A Winter Walk in Old New England (Or, Down the Rabbit Hole)

Winter in Vermont arrives early, and it hits hard.  Already there is a stubborn sheen of ice on my driveway, creating an adventure every time I drive down.  The meadow out behind the house, with its rolling hills and undulations, is an unbroken sea of pure white.  And the wind chills?  Let’s not even talk about the wind chills!

wintervermontstart

 

I make no secret that winter is my least-favorite season.  People sometimes kid me about that.  “You live in Vermont, and you don’t like winter?” they say.  I reply that it’s not a big deal.  I love the spring, summer, and fall–three out of four seasons isn’t bad.  Nevertheless, winter in New England has a way of holding on, reluctant to let go.  Even in the brighter, milder months of March and April, winter digs in its heels, delaying the inevitable, resisting the birth of spring with every harsh gust of wind and squall of snow.

snowsqualls

 

So I am under no grand illusions.  A long, unbroken string of arctic-like months awaits.  Still, I have no desire to huddle beside the portable heater all winter, hot chocolate in hand.  (Though surely there will be some of that!)  I enjoy the outdoors, and on days not quite so harsh, on days when the sun–too often a stranger in New England–chooses to shine, I will take advantage.

hotchocolate

 

Recently, on one such sunny, crisp afternoon, I took a walk.  Navigating the icy slope of the driveway, I walked down to the road.  The road in question, as are so many in rural Vermont, is dirt–dry and dusty in summer, muddy and soft in early spring, hard and snow-packed right now.  If I turned right, I’d walk toward a paved road a mile away.  But if I turned left, within a third of a mile, the road would morph into a narrow trail, not maintained by the town.

winterdirtroadvermont

 

I went left.

As I walked, I was struck by the silence.  No cars.  No people.  No sounds.  There was a gentle breeze, but no leaves to rustle–only the empty spaces in bare trees and lonely expanse of snow-covered fields and stripped woodland floors.  Even the songbirds were silent.   Briefly, a sound to my right–a wild turkey, startled by my intrusion, scurried into the woods, disappearing from view.  More silence.  I inhaled.  The air was a winter knife, cold, sharp, as if it might draw blood if I weren’t careful.

turkeyinsnow

 

I walked on, reaching the trail, where the snow depth swelled, coming up above my ankles.  Even back here, though, there were tire tracks, the residue of rugged four-wheel drives and snowmobiles, no doubt.  My footfalls crunched the packed snow, punctuating the stillness.  My breath hung on the air before dissipating, molecule by molecule.

tiretracksinsnow

 

Then I paused.  Stopped.  I listened to the silence.  It washed over me like a vacuum, snuffing out the sound.  I breathed again, in and out, in and out.  A gray squirrel chattered from a nearby tree, but then climbed higher.

squirrel

 

Everything was so quiet, so white–the world seemed asleep, slumbering beneath the blanket of snow.  For a moment, reality itself seemed slippery, as if, perhaps, I had gone down a rabbit hole and was standing there only as an apparition, or maybe some figure within the realm of someone else’s dream.

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What is real? I wondered, looking over the frozen pond that lay just meters before me, and, beyond that, the snowcapped mountains that rose in the distance like ancient giants worn and weathered by time.

mountainsendpartone

 

****************

In The Eye-Dancers, what we perceive as real is explored, and challenged, over and over again.  Indeed, in chapter 2, Joe Marma feels so disoriented that “reality felt too elusive, too fragmentary, as if it were crumbling away into jigsaw pieces that could not be put back together.”  Indeed–are his dreams, along with Mitchell Brant’s dreams and Ryan Swinton‘s dreams, real or “just a nightmare,” something to wake up from and escape and put safely and securely in the rearview mirror?  Who is this “ghost girl” who continues to haunt them?  And when they are transported to a different dimension, an alternate universe, is what they experience “real” or illusory?

jigsawpuzzle

 

When the boys first arrive in the alternate town of Colbyville, Ryan isn’t sure:  “The line between dreams and reality had certainly been blurred, if it existed at all.”

Have you ever felt that way?

