Sunday, September 14, 2014


Okay you, if it makes you feel more at ease, you aren't my Guilford muse. I meant it, sincerely, as a compliment. You are, then, our friend. A valued good neighbor. We should be both aware that we don't have to react or even act the way we have been — by sharing and telling and wanting to work together — but we are, and for a very important reason, really the only reason: saving a loving place, that won't be loved if we don't love it. People have learned, often the hard way, that's the way love works. You have to work it. Or it goes away. And Green River and its covered bridge and the river that runs underneath it has no voice unless we give it one.

So that's what we're doing.

I've linked the last Selectboard meeting below c/o of BCTV. The media format is quite a valued contribution for those not able, or even wishing to be at such meetings. It shouldn't be lost on anyone how revealing this format becomes as people attempt to format plans and dive into discussions. We should allow it room and not take advantage of it.

That said, please take the time to watch the entire presentation here, it showcases quite a contrast of wishes, lies and dreams.

On the one hand we have a gentleman and then a woman presenting a very simple plan of a picnic area for families and children. You can watch the man literally rise to the occasion of his plan, really his dream. Notebooks in his arms and drawn up maps all sketched out and real. This picnic region will be near the old brick schoolhouse in Guilford Center. It's a natural — there's a grassy part, a gentle slope and it all abides with a brook that runs through it all. A natural act. The man has witnessed that he doesn't even have to tell children what to do and not what to do when they visit the location, they showed him what the region can do by simply doing it themselves. They frolicked. Went to the brook. Made Japanese style boats out of the knotweed that for some reason has had Guilford adults run around with their hair on fire for years now. Watch the children Mr & Mrs. Adult, they'll show you one of the many things you can do with knotweed. Since the plant is here and will always be here. We in Vermont used to have this ability to work with what we have. Now it's down to the children to show us.

Now watch the reaction of the Selectboard members in the video. They have the obvious challenges of today's rigid society, protocol, liability, and the giant mess of things we've made for ourselves. I get it. There are irons to straighten out; always have been and always will be. But instead of rising to the occasion with this very viable dream (one Selectboard member did), things are deferred, tabled, told to go play in the road. We can watch the man and woman who are presenting showing such patience and willingness to work through a plan, but also offering that winters are long and this winter would be an opportune time get this good dream onto its feet. 

Tabled. Not shutdown, it will probably work out, eventually, while a six year old ages to become a nine year old, but if these presenters just had an old bridge with them in the bargain, something that would awaken the other two Selectboard members up, a bridge that they could use down on the Green River and slide it in just about anywhere in the vicinity of the covered bridge, which is doing just fine if we would let it, then we might have something to talk about. The irony and theater and despair is palpable.

And becoming cruel.

Next up come three gentleman sitting in the back row of the Select board meeting. Have a look. They each have a lot to say and are ready to share it. Some of what is spoken will be very bright, insightful, even warped, some times courageous. Each live along the Green River in some capacity and they are trying to show living comes with responsibilities.

One of the gentleman describes himself as someone who works best in a "process." He correctly doesn't like the way his good name has been used in his own attempt at devising a plan for a Bailey bridge to be used temporarily over the Green River. Right here you're watching irons in the fire being straightened. I admire anyone who stands up and asks for a fair playing field. The only problem with this is a few years ago, my wife caught this same man on our land with others cutting trees and obviously confused at what they thought was doing-good. My wife is also a "process" person and fortunately stopped this little spindrift crew in their act before things got worse and wanted to know what was up, what in the world we're they doing? This man of "process" said he had no time to talk to her and left her standing there. You can't be in a rush and also respectfully understand the act of "process." You can't have it both ways.

I've taken a great deal of time, and put myself into jeopardy, writing within the thread of many essays, about the dynamics of the rural neighborhood. Good folk who can also work with unabashed prejudice, disregard, and assault. It should be understood this isn't a good thing. In the simplest of terms, it doesn't build bridges.

