On our way there, we pulled over to take a picture of the profusion of wildflowers. Bordering on obscene, they sprung from the earth, tickling the belly of the sky which hung bright, blue and heavy over acres of untamed fields. While some flowers are edible; red clover, chocolate daisies, dandelions, this feast satisfied a different kind of hunger. I wanted to love them all so I let them be.
Vermont feels like an entirely different place than New Hampshire, despite the fact that neighboring borders are invisible and subjective; like the divisions of zip codes, humanity, and what makes someone good or evil.
Here no evil.
See? No evil.
Anyway, it just feels different. Maybe it felt better because of the company I kept. Being with Finn felt like anything that might’ve been weighing me down disappeared and got replaced with the secure feeling he and I both gave to other people who shouldn’t have relied on us but leaned heavily regardless. I like to think we gave each other mutual breathing room.
The point is, Vermont is home to Cabot Cheddar Cheese, Ben and Jerry’s, Lake Champlain, Stowe, sanctuaries, mushrooms, wild bears, lots of powder and a bridge haunted by a ghost of unrequited love. New Hampshire is home to The Basin, Story Land, a Whale’s Tale, The Common Man, trains, The Flume, a crumbled face, trained bears and impossible, albeit modest, four thousand footers. They’re worlds apart.
By the time we arrived at our destination, the sun was sinking over a ridge of summits at the edge of the cabin’s descending lawn. The sky was turning purple and blue as if bruised by the thought of saying goodbye to one of a handful of precious summer days.
I snuck my way into the arms of his warm flannel laying on the front seat, simultaneously scooping my Guatemalan bag over my head. All I ever needed was my journal, the wooden box of softened amber resin, which I kept with me for protection and perfume, lip balm, crystals, a floral embroidered wallet, pen and the occasional bottle of wine.
He strode up the hill to the lighted cabin in what looked like four paces. I trotted behind on much shorter legs, looking over my shoulder at the painting changing above the silhouette of shadowy peaks. I had no idea what the plan was, which was one of many reasons I loved being with Finn. There were no decisions to make, unless he asked for my input. Nothing was dumped unexpectedly in my lap like an insulting surprise I’d later have to delude myself into labeling as love. There was no screaming, chaos, stealing or manipulative tricks. I could leave all my rigidly compulsive, frequently life saving, hypervigilance behind. Have you ever experienced the absolute peace and freedom of trusting someone so completely that you follow them blindly wherever they go?
The smell of a wood stove, incense, weed and body odor welcomed us. Long haired people mingled against tapestried walls and a mishmash of sofas that looked more like softened sticks of butter. A colder, brighter light lit the kitchen at the back of the house where dinner preparations were happening. Dinner isn’t made in gatherings like this. Everything is happening, as if cous cous and sautéed Swiss chard is an event, the way interior designers refer to a chair in a corner as a moment. How is it that inanimate objects get to have or become moments while so many are resigned to waiting in aimless, endless lines?
Conversations of the rich become caverns of overly curated aesthetics while countless people existing in undecorated reality try to speed through mundane labor so they can get to the part of the day where they sit on a couch with their feet up to mindlessly binge on something hastily heated up and chucked in a bowl. Even when I was or am untethered, those moments of making meaning out of everything can be a bit much. Sometimes, mindlessness presence is all we need.
I swam through the Dead Sea of the living room to the kitchen, to get my hands into something a little more concrete. A sweet boy in a brown t-shirt and patchwork pants was looking for help.
Oh, hey man. I can help.
I had a feeling you’d show up. Great!
I pulled a wooden bowl down from a cabinet over the stove. Our intentional work made a rambling girl with an abundance of curly hair, twirl out of the screen door to the back porch to find someone else to join her in exploring the meaning behind an earlier encounter she’d had with a drum circle and a brook trout. We just wanted to get cooking.
The sweet boy in the brown t-shirt offered to braid my hair while I washed my hands and set to work. We hadn’t bothered exchanging names since being extended vegetarian family members was all the introduction anyone ever needs. I didn’t feel the need to confess that I also, occasionally, eat fish. Today we’d be required to post a 52 minute apology and personal food manifesto to all our followers about the ethical framework of our diets for even thinking of omitting such a critical detail. I guess it was easier to be a real person before the invention of digital brands.
We talked about spices, the importance of good bread and how we could probably bathe in tahini. His fingers weaving gently over and down my head, along my neck and the length of my spine felt like making out without facing each other. Nothing scandalous, just two warm bodies preparing an inadvertent statement for hungry strangers.
All the balls were prepped. Oil was starting to spit in a cast iron pan when Finn’s shadow and then his legs, strode through the kitchen light.
It’s time, he said.
Time for what?
I followed him onto the back porch where I saw a group of figures in mucking boots walking towards a chicken coop by the edge of the sweeping river gorge, with an axe. It was so dark now, the coop was barely visible but the stark white, bucking feathered bodies and anxious squawking were unmistakable.
Finn!!! No!! Please!!! They can’t! We have falafel! Don’t let them! Please!!!
He was laughing. He always laughed at protests I made about food. Sometimes with good reason but this time I was protesting for, as opposed to against, life. I tolerated his carnivorism mostly because the dead animals he consumed, when we bought food on road trips or went out to eat, were murdered out of sight. It was never out of my mind but at least I didn’t have to hear his carpaccio choking out its last breath. Now, at the edge of darkness, between sunset and kitchen light, all I could hear were the screams of terrified birds.
They want wings. What can I say?
He had the most charming smugness of any charm smuggler I’ve ever known. Why do some people think they can just get whatever they want with no consideration for the true cost? If we’re willing to be honest, I think that’s all of us.
Finn, I will literally walk to town and buy all the dead chicken at the market, just please don’t let them kill those birds!
He kept laughing at my pleas, simultaneously letting me know he cared about how I felt. His condolences were barely comforting considering how pathetically powerless I felt.
The chickens were murdered a few minutes later. Two fell quickly with almost no sound except for the axe slamming against the wooden stump but the third was a fighter. I saw the blood spurt up in a red fountain against the cobalt shadows of the forest wall as its decapitated body flew half a mile up and over the inky gorge. Its exposed throat croaked at the injustice of being stripped, objectified, charred and devoured. Men ran from the coop into the stream, hurdling rocks to chase the headless, flapping carcass.
Is man’s need for satisfaction really any greater than a chicken’s? Don’t we all want to fly?
I sat on the back steps crying while the bodies were plucked and gutted by the shed. I heard deep voices talking about sauce and fire as the smell of burning charcoal wafted across the lawn.
The sweet boy in the brown t-shirt was too sweet to know what to say so he stayed in the kitchen, moving meatless balls from the wooden bowl into the bubbling oil with his dirty fingers.
Finn wrapped a blanket over my shoulders as a Cheshire Cat grin sprawled across his face. He lit us both a smoke, planting his warm arm around me.
Can’t save ’em all.
I never said we were saints.