NORTH, SOUTH, ACROSS
Or, how being attached kept me detached until I let go and just was where I was.
by Sandra Bark
My friend Corinna lives in Vermont. I live in Brooklyn. For over a decade now, her real life has provided the green mountain backdrop for my summer vacations and the snowy vistas of my winter escapes. This summer, with her son away on his own vacation, I was invited to spend a week inhabiting the room of a ten-year old boy.
When I travel, even to an area I feel familiar with, it takes time for me to fully settle into the rhythms of a place. At the outset, I generally have one foot where I began and one foot where I am, like I am playing Twister on a map. This trip was no different. My train pulled in and half of me came with it; the other half remained in Brooklyn, planning meetings.
I woke up on the first day of my Vermont Summer Vacation surrounded by plastic soldiers and stripped of my usual yoga classes and engagements, and so I did something I might do at home: I took a walk.
Strolling in Vermont is not like strolling in Brooklyn. Head out the front door of my city apartment and you will find an exponential number of directions to explore, each corner offering up another set of possibilities. Head out the front door of Corinna’s country house, which is at a crossroads and across the street from a lake, and you have only four directions to choose from: North, South, East, and West.
I chose East. The road edged around the lake and curved up a hill. I noted the green of the grass and the glass of the lake. I remembered that I had to make a call, and discovered that the cell phone service was non-existent. My iPhone was useless.
I was ready to work; my trusty electronic assistant, not so much. I kept walking, and eventually, I turned around and retraced my steps: it was the only way to get back.
Back in her living room, I waited for my friend to finish chatting on the phone so that I could make a business call.
I have not waited to use a phone since the mid-nineties.
In the meanwhile, I opened my laptop and found that the internet was mighty sketchy, more like dial-up than wireless. I sighed. I closed my laptop. I made the call on her landline and then I let New York recede.
I took a deep breath. I went outside and dove into the lake.
It was at this moment, not when my train pulled in, that I fully arrived in Vermont.
Over the next week, I wandered up to the Barnard Inn (since 1796), where they fed me greens just picked in their garden and poured generous glasses of the secret stash of Bordeaux…watched fireworks from the crest of a forested hill… picked up radishes and scapes at the farm instead of the farmer’s market…rowed a puppy across the lake while children swam around the hull like dolphins…spent an afternoon in a renovated one-room schoolhouse drinking rosé….and read a fantasy novel about time travel, borrowed from my young absentee host, that stated the impossibility of being in two places at once, a fact that I myself had just fully embraced.
As soon as I put down my city compass, I saw that north, south, east and west are just starting points. I realized that although the road beckons, sometimes you have to leave the path in order to find adventure. And I remembered that through the field, over the rocks, between the trees and across the lake are also viable directions.