Monday, August 4, 2014


Here we are smack dab in the middle of summer. A summer that wasn't quite as thick with orange daylilies as last summer but who wants to compare summers. It's summer, not winter! and we waited a long slog through last winter to get to this time. . .even if it has been a much wetter July than usual, the days have also been milder, often cooler, and the nights and dawns are grab a jacket.

I've been out most every morning from 6-10AM for the past five weeks framing a new building. Spruce lumber, field stone, crushed stone, pressure-treated timbers and me. Today I'll write a little about this and a little about something else, and then tomorrow I'll begin to showcase photographs from the job site. Most will have been taken by Sweetheart with the roving camera and eye.

From my vantage point on the structure going up I've had a bird's eye view of traffic, passers-by, joggers, bicyclists, whining crows, an increase on dump trucks (more on that) and newer, faster traffic, also connected to the dump trucks because the old covered bridge 1.6 miles up river from where I'm building, where I once hiked up each day to fetch my mail and timed it with the school bus bringing home the only four boys that then lived on the road (farm family). The mail used to be stored in this covered bridge. I lost count long ago how often I've driven over the bridge, brought friends from far off over the bridge, hiked over, bicycled over, cut trees down around it for a customer, swam beneath the bridge, picked up poison ivy east side of the bridge, snowshoed over the bridge (or better took off the shoes to clean them off and get away from the snow storm). You can see the covered bridge has become a friend for the better part of my life. I was married in a small church right up from the covered bridge, and I've worked on nearly every house in the village where the bridge is the key focus. It's kept big trucks on its toes (they can't come through) and in its own old-fashioned way it's taught each and every traveler about common courtesy and patience — a priceless commodity we seem to confuse with our own selfish needs. Which every day seem to grow greater and greater.

For those following my rural essays, episodes and escapades over the last three or four years, the intriguing caper of our neighborhood that holds personal grudges and prejudice and even malaise continues.  Don't ask me why, they just do. It seems to come with the regular malady of our own US Congress — instead of improving, they're busy organizing the next fight, lathering up a further insult.

The dump trucks on the road are part of at least a hopeful and possible improvement and repairs on our covered bridge. The newer and faster traffic are the folks having to go 15 minutes out of their way in a detour well worth its trouble. If you love the bridge. Not as many people have bridge planks and lore any longer in their constitution. And once the people lose the love for their bridge, the bridge will be gone. Covered bridges are a lifestyle and a maker of its own rules: you cross over me one at a time, you move through me as slow as a walk, and you watch the amount of weight you're bringing over me. You pay attention. Not to your Smart Phone, but to your bridge, its river, the calming passage it has allowed. Be so lucky.

This summer so far I've had a few great visitors. The first two were a father and his 10 year old daughter both manning a bicycle built for two. It was a bicycle the man had ridden 900 miles with his wife aboard throughout France. One look at the cute little girl and you might guess the man's wife was French. She wasn't with them, she was waiting at a hotel in town 10 miles away and the man had stopped to ask directions and wanting to make sure he was on the right course. I told him he was hanging true, just 10 more miles, and one part of it, soon, would be one mile straight uphill. That didn't seem to phase the 900-miler. It only brought him closer to Sweetheart and me where we were building — sawing lumber and banging nails — a sort of rhythmic music on a summer afternoon. The man wanted a look around. Glance off at our house across the mowed lawn, the roof line, the old chimney, the whiff of the place. A chalkboard with a poem or a quote tucked off into one corner of the yard. Oh yes, he had seen the countryside of France. Here was someone who knew how to look, listen, ask questions and soak it all in. He now lived in Southampton, Massachusetts, a place where I had once worked on two roofs and so we compared travel notes even further. What a lovely visit.

The other visit was this morning — good friend neighbors wanting to touch base, even console for a very good reason and hug to make it all click into place. They told us some news, which wasn't clean and fair, which enlisted this letter I'll be sharing below. It isn't necessarily their opinion, but it is Sweetheart's and my opinion. After an extended visit which felt great by permitting me an hour away from the toolbox, back at it I went for the rest of the afternoon. While framing in two window rough openings there was a glorious moment where suddenly a bicyclist appeared going at the speed it seemed a bicyclist who loves to bike back dirt country roads should move at. I can't tell you what that speed was by number, it just looked right. He appeared, helmeted, sure, dark glasses, and he saw me up in the windows with a hammer and he threw up a big arm wave and never for a moment lost perfect concentration with the road, his bike, the way further, as I waved back just as sure. It was five seconds in the life.

~ BA


“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

E.E. Cummings 


3 August 2014

Dear —,

At each and every step with the Green River Bridge closure this summer, there has been a tremendous misstep by the town.

The town's funding and securing the Zaluzny company for the renovation has been a careful and deliberate job, we are sure. Of course none of this was done overnight and everyone knows that to hire a company takes proper oversight, working with the calendar and the seasons. The job has been impending for quite awhile. But notice to the residents and any other person or business of interest (considering the lengthy closure) was about 72 hours! That is startling. Imagine if someone had made plans for a wedding on the west side of the bridge, or had a serious medical concern with plans established. Never mind the peek-a-boo road signs and detour signs or lack of signs shoved together at the last moment by the town. Finally some real detour signs were installed along the way between Vermont to Massachusetts — a circuitous route to say the least for the uninitiated. Good luck.

What is abysmal is that the town has secured a "community organizer" Steve Lembke to coordinate notices and entrusted him with making sure each and every resident affected by this bridge closure would be INCLUDED with notifications. Well, a dear neighbor of ours sent an email this morning (Sunday a.m.) with a concern that we were not on the list of notices via email. No email has come to us including an "invitation" to a Sunday meeting, from either Mr. Lembke or the town, nor telephone call. Perhaps you should "fire" this person (Steve Lembke) for willful prejudicial non-communication. That this person and the town should expect to receive kudos for their partaking with "community organization and notices" is more absurdity and gladhanding amongst yourselves.

The bridge closure is more complicated than just construction and re-alignment of old foundations. There are a myriad of safety factors and first off, the respect to the integrity of the covered bridge, its historical importance, its once-site for the only mail boxes in the area, a true confluence of admiration for it by the Green River residents and the countless photo-sessions of the covered bridge by travelers who plain as day love the visage of the bridge and waterfall. It's not just the structure that overwhelms them, it's the fact there is a community existing this way. In simpler and quiet fashion. As residents here for over forty years, we spirited a petition in the early '90s that we gathered by foot, bike and auto (no such concept of email communication was applied then) to many many residents and visitors to "save the covered bridge." And we all did, and it stuck, so much so, that the Town of Dummerston once personally contacted us as to how one can keep a bridge alive and well and functioning (referencing their long bridge over the West River). This is one of many snapshots of life with the Green River Covered Bridge.

We are certainly hardy residents and can travel the hill and dale to get around to where we have to be. But what we're not tolerant about is the town's non-communication which includes your organizer Steve Lembke. Remind yourselves and him that ALL residents need to be informed and when there is an event or meeting about to occur "in the moment" ALL residents are entitled to this immediate notification. Otherwise, he is not fit for the job.

By the way, we noticed Mr. Lembke pedaling by our home with Mrs. Lembke on bicycles five hours before the scheduled Sunday meeting at their home. We were building a structure on our property, thus making a joyful noise not thirty feet from their passing. It's funny what people can see, and not see, as they wish. Your community organizer looked straight ahead with no interest at informing us of the neighborhood event. In the old days it used to be done with a smile and a wave. The same way covered bridges were built, repaired and saved.


Susan and Bob Arnold

Green River Covered Bridge