I am absolutely alone on the hill for two weeks. Everyone else who lives on the hill- there aren't many- are wilin' away the days at a camel fare in India (they leave exactly two days before the bombs hit Mumbai) or shuffling around Cyrpus and Greece complaining about the lack of public transportation. So it's just me and the dogs, the phantom cats and the recent ghosts of a LOT of chickens. I get up and go to work every morning. I come home at noon, walk around fields with the dogs, read books and shovel snow and feed wood into the wood stove. Sort of a Zen-like existence (I keep expecting to see Bhudda come trundling up the road) except that it's not, because my lightning fried brain never stops moving not even for a split sentence not even to pause for punctuation. It gets considerably colder outside. It's freezing outside the house, it's freezing inside the house, but in the few inches of atmosphere around the stove it is roasting. So that is where I plant myself, with a pile of books, when I am inside, otherwise I shuffle around in layers of wool and a down jacket, with gloves on, fretting that that pipes might explode like they have so many times before in the cold. Monotony is broken when I go into work, and I enjoy immensly the company of the growling cook (5th child just born two days earlier) and the omniscent Jute Box.
Then one day I go into work and one of the Maldovans has already opened the place. Turns out I have the day off, and the next three days off as well. I say, That Would have been grand to know that in advance, and the Maldovan responds, "I go out to West Leb with Beer Delivery man tonight: you come?"
I don't. For those four days I don't speak to anyone. Not a soul, unless you count the dogs and the radio. Four days may not seem like a long time, but have you ever done it? It feels a little crazy. And then the car died and I had to walk down a mile to the old farmer who lives at the bottom of the road. It was night time, eerily warm, mist everywhere. The farmer lives in excruciating loneliness, part of an old Vermont family haunted for decades by mental illness. In another world, I knock on his door and find unlikely but comforting friendship with the old man. I listen to his stories about the Old Ways while I cook dinner for us, using up the leftovers so I don't have to throw them out as I've been doing. But that doesn't happen. All that happens is I wait in his old Ford while he hays his dairy cows and then we drive back up the hill, he gives the car a jump while I stand rocking back and forth on my heels, arms crossed around my chest. I say thanks and he says if ya need anything else come and get me, and later on the evening I almost think twice before I throw the left over soup into the back yard.