Memorial Day weekend is always special, not only for its original purpose to honor those who have sacrificed to keep us free, but also because it’s really the first holiday when Vermont weather speaks “cookouts, get-togethers, and declarations of winter’s end.” That is, except this year.
This year we all shared the holiday with a recall of winter coats and a few scattered snowstorms. This year we also shared our time with Open Studio Weekend, a gala event where artists of every ilk open their workspaces to the public. I say “bravo” to those artists, who have age-old skills so worthy of both praise and a public willing to “open up their wallets.”
There’s one artist, however, who never gets adequate “press” at Open Studio Weekend — nature. I happen to believe that Mother Nature is not only the original artist but also the finest one of all. This morning Betsy, the dogs, and I took a walk into nature’s “open studio.”
It started not unlike any other grey, drizzly day for me, sluggish to get out of bed. Today, I had an added dose of “negative” though: I suffered a drought of ideas for my next column and when that happens, I get surly. Betsy, a true believer in getting up and getting active, would have none of it. “You’re going with me and the dogs,” she said handing me my jacket. We headed up the woods trail, the two Labs and Betsy excited, and me doing my impression of a January cluster fly.
The first work of art presented itself while we were still within sight of our house — a patch of blue myrtle which had spread into the wild. The myrtle served as a plush, dark green carpet from which sprang a small grove of yellow birch trees. “Beautiful,” I thought, hastening slightly to catch up with the other three. As we continued up the ski trail, I noticed a marked improvement in my “wind” from the last time Betsy talked me into this excursion. I have been eating in a much healthier way since a January diagnosis of “sky-high” triglycerides and I was pleased with my lack of huffing and puffing.
Further up the trail, Betsy stopped at a hemlock tree which was pocked with a vertical line of freshly made holes: “Woodpecker art,” she said. I, now fully out of my fog and raring to go, stepped up closer like I was a stuffy connoisseur at the Guggenheim. Ohhhh, its vertical integrity is only surpassed (pronounced “surpaahssed”) by its depth of meaning. Instead I just stood for a spell, appreciating the beauty left by an old dying tree and a hungry bird in nature’s studio.
The dogs often strayed from the path as dogs’ll do but Betsy also occasionally wandered away, stooped, and picked something up. She’s an art collector of sorts, I mean “quartz”. Over our 36 years of marriage and thousands of woods-walks, she has accumulated huge, long piles of white quartz rocks that line the entrance to our house. One time, I gave her an anniversary present that might have placed me firmly in the dog house with most wives, but not Betsy. On a logging job over on the part of our property we call the Crawford Lot, I once found a quartz boulder that “had Betsy’s name on it.” Knowing both that our anniversary was coming up and the limitations of my tractor, I hired a bulldozer to go over and get that rock. Bert French’s substantial Caterpillar even labored some prying it from terra ferma’s grasp, pushing it onto a stone boat, and skidding it to our house, but Bert finally got the job done. When Betsy came home and saw that rock, she was happier than she would have been with a 15-karat diamond ring.
I look back on my Memorial Day walk in the woods with fond memories, got my column, and participated in Mother Nature’s Open Studio Weekend.
Hopefully my walk lowered those rascally triglycerides a bit so that I’ll have many more years with Betsy, her art collection, and the biggest gem of all.
Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier with his wife Betsy.
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