On May 29, 2024

Mountain Meditation: Our magical mountain retreat in an upside down world

Building our Killington Dream Lodge, Part 15

Dad, a mechanical engineer, understood the principles of levers, pulleys and gears. He used them to lift heavy beams to the second floor and on top of the frame. It had to be done methodically, piece by piece with planning and forethought. He bought the materials as his budget allowed. Working only weekends in good weather made progress very slow. He had helpers off and on — among them my brothers (when available), Bill Thomas, Rodger, and Jack Beesman. I couldn’t help with that part. It was too tricky and heavy for me so I fetched tools and did other things.

That was 1968. I received an American Institute for Foreign Study scholarship for summer classes in intensive French and a home stay in Vichy, France. I flew to Paris, but the buses weren’t running so I took a cab from the airport to train station. “C’est la grêve,” the taxi driver said.

Someone must have died, I thought. I assumed “grêve” meant “grave.” I was wrong. Workers were striking all over France to support student protests against the “Old Guard.” President de Gaulle fled to Germany as students, trade unions, and leftists united to create the greatest social upheaval since the French Revolution. I was there but was unaware. During classes and the family home stay, we were isolated from France’s turmoil.

When I returned home we went to Vermont before my senior year began. The upstairs was growing, just like I was. It was a blessing to be back in nature, filled with feelings of serenity and peace.

My constant companion and best friend was Black Star of Highland, our faithful black Lab who Billie had brought home as a puppy, in spite of Mom’s protests. Mother Nature welcomed us to secret places for new discoveries. When Dad didn’t need me to locate tools or Mom for cooking, washing dishes and household stuff, Star and I wandered the forests and woods.

Pebbles and rocks in Roaring Brook smoothed by water over the years dazzled me with their earth tone tints. Star fetched sticks I threw upstream and leapt eagerly into deep pools. On the way home on Roaring Brook Road, I scrambled up the sandstone cliff. It crumbled and I slipped.

Our own little frog pond (our failed well) was still thick with tadpoles. Star didn’t mind. She often cooled off there. I preferred to wear my boots.

But away from our homestead, unrest was spreading throughout the world and across the U. S. It was the spring of 1969. An assembly in Montclair High’s amphitheater turned into a full blown race riot. Suddenly, my world turned upside down and was filled with rage and violence.

I was sent to the nurse’s station then sent home during the riot. I was diagnosed with mononucleosis (mono) and spent the next few weeks in bed. My illness reflected the ills of society. I was absorbing the tumultuous energy.

School ended. We headed for Killington, thank heavens. We passed the crowded New York State Thruway exit that led to the Woodstock Music Festival. I had no idea of its significance. Change was occurring everywhere. What I needed most was healing in Killington.

One morning Star was digging out front and discovered a toad sleeping in the dirt. She pawed it out of curiosity. I called to Dad. He came at once to rescue the mortally wounded creature. He held it gently in both hands with tears in his eyes for its suffering. I sensed his deep spiritual connection with that toad and all of nature. Then he put it out of its misery. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I cherish Dad’s sensitivity to nature and all living creatures. It impressed me so deeply, it became a part of me.

Having the freedom and time to ponder and wander in nature with our dog Star was a gift from Pacha Mamma (Mother Nature) and my parents. The independence and self-assurance I gained as a child and teen in Vermont helped me cope with the world’s woes. Vermont was my soul home and renewed my spirit. I wondered how I’d manage in college far away…

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Vermont and Florida. She can be reached at: Jilldyestudio@aol.com.

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