Sunday, June 03, 2007

New England Memories

They say smell is the strongest memory and that has proved true this week. Although a zombie by the time I reached Burlington Vermont on Wednesday night I was instantly transported back to childhood with smell of freshly cut grass and pine. I hadn't ever really thought about grass smelling different but it does. Two other smells have transported over the past few days...the smell of cool air drifting in from damp dark woods refreshing the soul from the heavy summer heat and finally lilacs. I know we have lilacs in England but this year I wasn't able to stick my nose in one and then the season was gone. Here they are in there peak and the smell is childhood spring for me. Growing up there wasn't much in our backyard but there was a massive lilac bush. This morning while the sun was still low and dew still fresh I stuck my nose into the lilacs and boom I was ten and cutting them in the back yard to bring to school for the statue of the Blessed Mother. Time just disappeared.

It is strange being 'home' again. I haven't been in New England in seven years and not to Vermont and New Hampshire in twenty. It hasn't changed. Despite being early June, summer has hit and the heavy humid air of August fills mid day while the mornings and evenings are fresh. Mosquitoes abound and all I am missing is the smell of Coppertone to be wafted away....

Memories long buried are surfacing and I find myself fascinated by the trembling leaves on the white birch as the air stirs just before a thunder storm. I feel a bit like that. There are all these stirrings inside. The architecture fills some place inside of me and then cause an ache of loss. We are in Robert Frost territory here and I can't but help thinking of his poem :

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That poem has stayed with me all my life as I took a very different road from the one everyone (including me) expected. As I come back now I have no regrets but a I do feel twinges of loss. I am surrounded by people from my past and my life now is so alien to them yet theirs is so familiar to me.

I was finally able to say thank you to a woman who was so important in my life. She was unaware of her role it turns out. Kathy lived around the corner and I used to babysit for her children. I would just stop by her house to talk about anything. She was different from my mother but yet shared many things. I chose her to be the sponsor for my confirmation and on Friday I was able to tell her that she has been an inspiration to me. I call on her style of mothering and on the way she lived her faith as example on how to live mine. When I told her this we both wept. I hadn't seen her since I left the US in 1989. It is good to be able to say thank you for mentoring me through my teenage years and leading by example.

Today is the big bash. A cookout Vermont style. At the moment the sun is shinning and thunder clouds gathering over the mountains. Hopefully they will visit else where as they did on Friday but as then nothing will dampen the celebration!


cs harris said...

Ah yes, lilacs. We had them in our yards in both Oregon and Idaho. I haven't smelled one in over twenty years. This is one of the hardest parts about moving around, isn't it--all the things we leave behind. I miss something about every place I've lived. All those little aches. They say you can't go home again--do think you could?

Jessica Raymond said...

Such a beautiful post, Liz. I've never been to Vermont (though I'd really love to) and yet I could really imagine what it would be like to be there :)

Jess x

sheepish said...

Yes a beautiful post, hope the clouds stayed away. Enjoy the rest of your stay and tuck away all your new memories and new fragrances.

liz fenwick said...

No, C.S. I don't thinki I could go home again although part of me longs to. I have changed far too much. I would have to treat as a totally new location if I had to come back........

Thanks Jess. Put New England on your travel plans even with a little one :-)

Sheepish, the clouds didn't stay away but the rain and thunder did :-)

NoviceNovelist said...

Hi Liz, what a gorgeous post - you really transported me out of my busy Monday work routine and made me stop and be reflective. Thanks - your 'home' sounds lovely - what an experience for you. take care and enjoy the rest of your trip.

Kate said...

Gorgeous pictures, fantastic post. Hope to read more, Liz?

Kate x

Fiona Harper said...

Okay, Liz. You've finally got your own back - your post made me cry.

liz fenwick said...

Oh, Fiona, I never thought that would happen!!!

Jan Jones said...

Oh, Liz, that 'paths' poem is so true. Isn't it always the way you look back and wonder how life would have gone if you'd taken that other road?

liz fenwick said...

I first read that poem in grade school and it's still so true and I always thought of it any time I had a choice to make :-)