George Bailey did.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday staple, and one I partake of every year.  Many people know the story of Bedford Falls and George and Mary and Old Man Potter.  We know George has a string of bad luck and at one point contemplates jumping to his death off a bridge, only to be saved by Clarence the bumbling but lovable angel who is still searching for his wings.  And we all know the movie ends with a rousing rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” along with Zuzu’s memorable line, “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

itsawonderfullifefirstmention

 

And George’s response:  “That’s right, that’s right.”

But how does Clarence ultimately convince George to step away from the cliff, or, in this case, the bridge?  How does he earn his wings at the end?

georgeatbridgehowdoesclarenceconvice

 

By showing George what the world would look like without him.  Admittedly, this isn’t Clarence’s idea.  It is his response to a despondent George’s muttering that he wishes he’d never been born.  Wish granted!  You want to be erased, George Bailey?  Consider yourself erased.

clarencegrantingwishneverborn

 

In other words, Clarence helps George to see his many blessings not by hopping on to his personal soapbox or through any words of wisdom; rather, he rescues George by taking him down the rabbit hole and in to an alternate reality, allowing him to witness the fallout of a world that could have been, might have been, had he never existed to touch the lives of others.

georgeseeingworldwithouthim

 

He saves him by changing the very nature and shape of what we deem to be real.

*****************

I stayed there on that path, overlooking the iced-over pond and the far-off majesty of mountains and sky, for several minutes.  The wind picked up, and the bite of the cold chomped down, stinging my face and eyes.  But I just wanted to take it all in.  What is real?

whatisrealbeginningoflast6section

 

In an age where unfiltered bias is immediately disseminated to millions upon millions of people, when individuals can and do attempt to delegitimize the press, when various forms of social media can be used to spread truth or lies with equal fervor, what is real?  If someone tweets out a lie, and sixty million people read it and believe it, is it now true?

tweeting

 

The shifting, changing, amorphous lens through which the world views itself, and through which we view the world, is in a state of disarray.  Reality for many has become as confusing and inexplicable as George Bailey’s journey through his own personal rabbit hole.

georgebaileyconfusednearendrabbithole

 

But as I turned to leave the path, to retrace my steps in the snow and head back home, I attempted to answer the question that lingered on the air like wood smoke.  What is real?

George Bailey found the answers at the end of the movie.  Clarence the angel penned a personal note to George:  “No [one] is a failure who has friends.”  And with George surrounded by friends and family, singing off-key in a cinematic moment for the ages, he understands the truth, the essence, and so do we.

clarencenoteend

 

So, as 2016 nears its end, as we forge bravely ahead into the uncertain climes of 2017 and beyond, maybe, just maybe, we can all pause for a moment and tune in to a corny old holiday classic, walking the avenues and sidewalks of Bedford Falls, reliving the miracle on 34th Street, soaring with a red-nosed reindeer as he leads the way, or witnessing a walking, talking snowman.

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These are, it seems to me, rabbit holes very much worth exploring.

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Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and blessed New Year.

happyholidaysveryend

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

 

71 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ipuna Black
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 19:34:53

    Mike,
    I love your voice in your words. You really know how to pull readers in and give them a warm, fuzzy, feeling inside. I actually talked about your voice on my blog post :). I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with your family as well!

    Reply

  2. leggypeggy
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 19:36:32

    A beautiful post—words and pictures. Thanks.

    Reply

  3. Meredith
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 19:42:21

    Mike – I don’t know if I told you this or not (as I don’t usually comment on your blog) but I read Eye Dancers and it engaged me to the very end. And I must say I enjoy your blog posts so much I can hardly stand it. Your writing style is as wonderful as the messages you present. This one, in particular, rang so true to me. We’re facing such an uncertain future right now and it truly is hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

    I know what’s real in my own world, and that’s the world I trust. I’ll stay on that snowy path (Minnesota girl here) and suck it all in. Cheers to you in 2017, and good luck with what we have to face in that world that belongs to everyone else. Take solace in your own world at least, and I hope you keep sharing it with the rest of us.

    Reply

  4. laurelwolfelives
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 19:42:40

    Very captivating post. 🙂

    Reply

  5. joannerambling
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 19:48:12

    I feel so blessed that I was able to come here today and everyday, you have a wonderful blog and the photos made me smile and feel happy for that I thank you.

