A Stormy Present
Updated: Feb 5, 2018
by David Michael Kirby
The rain to the wind said, ‘You push and I’ll pelt.’ They so smote the garden bed That the flowers actually knelt, And lay lodged -- though not dead. I know how the flowers felt. ~ Robert Frost
My morning routine involves stretching, meditation, and coffee. Starting this past weekend, I’ve added a mile-long round-trip walk to the 7-11 to fulfill my coffee requirement. It’s an easy trek along the Deerfield River, and I always find something interesting to photograph.
I wrote all morning, then headed to Bennington. Founded in 1761, it was the first settlement in the New Hampshire Grants, now known as Vermont. It is the most populous town in southern Vermont, loaded the history, architecture, art, and charm.
I first stopped by Fiddlehead at Four Corners, at the heart of downtown, named 2017 Best Craft Gallery in Vermont by Yankee Magazine. Fiddlehead operates out of a former bank as fun to admire as the arts and crafts within it. Paintings, jewelry, pottery, glass, and more, everything is handmade by studio artists across North America. There’s even a collection breweriana for sale, with items dating from the 1950s. The bank vault is now a giant blackboard where guests are invited to chalk their own graffitti. (I was pleased to see “#vermontime” already scrawled there.)
I asked Joey at Fiddlehead for Bennington recommendations. He said The Dollhouse & Toy Museum of Vermont is not to be missed, that most locals aren’t aware of its existence. A short walk brought me to the museum, an idyllic corner cottage engulfed in waves of flowers. Unfortunately, the museum was closed and as it was late in the afternoon, I resolved to return another time.
I walked back to the heart of Bennington and stopped by the South Street Cafe & Bakery. A pride flag at the door declared they were open. After chatting with the two young women working behind the counter, I settled at the bar with a delicious iced mocha (it was exactly time for my PM coffee fix). I worked a little Vermontime social media (@vermontime on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter -- are you following yet? There’s also a Vermontime YouTube channel you should subscribe to.) While I sat there an open mike session began, a wonderful singer-songwriter vibe with acoustic guitar.
I could have stayed, but there were other places to see. I turned the corner onto Main Street and what I saw was a dark, churning, slate-colored sky. A quick check of the radar showed an intense storm rapidly approaching. I decided to make a couple more stops before heading home to (hopefully) beat the storm.
The First Congregational Church of Bennington, also known as Old First Church, was organized in 1762, the first church in Vermont. I wanted to visit because where I live in Newark is around the corner from New Jersey’s “Old First Church”, founded in 1666. (Point of information: My 10x great-grandfather was a founder of Newark and that church.)
Old First Church Bennington is beautiful, a quintessential New England structure set in one of the most peaceful churchyards I’ve ever experienced. Huge trees tower over the monuments, framing views across town to distant mountains. Being there as the storm approached was deeply moving. Joey at Fiddlehead mentioned that Robert Frost is buried there, so I began exploring. Once I spotted the signs directing me to his resting place, it was easy to find.
I had one more stop to make before heading back to Dover. The Bennington Battle Monument has intrigued me for years, the first time I saw it from a distance. It’s difficult to miss, the tallest manmade structure in Vermont at 306’ high. I drove slowly around the circle before parking and taking a closer look. The charged air, wind racing across the grass, the roiling sky, all contributed to an eerie thrill. I love thunderstorms, but I knew it was time to head for home.
I was turning into my drive when huge raindrops began splattering the windshield. By the time I parked, it was a deluge, lightning flashing nearby, thunder booming across the valley. Snug in my apartment, I shot some video, then spent a couple of hours creating a movie, “Old Bennington and the Summer Storm” (now on the Vermontime YouTube channel). I spent the rest of the evening cooking, listening to the rain and the river, thinking how easily I could get used to this.
Vermontime. It’s not a myth.