Yesterday Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I made our final run to Vermont’s beautiful Upper Valley to collect the last of my things from the loft I called home for about a year and a half. It was a grind; there was still some heavy stuff he missed last week because he could not get to it, and there was much packing and arranging to squeeze everything into a single load. I busied myself with cleaning upstairs, tying up loose ends, packing a few smallish items that remained, while HCB did the lifting and loading. I paused several times and looked out the southern-facing windows to the drive below to observe him studying furniture laid out methodically, some of it disassembled, deep in thought.
This is one of his most endearing qualities: calmly and painstakingly sizing up a situation, arriving at the best strategy, and then diligently executing it. I am always a doubting Thomas, an expert at worrying myself into apoplexy over things. He tends to wave it all off, insisting there is always a way. By the time we pulled out hours later the tired minivan (which we’ve kept long enough to finish this move) was bursting at the seams from the load, including heavy things tied onto its roof. A little over two hours later we’d made it all the way down to our corner of the state without a single casualty, cramming the last thing into our rented storage locker with the day’s very last light, 4th of July fireworks exploding all around us.
In the midst of dusting away all of yesterday’s cobwebs I did plenty of reflecting. It is still hard for me to believe I’ve been a Vermonter for almost three years after living most of my life in Tennessee. This has been a difficult transition. I owe so much to a few people who helped me during a tough time. Living in the loft was a privilege extended to me by a pair of them, a former colleague and beautiful ballerina, and a friend, Ruth, and her kind husband Peter, who own the place. Ruth showed it to me when I arrived in August of 2012, but I decided it was too small for my things, too far off the beaten path, and that Clarence-the-Canine would feel too confined. A year later, after some unforeseen trouble, I appealed to Ruth for shelter in the proverbial storm, and she answered with her typical magnanimity. It was a beautiful, if isolated, place for me to land, and would become Clarence’s final resting place. Another bit of sadness I could not have foreseen. But none of the earlier things—except the isolation—turned out to be true. Ruth told me many people had found healing there, and so did I.
I never grew completely accustomed to hauling myself and my ailing dog up and down those difficult back steps, but we got some better at it over time. Yesterday HCB and I observed a family of groundhogs living under them; we had earlier seen one of them grazing on the front lawn. HCB counted three little faces peering out from between the second and third steps, babies curious about the interlopers. During my tenure at the loft I observed so much wildlife, as did Clarence; he was ultimately granted off-leash privileges, which he relished. In truth, I did not appreciate the groundhogs so much when I was living there, as they undermined our work in the vegetable garden. Still, I will remember them fondly.
I will always remember Clarence fondly; I think he probably was my soul dog, brief though his tenure was with me. I stopped by his grave a final time before we left, and was surprised to see not the massive boulder that rises out of the earth behind it, but instead dozens and dozens of lush, green ferns. It is a beautiful resting place for a noble dog who had big work to do near the end of his life.
So one chapter closes, and another life-affirming chapter opens.