    Reply

  6. joliesattic
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 20:02:22

    What a beautiful post. A great way to greet my Christmas Weekend. Sometimes, I think I’d like to be back in Colorado where it snows, but you reminded me what I didn’t like. I like the snow but not traveling driving in it. I forgot how long the winters last. I like sunshine and yes, the glitter of sun on the snow is amazing… and the quiet is something to experience.

    Reply

  7. dancingpalmtrees
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 20:04:08

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays!!

    Reply

  8. Christy B
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 20:12:18

    I loved the alternate universe you created in The Eye-Dancers. When you think about what exactly is real, well, it all becomes a bit of a headache 😉 Happy holidays!

    Reply

  9. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 21:02:24

    Now that looks like the Christmas season. I know it’s cooooolllllddd but it’s so beautiful. Vermont is a paradise nature state. Stay warm and happy holidayts to your and yours. ❤ Paulette

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 25, 2016 @ 01:23:59

      Thanks so much, Paulette! You were one of my earliest followers here at The Eye-Dancers, and your ongoing support has meant a great deal. Merry Christmas from the winter wonderland of Vermont.:)

      Reply

  10. jjspina
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 21:03:40

    Love your post and photos! Makes me happy to be inside where it is warm and cozy. The older I get the more I dislike winter! It is beautiful to look at though. LOL!

    Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts and words. You really know how to write a fascinating post! Keep warm! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Mike! xxoo

    Reply

  11. Karina Pinella
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 22:02:15

    What a lovely post, especially when you describe the winter scenes. So true about winter seeming to hang on longer than it should. I always perceive it that way because I too prefer the other more temperate seasons. Winter is always too long for me.

    Reply

  12. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
    Dec 22, 2016 @ 23:30:09

    No one could write this like you, Mike. A heartwarming post, yet, you gave us something to think about and a future to look forward to. I’m surrounded by the Great Lakes, and can relate to your walk down the snowy path. There is nothing like that kind of quiet. Merry Christmas!

    Reply

  13. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 01:12:25

    A friend of mine from New Hampshire describes his state as having only 3 seasons…preparing for winter, winter, and getting over winter. Maybe he should move to Vermont 🙂 Anyway, lovely, heartwarming end of the year post. All the best to you and yours too ❤

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 25, 2016 @ 01:28:18

      Thanks so much, Donna! Merry Christmas! And actually, I tend to agree with your New Hampshire friend.:) It kind of feels like that here in Vermont, as well.:( Winter lasts a long time . . .

      Reply

  14. evelyneholingue
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 01:25:42

    For someone who doesn’t like winter your write exquisitely about the season. Love the sensory details. And of course I always enjoy how you tie so nicely your current life to your writing journey and a movie. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season, Mike! I wish winter won’t last too long for you.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 25, 2016 @ 01:29:39

      Merry Christmas, Evelyne! It’s always such a pleasure hearing from you, and your ongoing encouragement is much appreciated! Have a wonderful holiday season, and see you on the other side of 2017.:)

      Reply

  15. Dragthepen
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 03:59:31

    This is a classic post. Merry Christmas.

    Reply

  16. ritaroberts
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 08:34:09

    Beautifully written Mike , as always. Although its cold wet and there is snow on the mountains in Crete where I live your post made me feel quite cosy and I think that is because its Xmas. I loved that film starring James Stewart. The silence you talk about on your walk can be quite eerie can’t it ? but when you see the squirrels and birds about you know you are not alone. Great post. Have a wonderful Xmas and New Year. 2017. where we hope the world will become more peaceful.

    Reply

  17. Sherri
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 11:56:14

    Rabbit holes certainly do bring adventure! And I do love the snow – until I have to drive in it and get around, so I do commiserate with you! I grew up in a part of England that had winters like yours in Vermont, but now, on the south west, it’s windy and wet mostly! Wonderful post as always Mike. Best wishes to you for a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…see you in 2017! 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 25, 2016 @ 01:32:49

      Merry Christmas, Sherri! And yes–that is the worst part, isn’t it? Driving around when the weather’s bad–which, here in Vermont, is usually at least once or twice per week in winter! Sometimes I find myself longing for spring by the time we hit January.:)

      Reply

      • Sherri
        Jan 01, 2017 @ 21:48:48

        Thanks Mike, I hope you had a great Christmas and the snow didn’t play havoc with your travel plans! Happy New Year, hope 2017 is a great year for you! 🙂

  18. Rilla Z
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 15:01:39

    Merry Christmas! Vermont sounds beautiful and cold. I have a friend who read descriptions of Vermont and made it her goal to live there. She does now and sets her characters in Vermont. I think I’m catching Vermont fever. 😊

    Reply

  19. Lesley at Lola Rugula
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 18:43:09

    You have such a talent for weaving multiple stories together. I’d say I don’t miss living in Connecticut but I now live in northern Illinois, so I’m still hating winter! Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a healthy, prosperous 2017!

