Tag Archives: rural life

Just Another Day

5 2JustAnotherDay web

Two kids playing two different sports, with one assistant coaching the other, and our morning routine has shot to H E double hockey sticks.

We have not made the bus more than once in the last three weeks, and Monday was no exception. 

Monday was a two sport day with a golf tournament two towns away and a game for the other after school, so we loaded up the car with gear and got to the bus stop to see it pulling away. It was OK, it was an opportunity to go over the schedule for the night and review the to-dos for the rest of the week–testing and more testing for college, prom fittings, and of course the all-important play date. 

The last thing on my mind was creativity. I didn’t even have time to congratulate myself on setting the alarm clock two hours earlier to make sure it happened Monday morning. I’ve been drawing and sketching every day and working on illustrations for a children’s book but have not been in the mood to stop and soak up and/or paint the landscape.

The missed bus stayed two cars ahead of us for most of the drive out of our 300 person town. As we reached a main road, all I noticed that grey morning was the line of brake lights in front of us. 

Thing1, however, was scanning the entire scene as he waited to guide the car into what Vermont calls “traffic”. As I went through the to do list, he leaned forward and glanced up at the sky. Then he looked at the mountain that rows up behind the nondescript garage across the street.

“Mom,” he said, “look at that light. do you see that little sliver of sun hitting the hill?” I nodded no I had not and still didn’t look up as we had seen that particular hill at least twice a day every day for the last 16 years. 

Thing1 does not go gaga for art as his brother and I do. He draws very well, but his passions lie elsewhere so his next words demanded me to look up.

“Now that’s a painting,” he said.

I closed my list and listened and looked at the mountain. The parting clouds had refracted that sliver of sun so that the three-day-old leaves on the trees were infused with gold. Golden mist from the rainstorm that had past 10 minutes earlier diffused the details of the scenery in front of us, and just like that I was back into landscapes.

All it took was an overly busy, completely ordinary day and the observation of a kid who is pretty smart for a math major to point out the forest and the trees.

Post Peak

Peaking, Watercolor on canvas, 12x12, $70

Peaking, Watercolor on canvas, 12 x 12, $70

A wet and windy front moved through over the weekend, blowing tons of leaves off the trees. We’re post Peak now,  looking towards stick season, which is usually my favorite, but foliage season this year was especially long and glorious. I got this glimpse of the field near our house just before the front moved in  and wanted to paint it while the glow is still fresh in my mind.

 

 

 

 

Questions or to buy any of my work email me at rachel@rachelbarlow.com

 

 

A Beaten Path


There are two ways to get to the top of Mount Equinox in Manchester Vermont. You can pay your money to take the Skyline drive to the summit, or you can find your way to the no-traffic light town of Sandgate and go up the back.

You can’t drive the whole way (Sandgate’s dirt road eventually turns into a wide leaf-covered path). Once on foot, you’ll eventually get to the gate of a monastery run by the Carthusian monks (who also, incidentally, govern access  to the skyline Drive). There’s a sign warning away trespassers, so we’ve never actually made it to the top of the Equinox without paying our money down, but along with that once-beaten path on the backside of the mountain, we’ve discovered something equally interesting.

When we first hiked that road, we wondered about its origins. There were easier ways to get to the monks and  the top of the Equinox, but it was clear the road had once been in use frequently enough to leave its mark on the mountain.  Shortly after the ‘real’ dirt road ended, we found our answer.

Thing1 was our distractor-in-chief at the time, occasionally luring us away from the path, and about a mile and a half past the end of the town road, he discovered an abandoned barn we HAD to see.

The barn roof was disintegrating, and we saw no other evidence (save for a few headstones that we almost tripped over) that a farm or homestead had ever existed. The carving on the headstones was so worn down we  couldn’t read the names on them.  As I was wondering what catastrophe that had driven surviving family members away from the farm, I realized this almost abandoned road had been made by and for hooves and feet, not rubber and steel.

At first I had thought these languishing headstones in this isolated part of the mountain were a sad statement about precarious nature of rural life (then and now).  However, as we walked to and from the monastery gate with its no trespassing sign, passing the old homestead again, the late afternoon sun dipped low enough to bathe the woods in gold. I remember the branches were naked on that hike, but the forest, guarding its little cemetery, was warm and absolutely peaceful in the sun.

Modern rural life can be very hard, and I don’t cling to any romantic notions that life on the back of a mountain in Vermont was any easier a 100 years ago, but this quiet resting place was a testament to more than just hardship. It reminded me that people still come to these hard-to-live-in places because a life away from the madding crowd brings with it freedom and (in spite of the long winters and minimal economic opportunities) peace.