From Where I Stand (part II)

Editor’s Note: Back in the early days of the pandemic (April/May 2020) I took a writing class with Kati Standefer where she provided the above prompt. Earlier I documented the space at 616 Washakie through the use of doorways and then last August, gave space to a similar style write-up for Three Peaks Ranch. The prompt still speaks to me and our place here on Fern Hill deserves its attention.

To the east is the sunrise. From the main room of the house I can track the sun; in the winter days it rises out the southern most facing windows, but as the days stretch out, I have to look more east, angling deeper into a corner to see the orb breaking the horizon. And in that word, lies one of Fern Hill’s best offerings: The Horizon. When the sun sets in the west, it begins by filtering through the trees, its beams breaking apart by the ash and beech and maple. But in the east, the sun rises in all its glory, a big disc beyond distant hillsides casting its rays across the lawn, the pear tree, and mountain ash, granting the land purple and pink hues. As I sit in a waning February, my sunrise view is eclipsed by a chimney, but the light still spreads softly across the furniture, floors, and walls.

To the south gently sloping meadows create open views and, with snow, skiable terrain. These past months they were layered with snow and I would launch down from the porch between two thickets and try my best to carve turns into the light powder. This open hillside grants views of the lowlands and sprawling hills of Southern Vermont. There is a neighbor down there tucked away among the trees near the pavement of South Road, but to me, they are strangers. We walk amidst their field however, post holing through snow, floating on crust, or wading through knee high, tick infested grasses. To the south is where Andy goes multiple times a week; there is no beeline however, roads south wind and bend and twist and turn amidst maples and ash and dirt and pavement. To the south is the the old Marlboro College—the new Potash Hill— but we get there by going west.

To the west lies Keats, Joe, Jennifer, and Jeff, our Fern Hill neighbors. Keats is closest, on the second floor of a towering studio apartment with timber framed porch. Then, down the drive to a hard right and 100 yards beyond, are Jennifer and Joe; they have a compost out back that Cora loves to gorge on. Tea and snacks in their immense, immaculately constructed living room build connections and community. Still further up the road is Jeff’s, another large, well appointed, timber framed house with a Cora approved compost pile. Jeff’s dry humor rarely fails to make me laugh. Beyond them in the trees lies the Town Trail and the undulating, undeveloped woodlot that is the Hendricks’ parcel and is up for sale. In snowy times we ski that wide swath of old road that is groomed for skate and classic x-country. In the less snowy times—depending on footwear—we deftly evade the standing water that demarcates the lower spots. The trail never hurts from the occasional kneeling and cleaning of improvised culverts and bridges; there is no shortage of fallen leaves to block up any drainage.

Graphic shows a hand drawn map of locations around Fern Hill that the author often walks with Cora The Dog
a map of the common dog walks around Fern Hill

To the north is a swath of trees, some conifers, some deciduous. Some old, some young, some dead, some alive. From our spot on the hill we have trod a small trail through the swath and into the meadow beyond. In this meadow stands the Even Moore house and the Lower Moore house. Both are white and share a lovely maple lined dirt driveway and the Fern Hill address. Just beyond the meadows and Moore houses, and through more trees, is the Malcolm Moore house. Our northern neighbor, Malcolm, is a local. Raised in Marlboro’s Whetstone Inn sometime in the 40s and 50s, he has wandered these hills far and wide. When we arrive at his house from the west (by going north from our house) side, we approach through the trees and pop out near his garage. We knock on his back door and get invited in for cookies. His gentle questions and kind heart always yield open doors and laughter.

North is also the town, consisting of the post office, the community center, town office, and the Whetstone Inn. Some days we walk there, some days we ski there. At the post office, Michael diligently distributes daily mail, having my name and face memorized a mere two weeks after getting a post office box last year. Maybe we tie Cora up outside, maybe she walks in with us. To the north is also what we call the Fern Hill, but most maps call it Lyman Hill. We walk up the Town Trail, then zig-zag on some single tracks that converge on a balded hill top, that in the warmer times is filled covered with ferns. Someone—maybe the owner of the large house just over the other side of the hill—runs a large mower through the ferns, creating wide strips that come together near a fire pit at the top of the hill making a natural nexus point from which we wander down in many directions, making observations, having conversations, and being outside.

Featured Image: Winter solstice sunrise from Fern Hill

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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