    Reply

  20. stockdalewolfe
    Dec 23, 2016 @ 20:10:10

    Mike,

    This was wonderful to read!! I am an ex-winter lover. I love those long, cold, hushed walks in the snow, with cheeks kissed by frost and totally invigorated. But now that my husband’s weakest health is in winter and, to be honest, mine, too, combined with fear of falling asleep we get older and older, Fall has become my favorite season. I spent many happy summers in a tiny town in Vermont and Vermont has a special place in my heart but I will not be able toI’ve there in this lifetime.

    As for what is real in this topsy-turvy world we are living in, with the new coming in, I throw up my hands in despair. We are in for a harsh new reality.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Best, ellen

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 25, 2016 @ 01:37:48

      Thanks so much, Ellen, and merry Christmas! And you’re right about what’s coming in 2017 . . . we have to be vigilant and ready and safeguard the things we hold dear. The new political reality is alarming, and I can only hope that truth, compassion, and integrity will win out in the end. In the meantime, as you say, it’s a harsh, new reality. But for right now, have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season, and I will see you on the other side of the New Year!

      Reply

  21. barbaramonier
    Dec 24, 2016 @ 13:19:03

    Always a pleasure to read. Have a wonderful holiday, Mike!

    Reply

  22. carolineturriff
    Dec 24, 2016 @ 15:49:49

    I agree with you – I do not like winter although I do like Christmas the only highlight in the cold. So many people love snow but I hate snow as it is so easy to fall over on the sidewalk when it snows and it takes ages to get all the snow and frost off your car. Snow looks nice – and your pictures of where you live are stunning – but it is something I would rather see on TV than in real life!

    Reply

  23. reocochran
    Dec 25, 2016 @ 02:18:51

    Mike, Merry Christmas and hope you have been well, happy, and continue to be filled with wonder! Hugs, Robin
    PS. Usually I work in hot warehouse for 50 hours a week in summer, but I had an ongoing schedule of this from March until December. I wish I could have visited more often. Cheers for both of our new year’s beginnings! xo

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:26:27

      I hope you had a great Christmas, Robin! And have a wonderful New Year, too. I am sure I’ll be visiting your site frequently in 2017.:)

      Reply

      • reocochran
        Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:37:34

        Hope the same back to you, Mike!
        I have a lot less time to write my essays which I felt were rather interesting and the collection of love stories from family and friends. I felt I was a journalist (“on the street”) using my mind more, stretching my craft a bit.
        I know some authors like you are still full-time writers. I value your craft and have requested books to be bought at our library. The blog came about when I realized I wasn’t going back to teaching and my mind was wandering while working in an auto parts warehouse. . . Smiles, Robin xo

  24. reocochran
    Dec 25, 2016 @ 02:26:44

    As far as winter, I used to like snow, ice and Lake Erie being deep in snow sometimes. I felt you awe and love of nature shining through your dislike of the cold.
    The hush and beauty of your walk portrayed much respect for your surroundings, Mike. Take care and thanks for the times you liked my posts and kept in touch. Smiles, Robin

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:25:29

      Thanks so much, Robin! Yes, I do try to appreciate the majesty of winter even as I often rail against it.:)

      Reply

      • reocochran
        Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:28:57

        I could tell from your special way you wrote this post, Mike! It was quite a tribute to winter’s beauty. I rail against the ice and slush, as well as any deep snow which requires me to pull out of my trunk my shovel! 🙂

  25. Arlene G.
    Dec 25, 2016 @ 03:16:33

    Thank you for liking some of my recent posts. I enjoyed reading this one! I dislike winter too. I feel miserable when the temperature drops into the 30s and upper 20s at night here in Sacramento, so I cannot imagine how I would fare in a place where winter brings sleet and snow. Yes, I agree that our perceptions of reality are very fluid. I sometimes find myself thinking if there is one universal reality that everyone is a part of or if life consists of the overlapping realities people somehow create for themselves through their consciousness. The nature of reality is indeed a mystery.

