, the latter being visible only when wet with dew or rain. Which, of course, explained Andy’s early morning glide-by.

Virginia thought of the whole event as cameras-at-ten-paces but like most other folks in the Campgrounds, she enjoyed hearing the stories that accompanied each triumph. Everyone in Carding knew you couldn’t get anywhere near a Cooper without hearing a good story.

A shivery breeze caressed her bare feet as Virginia sipped her second cup of honeyed tea.  In spite of her efforts to the contrary, she couldn’t stop thinking about the child’s notebook sitting on her kitchen table, the one begging to be read a second time.

And then a third and a fourth.

Not now, Virginia told herself. I need the peace, the solitude, this time of no-thoughts.

The kingfisher cackled again, and Virginia saw it hook the water in a place known for its eels. She had a special fondness for the waterbirds because they looked, to her, as if they’d been made of spare parts. She hoped it had found breakfast. That thought provoked her own stomach, reminding her of the yogurt, peaches and granola waiting inside for her…along with the notebook.

She leaned her head back to watch mist rise from the lake’s surface. What was it about Tupelo Handy, she wondered. Was the girl, barely seven years old, a prodigy of some sort? Was she older than her mother let on? That wouldn’t be at all unusual for someone in the Handy family, a tribe renowned for its “different way of living.”

But Virginia rejected that possibility immediately. Tupelo (everyone called her Lo) was such a little thing, ethereal, as if she was built of more air than solid. No child that slight could be more than seven.

With another, deeper sigh, Virginia gave in to her curiosity and hunger pangs, and meandered into her tiny summer kitchen. The notebook took precedence over food. Its first few pages were filled with the girl’s drawings, mostly of the moon and stars, but then the crayon yielded to words.

“So many beings do live in trees close to our house,” Lo wrote. “I do see them from my windows, and talk with them in the Star-Time. The stories they do share are filled with rain patters and the breath of pink flowers that I do not know how to write down. But I do write the rest on this paper with green crayon because that is Their Favorite Color.”

Virginia washed the largest peach in her refrigerator, cut it into bits, and tumbled them into the bottom of a bowl. Then she scooped in some granola, and topped it all with her favorite maple yogurt. Tucking the notebook under her arm, she sauntered back out to her perch with the lakeside view.

“Last night, I did hear the Frog, the one I named Prince Jupiter Jehoshaphat Johnson. He sounds like the man who sings loudest in the church when mother does remember to bring me. The man makes booms that get all the way to the roof. The Frog does booms that makes the light dance in the water. I think it is funny and the beings and me, we do have laughs.”

Virginia closed the notebook with a snap then laid her hand on top of it. Lindsay Jeffords, Lo’s second grade teacher, had tried and (in Virginia’s opinion) abysmally failed to reach the little girl. The result was a being that Virginia called “the Tupelo-waif” who drifted around the playground at recess, reluctant to join any group doing anything.

If there was one thing that Virginia understood as a teacher, it was that the first law of group dynamics is that anything or anyone perceived as different creates unease among the members of the group. When difference is perceived, the members of the group close ranks to keep “the different” out.

Virginia, on the other hand, cherished difference mostly because she found conformity dull. So the questions was—how would she protect and fortify this little girl?

She caressed the notebook again while she watched the wind and water play with one another. It was only the first day of summer vacation, and Lo Handy was already taking up residence in her heart. Next thing you knew, there’d be back-to-school sales in the newspapers.

Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find four short stories in your inbox every month, one on the full moon, one on the new moon, and one each at the waxing and waning half-moons. In between, there will be other moments to share.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please encourage your friends to subscribe to this website, and talk about them on social media. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who enjoy Carding, the more I get to write and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life