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Have I mentioned I love the light at this time of year? Every time I head out our dirt driveway, I have to slam on the brakes to catch it as it bounces off the mountains in their increasingly flamboyant colors. The tableau only gets better as I head towards the horse farm at the bottom of our road, and the wooden fencing recalls an earlier era.
I know the first settlers to this area saw these same mountains, but sometimes I wonder if, in the struggle to survive, they had the chance to marvel at them very often. For us, autumn is beauty, but it is also a time of stacking wood, clearing out the garden and mulching, and getting fall cleaning started (sometimes done). And, as our action-packed to-do list dominates our calendar, I sometimes have to remind myself to stop and look around. It begs the question, was stopping to stare at the scenery anywhere on the priority list in 1763 (that’s the year carved into a ceiling beam in our old house)?
About a year after we moved to our neighborhood I got my answer. When we moved to Vermont, I found a group of women who were avid quilters. They were true artists, but my knowledge of the art was very basic, and I headed to the library (there weren’t many quilting websites back then) looking for inspiration, instruction, and easy patterns.
What I found was a chronicle of thrift and creativity interwoven by women. I still look at early examples of the craft in Vermont, amazed at the designs conceived by women who often had less than an eighth grade education. But what was most interesting was the way many surviving patterns so beautifully mimic our shared landscape.
I was on this journey of discovery on the months following 9-11. As world events unfolded, our nation considered how to protect simultaneously its citizens and its identity, and sometimes it seemed as though we were all just focusing on surviving. I realize now we were all in an extended state of shock. At the time, however, as the feeding of our collective soul became an afterthought, I often worried that the national hyper focus on security had eliminated everything but utility from our consciousness. And, it became even more important to me that these people I had never met had been able to do something more than just survive.
Today as I drive up the road, watching the colors climb down the hill to meet me, I am connected to the women who were here before; whose homespun legacies suggest lives that were inspired and not just mere existence. And, as I have come find in my own life, that inspiration may have fortified their strength when survival became more challenging than usual.