    It has been a pleasure following your blog and exchanging ideas with you over the past year. Merry Christmas, Mike! 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:18:57

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Arlene! It has indeed been a pleasure connecting with you this past year, and I look forward to more of the same in 2017.:) Happy New Year!

      Reply

      • Arlene G.
        Dec 31, 2016 @ 06:20:20

        I hope you enjoyed your Christmas too and Happy New Year to you! Yes, I would like to continue our online conversations in 2017 as well. 🙂

        I also wanted to let you know that PBS recently did a remake of Anne of Green Gables. I did not see it myself, but people who left comments on one of the news stories I read about the remake did not like it.

  26. valorydegree
    Dec 26, 2016 @ 08:08:13

    Such wonderful descriptions of winter in Vermont; I spent 15 of them in my young adulthood before returning to a milder climate. Vermonters are a tough breed; my husband and I were talking about this just yesterday, and how we have grown soft in our old age, and wouldn’t want to do all that is required to live there now. So we content ourselves with a 9 or 10 day visit every year, in spring or fall, because while we definitely agree that winter is out, summer is, too, because the humidity knocks us flat! It never bothered us when we were kids, and neither did the cold and snow, but like I said, we’ve grown soft…

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 28, 2016 @ 13:22:34

      Yes–winters here in Vermont are tough.:) Winter here always feels like it lasts for about 8 months! That’s not true, of course, but day after day of cold and sometimes snow and freezing rain and poor driving conditions and ice on the driveway–well, the days do seem longer because of it all! One of these days, I may move somewhere warmer myself! But not anytime soon . . .

      Reply

  27. Teagan Geneviene
    Dec 26, 2016 @ 13:27:24

    Happy holidays to you and yours too, Michael. Wishing you all the best in 2017.

    Reply

  28. BroadBlogs
    Dec 28, 2016 @ 23:18:33

    New England is so romantic. Especially at Christmas.

    Reply

  29. Ste J
    Jan 03, 2017 @ 16:48:50

    Happy New Year, what is real seems fluid these days, I tend to take assume that we are all in our own personal Truman Show, it makes life easier then.

    Reply

  30. maguinolbay
    Jan 07, 2017 @ 11:57:42

    I like the positive tone all your blogs contain. I fear what lies ahead in the year 2017. Somehow your blog dampens that fear.

    Reply

  31. penneyvanderbilt
    Jan 08, 2017 @ 10:50:23

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.

    Reply

  32. Adam
    Jan 18, 2017 @ 00:40:31

    The opening meditation on silence is very powerful, and reminiscent of experiences I think many of us have. We are social creatures, and we live with and often define ourselves by our relationships with others. But there’s a freedom in solitude and silence. I’m often drawn to late at night, a time when most are asleep, a moment that’s mine alone. I often wonder “In a culture that prizes industry, achievement, and activity, what am ‘I’ when I stop doing? Even the labels we seek to earn; writer, artist, are defined by doing. Can one still be a ‘writer’ if one never writes?” And in turn that leads back to the question, “What are we if we do nothing?”

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jan 23, 2017 @ 14:34:15

      Great questions, and really at the heart of philosophical thought since the dawn of humanity. I tend to lean more toward the essence of who we are, as opposed to what we do. And yet–the “doing” is important, too. I always enjoy thinking about this stuff!

      Reply

  33. natuurfreak
    Jan 23, 2017 @ 15:25:08

    Beautiful pictures end stories

    Reply

  34. gaiainaction
    Feb 05, 2017 @ 16:53:31

    Dear Mike, I may say that I am much the better for having read you beautiful description of your walk in nature today, and the questions you ask, like, what really is reality? When reading the summary of your book I already became fascinated by your line of thought. Though I am not a young adult anymore, I am still a young adult in an older body, ready to explore everything, every thought. I shall read your book too. I’m sure glad you decided to visit my blog and in this way I got to know yours. Thank you very much, I look forward to read more of yours.
    Kind regards, Agnes

    Reply

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