A Yankee Notebook, Columns

The Gods Finally Woke Up

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by Willem Lange

EAST MONTPELIER – What would you have done? I was committed to a Friday-Sunday weekend down by the seashore in Nahant, just north of Boston, and I had a fund-raiser commitment Thursday at a senior living community in Peterborough, sort of halfway there from Montpelier. It didn’t make much sense to do the Peterborough gig, come back home, and then in effect retrace my steps next day. I’d have my puppy, Kiki, with me (she dislikes personal appearances intensely, but is too popular to leave out); my car was running fine; my credit card still worked; and I was welcome in Nahant anytime. So of course I decided to keep on going from Peterborough Thursday. If things worked out as planned, I’d arrive at the edge of the sea just before dark. I packed an extra day’s worth of dog food and what the Brits used to call linens, and off we went.

I like to romanticize my drives south; it helps me take my mind off the traffic jams ahead of me. Quoting little bits of Act V of “The Merchant of Venice” helps. For example:”…in such a night, Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls, and sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents.” That works pretty well – until suddenly all the commuters’ brake lights ahead of me glow red and a BMW SUV cuts me off. Then I try to revert to a Zen state. Kiki jumping up and peering intently through the windshield every time she senses me reaching for the brake pedal doesn’t help at all.

Finally, however, we got onto the causeway leading out to Nahant, and all the irritation faded away. I pulled into the long-sought little driveway just as the sun set behind the towers of Boston. Kiki leaped out into a galaxy of odors. Nahant is infested with cottontail rabbits, who seem to be hopping everywhere. It’s apparently also home to aggressive coyotes, who don’t seem to have been very successful in keeping the bunnies in check. They have attacked domestic dogs, however, some even when they’ve been walking on a (required) leash with their owners. Federal sharpshooters have been deployed to wipe them out, but I can’t find a recent update on their progress. In any case, I keep a sharp eye whenever Kiki strikes a rabbit track.

In the past – last Christmas was a prime example – the weather gods have gone out of their way to stymie our plans in that paradise by the sea and its airport. This time they seem to have been asleep. The weekend was sunny, open-window weather, with the moon reaching full on Saturday night. Thursday evening supper was chicken wings, asparagus, and fries at Tides as the moon brightened and the tide rose.

Friday, another bluebird day, Kiki and I were introduced to Doggie Beach, the one place in Nahant where dogs can run off-leash. Most of the other dogs we met were leashed. Raised that way, they apparently couldn’t be trusted to stick around when unrestrained. Kiki became all the dearer to me as she splashed in the shallows and sniffed everything, checking on me all the time. I did the same to her, so was able to shout, “Hey!” when she stooped to roll happily in something especially redolent. That afternoon we took the local ferry over to Long Wharf in Boston. Not exactly your grandfather’s ferry, it’s a 30-knot catamaran that takes off from a million-dollar aluminum pier in Lynn and races through the harbor islands. We stayed aboard at the turnaround and had a lovely sunset cruise back to our car as the moon rose over the ocean in the east. Ate out again, this time at Hacienda Corona with dear friends.

Saturday, again perfect, but with a slight wind shift and strength portending change, we suffered a trial-by-traffic, as Siri guided us through a sort of slow-moving parking lot and the intricacies of downtown Boston to the Museum of Fine Arts. Lunch with two more delightful friends at the museum and then a gallery stroll through the John Singer Sargent exhibit currently showing. My friend, whose husband was a painter, was entranced. I, ever the pedestrian, thought how lucky Sargent had been to have had so many wealthy clients commission portraits. Back home again through only slightly diminished traffic to an afternoon nap and Chinese dinner at Chi, where an Artoo Detoo robot trundles past the tables every minute or so with takeout going up front. The full moon shone after midnight through deepening banks of clouds.

Sunday morning the gods finally woke up and realized they’d almost missed us. Rain. I made my signature scromelet (scrambled omelet), packed, bade adieu, and hit the road north, weaving first through a tangle of traffic that gradually thinned until I turned west at last toward Vermont. We pulled into the yard; Kiki leaped happily out and announced her return; the deer, feeding in the rain, looked briefly up and resumed grazing. Except for being lonesome again, the quiet was edenic.

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