Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Driving on Nine

My mother & I headed north up Route 2 & beyond to the land where I was born today—Vermont, specifically the Westminster & Bellows Falls area. The main goal was seeing my father’s headstone, which neither my mother nor I had seen—she was still living in Florida when he died in 2005 & was unable to come to Vermont—& she’s been unable to make the trip from Dedham, MA to Westminster, VT since she moved to Massachusetts in 2008.

The New England towns all seem so old after the West—the weathered white churches, the 19th century town halls—as we moved up 140 thru Winchedon & then onto Route 12 west thru southern New Hampshire, the quaint historical New England mingled with childhood scenes & remembrances—as Hkatz described recently on the excellent Sill of the World blog, I knew the turns & intersections without knowing the names or numbers of the routes—

But one route I remember is Route 9, which takes one west from Keene, NH into the Brattleboro, VT area—the pic at the top of the post is the bridge on Route 9 crossing the Connecticut River as it runs between the two states—it reminded me of my friends Carrie & Jonah & Dani—Ed’s Redeeming Qualities; Dani’s cousin Dom, who founded the band before his death at an impossibly young age, wrote the song while living in eastern New Hampshire. It’s such a song of youthful loss—a bit of wry humor & a lot of heartache—

This trip was about a whole different type of loss—death—age—physical debilitation—yet still the force that keeps us moving, allows a moment of peace &
yes—happiness in the spring sun as the snow melts from the Vermont hills & pastures & the Connecticut flows deep & dark same as it ever was—

So yes, we found the marker—as is appropriate to this type of trip, it took a bit of effort, but the
effort was well rewarded by seeing my mother as she looked at the plot—what is that emotion? Not happiness nor sadness but a very deep feeling that also partakes deeply of both—

& I think of people I’m seeing on this trip: my friend Margot tells me tonight of an elderly man she knows who recently found out that his high school sweetheart had been dead for some 20 years, & at 80 he drives from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to visit the grave—I’m so fortunate to be seeing these dear friends on this trip while we’re all still vital & full of whatever that thing is that allows us to take in the March sunshine a few days before the equinox with something you might even call joy.

& thinking of Carrie, who I saw on Sunday & Jonah who I’ll see on Friday, & Dani who I’m sure I’ll see soon: here’s “Driving on Nine.”


  1. A gift to your mother. The last visit to my parents grave sent me into deep emotions, and a feeling that they were visiting with me....
    a very fine memory to record!

  2. So well written John, You make what must be a very personal experience one which is accessible to your friends and readers. I am learning a lot about America from your trip.

  3. 'Tis a good thing you were able to do this. Took me 8 years ere I saw my Pop's ( permanent ) marker. Long drive from Mass. to New Mexico! Peace be with you, sir :)

  4. Hi Dianne, Alan & Subby

    Dianne: It is an emotional event for sure--thanks.

    Alan: Thanks. Glad you're enjoying these posts from the road.

    Subby: That is a long way! Thanks!

  5. what a profound part of your trip this was.... and a real gift you could give your mother - your photo of her by the headstone captures that emotion you describe so well ...

    i'm just really loving this nearly spring light - especially in the morning.

    travel well and see you in a few!

  6. Parts of this post were pure poetry—the knowing the roads without knowing the names, the remembering of friends lost, the undefined emotion at the grave, the March sun and the something like joy. Beautiful.

    I'm so glad it was a positive and worthwhile experience for you and your mom, John.


  7. Not happiness nor sadness but a very deep feeling that also partakes deeply of both—

    You found the right words for this sort of emotional state. Also afterwards, telling about the old man visiting his high school sweetheart's grave, and your reflections on how fortunate you are that you can visit your friends now. A lot of sharp bittersweetness.

    (And I'm glad the poem 'Travel Directions' had resonance for you.)

  8. Lovely, John! And so fortunate that you have some fine New England weather for this road trip, too. The last time I visited my parents' graves in Georgia, it poured... a typical 'Georgia thunderstorm.' It almost felt as if they were trying to get my attention for sure. Thank you for this spiritual moment. I really needed it.

  9. Wow, what an emotional trip! Your heart-felt posts are very meaningful. I am glad you got to take your mother back. I have yet to have a chance to visit the graves of my first boyfriend or my sister's first husband, who both died tragically young. I believe these trips and visits are very important. Great photo and great song to accompany the post.

  10. A moving story. Things couldn't be more different here - my father's gravestone is about 200 yards from where I'm sitting now, typing. It hadn't struck me before how unusual that probably is these days.

  11. Hi everybody!

    Mouse: She really did appreciate it--so looking forward to seeing you, & yes, this is some glorious spring weather!

    Kat: Many thanks--I know you can connect with this at a very personal level.

    HKatz: Thanks! The part of the old man's story I should have included perhaps is that he'd meant to contact this woman for years & never did. Loved that post, & your blog overall--hope some folks take the time to check it out!

    Jeanne: Thanks so much--there are moments in life when you feel humbled in the face of--what? the world/the cosmos, etc---this was one of those times.

    Michelle: Thanks! Maybe I can teach that song at music night!

    Dominic: Things are so spread out in the states--for instance, I noticed Subby is in a similar situation. Thanks!


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