When my lifelong friend passed away in January I didn't realize at the time that with her death she was giving me one more gift -- the gift of returning home to the land of my birth to celebrate her life with the rest of our childhood friends, of returning home to see many of my own relatives, of returning home to the specific scenery that first spoke beauty to my infant soul.
Just two weeks ago my mom, sister, and I travelled back to Vermont to celebrate Amanda's life.
The weather could not have been more wonderful: the largest snowfall in several years just preceding our arrival, sunny skies just about every day -- the best of Vermont winter!
There were even snow flurries one day:
I've had a life-long affinity to farms, barns, cows. It's no wonder -- this is what Vermont is made of. I even managed to catch a whiff of that all-too-familiar scent from my childhood that told me the cows were out to pasture.
The covered bridge near my old home:
The old gristmill nearby:
And the birch trees! I think this was the first tree I learned to recognize and I've always loved its stark whiteness and the bark that can be magically written on.
What is Vermont without maple syrup?! It seemed providential that we arrived at the beginning of the sap run! While most sap is no longer collected in metal buckets, it was fun to spy these bucket-laden trees by the roadside.
Mt. Mansfield -- the highest mountain in Vermont and a sort of sleeping giant that can be clearly seen from all around. The shape of the mountain is seared into my brain -- its recognition awakens a deep sense of belonging.
And the farm of another childhood friend: the scene of so many playdates and outdoor adventures.
I'm quite sure I shall never fall out of love with barns.
This is something of the beauty that was given me in this parting gift.