Which brings me to the second gentleman in the group of three. In the most generalized terms, cutting to the chase, because I've watched this man ask important questions and offer pertinent ideas at previous meetings. At this meeting he claims, perhaps, the covered bridge in Green River may be "bigger" than the town. A multifaceted way at saying many things at once: the bridge has become obsolete in these times; Guilford as a populace can't get around the idea they even have a covered bridge and they must protect it; Guilford continues to purchase expensive equipment that can't even ride over a covered bridge; Guilford is fed up with the covered bridge and so have many of its Green River citizens and the people just want to get to town; these detours have to stop! the Selectboard is at a loss, etc etc. Poker-faced, the gentleman offers the blitzkrieg of all plans: maybe the covered bridge has to be torn down and a new bridge set in its place? He would like the engineers at Hoyle Tanner to put this into their planning scheme and let the town know what this adventure would entail and finally cost. 

Why not? It's throwing a beautiful baby out with the bath water, but why not. It's a wonderful challenge to the town — do you know how to love your covered bridge, river, chapel on the knoll, hamlet of homes, the slow and wandering yellow corners of the school bus on these winding roads? Or should we just straighten this all out, put in a fast bridge and get ourselves quicker to Brattleboro and Brattleboro quicker to us? Lose, of course, everything that brought most of us here — "god's country" as one farmer with a detectable twinkle to his hardwood eye and not a hint of despair once described this river valley to me as we were haying the big meadow now owned by Michael Knapp / Laura Metsch and the Vermont Land Trust. Time will tell, but we may be lucky we have them. I was lucky at one time to be working with this farmer.

The third gentleman in the trio of back row audience members at this Selectboard meeting was greeted with a honeydew compliment, deserved, by one of the Selectboard members as to his "citizen of the year" for Vermont, if such an award was given, at his allowing so many vehicles onto his land and meadow while we are in this trying period of no covered bridge and people needing not only a footbridge, but maybe a Bailey bridge, and now a makeshift parking lot to park all their vehicles so they can get to town or their jobs just like they always have. With people now it's all about what they always have had and what is their habit — not about learning new ones.

For an outsider reading this essay, let it be understood, our covered bridge is out for only two months, maybe three. There are two viable detours to get everyone everywhere they need to go. If we were in another "god's country", say Big Sur, California, when Route 1 washes away, and I mean washes away, in a landslide, the road is often out for up to a year. 365 days. 12 months. Four seasons. A long time. The people have these options before them: the vast Pacific ocean to the west of them, a mountain range to the east, and north-to-south their main thoroughfare has disappeared. They make-do. Make-do is what makes god's country. If I may: I came to Green River 42 years ago on-foot, no vehicle. I got to town and my two jobs on-foot for two years. I either hiked in (12 miles) which I did countless times, or I hitched a ride, and by hitching a ride I met my neighbors: Alden Bell, Judy Bell, Don Squires, Bub Visser, Oscar & Lottie Weatherhead, Harvey Cutting, Mary Blair, Bill Blair, Jerry Freeman, Shaun Murphy, Martin Brown, Anne-Marie Brown, Peter Wilde, Steve and Linda Lembke, Maury Lynde and Fred Koch. A versatile group. You see how it works?

Back to the gentleman in the audience and his big meadow and a compliment from the Selectboard which will politely but surely be slapped back across their faces in what I believe is a telling moment in the drive to put in a new bridge or keep the very covered bridge many of us love. Please listen to the appeal of this man speaking, from his heart, as a land owner and wanting to be a good neighbor, at what it takes to know where you live and what you may embrace and must protect. You are listening to a plea here. Please listen, maybe learn.

The consulting engineers of Hoyle Tanner are about to present their findings to the town from out in the field. It will be a survey of at least five options, four including new bridges, one a by-pass road involving no bridge (my choice), and if we entertain the wild challenge of tearing down the covered bridge because Guilford can't be the proper stewards (my interpretation) then that makes six options. Hoyle Tanner are professional engineers, geared to show the town what-is-what. No opinions, bare facts, nuts and bolts, costs and maintenance. It's the ultimate ultimatum, plus a grand demand on the town and citizens to put-up or shut-up as to what they can afford, wish to maintain, and hold dear. 

 [ BA ]

photo 2014  ©  susan arnold