I know I wax on (and on) about New England- its charms, its beauty, its lovely cobbled streets and historic homes. I say I love its hills and trees, its stone and winding roads. I race to its shores the moment the days turn long and soaked with sun, seeking the warmth and softness of the sand and sea. And though I rue its fickle winter ways, I welcome the soft fleece of snow in this season. I know I too frequently say how thankful I am that my life is in this place; and though it may cause some to roll their eyes, I will do so again here and now.

I love that we can drive just a little North, just the two of us, and really be away. In the mountains, traversing its winding roads, seeing a lifestyle removed from our own. The quiet of the hills, muffled by freshly fallen snow, the many farms, the sugar shacks, the maples sloping as if crestfallen by winter’s precipitate. The quiet isn’t just noticed. It is felt in this place.

We love New England.

We enjoyed walks on secluded roads,

and a rather lengthy visit (due to my foodie husband) to an indoor farmer’s market in Woodstock…

…where Paul found fresh figs wrapped in dried grape leaves, tied with raffia. He was like a kid in a candy shop in that place… and convinced me (unadventurous though I may be) to try one of the fruits. We were in the car, and I told him I would try one if he pulled over and got outside to eat it. To savor it. I insisted that a delicate fruit like that was not meant to be eaten in the driver’s seat, and told him that he would be glad we stopped. He rolled his eyes and smiled that smile, and said that I was nuts. But I felt the car slowing down as he acquiesced, and we found a stone wall and sat, the snow falling lightly as we taste-tested.

The fig was delicious, and rich, and I assured Paul that much of its quality was due to the fact that we were outside in the crisp air, on the side of the road, sitting on a stone wall with snow at our feet. I made sure to tell him that it would not have had the same taste if we were eating inside the car. He grinned a huge grin, and silently shook his head. I said, “Oh, you love me anyway.” And he said, “Yup. That’s true.” Sometimes I even convince myself that he might even like my quirks a little bit, too. Maybe.

We enjoyed the beauty of night in the village,

and the quiet of the oldest independent bookstore in Vermont.

We soaked in architectural detail, dreaming of home improvements. Someday.

We took a cooking class at the King Arthur Flour Baking Center, and we laughed. I smiled as I watched him work, so intent on listening, his brow furrowed in serious concentration. Meticulous. He has to do everything correctly, to the letter, as if it is a science (ok, it is) and I like to just go full speed ahead, tweaking and working as I go, as if it is fluid, and changeable. As if it is art. We are so different, and I love it.

We learned the art (& science) of making true Italian Marguerite pizza, and spinach ricotta calzones, kneading the dough and getting dirty, flour suspended in the air as we read the recipe, trying to follow along through our quiet laughter.

The basil permeated the room with its scent, and I smiled at his huge hands wrestling the dough. He was in his glory, trying to suppress the grin spanning his face, trying to act as if he didn’t feel like a kid again. And I felt happy, seeing him in his element.

We took the pizza with us at the end of the class. It was late, and we hadn’t eaten supper. Our bed and breakfast was 45 minutes away. So we stopped at Dan and Whit’s ‘grocery store’ and grabbed some drink and utensils and ate in the cold night. And I don’t know if it was the cold, or the novelty of fresh brick-oven baked pizza, but there was something about that pizza. It was good, and fresh, and tangy. Really good. As in, we started dreaming of starting a tradition of pizza nights each week with the kids, or maybe without them after they’re asleep. And then I laughed and said that was cruel, because I know what that felt like to be a little girl once, lying in bed, smelling pizza after dark. It wasn’t fun that night long ago, and we were a little miffed then- but now it’s a happy thought, in the retrospect of memory.

The next day, it snowed, and snowed some more. And it was beautiful.

We ate at Bentley’s- it was early, and so quiet, and the food seemed better after walking in the cold.

Everything was still decked out in holiday finery, and it was thrillingly jarring to see thousands of colored orbs suspended from high ceilings as we ate our dinner.

Maybe, after all, that’s what I like best about New England- how it thrills, and awakens the senses and invigorates, creating both a sense of longing and appreciation. How the sights and sounds make me feel like my brain is speeding up, full of thoughts and plans. How the cold and wind and snow can make stepping inside seem even more comforting. How the farms and their stone-walled craggy fields draw the eye in for more.  How the hills and forests hold possibility in their denseness, and all sorts of imaginings pass through the mind as to the contents of their interior. New England makes me believe in possibilities, makes me set goals and dream big dreams. I love to dream. I love how the homes invite and beckon as we travel by, the lights flickering as if in silent welcome. How the sky can turn so intensely blue just after the sun has set, tree branches starkly lit in blackness against the backdrop.  And with that deep and darkening sky, there always comes a heartfelt longing- a desire for comfort, and thankfulness and home.

January 10, 2011 - 8:22 am

Jeff - OK, you got me. I guess I do like New England more than I thought… :-) Keep making me smile, I happen to enjoy it a lot!

January 10, 2011 - 9:58 am

M - Great pictures, makes me want to add to my places to see someday!

January 10, 2011 - 10:41 am

Dee - WOW!! I think we’re gonna’ have to try that sometime too! Looks like you had a great time. :)

January 10, 2011 - 1:01 pm

Kate - Wonderful shots – looks so festive and beautiful!

January 10, 2011 - 1:40 pm

ericamay - i read this post as huge snowflakes are falling outside my window in kansas city. i’m eating a bowl of spicy chicken taco soup to warm myself from the frosty temperatures outside. i started reading this, and read it slowly and carefully through my entire bowl of soup. then i looked at the photos again. and my heart is warm. you have a way with words and a way with images that speaks directly to the soul. it’s a gift, and i’m thankful to know you!

January 10, 2011 - 1:51 pm

Cheryl - Jeff, it is okay to be a “vicarious” New Englander!

January 10, 2011 - 2:33 pm

danielle - sweet friend, these are such wonderful pictures! my hubby and i took foster with us to vermont for the day a couple weeks back and it was magical. seriously…how far are we from each other? i am in new york, thirty minutes or so outside albany.

January 10, 2011 - 10:30 pm

Donna - It looks like you had a lovely winter get-away. Beautiful pictures. But I’m just wondering … is this the same girl who does not like winter? I think you’re beginning to enjoy it! Good for you!

January 11, 2011 - 7:19 am

Betsy - @ Donna: I think you may have caught me… :) I’m trying!

January 12, 2011 - 1:27 pm

Joanne E - Mmmm! Bentley’s, we love it there and usually make a stop when we are in the area! Looks like you had a good time.

January 12, 2011 - 4:02 pm

Tracey - You rock Betsy! I love reading your blog, I feel like everything is going to be all right like the world is so perfect!! Great job capturing life!Tracey

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