The ride to Brattleboro to drop off items and/or pick up a paycheck is long but beautiful. To get there in an hour and a half, I either have to take the southern route through Bennington, or go way north and then down past Stratton Mountain. You can’t get anywhere fast in Vermont. It’s one of the things I love about the state because the ride from point A to B never fails to take my breath away, no matter how often I drive it.
But there is a third option – one that I usually promise loved ones I won’t take unless the conditions are favorable. I drive to Brattleboro via state roads, but then something pulls me to KSR like a moth to a flame once I get to the river by the NH border. I justify taking KSR on my return route because, as I tell myself, those who know me well know how infatuated I am with this mountain pass, so if I don’t return (cell service stinks on that road), they know where to look first. And they know I will probably take it regardless of their warnings to travel it alone and despite my half-hearted promises to avoid it.
Perhaps some of the pull is because for two and a half years I didn’t have the option to travel it. This remote stretch connecting the sleepy towns of Arlington and Stratton was swallowed up by the steep mountain cliffs that crumbled like a sand castle during Tropical Storm Irene five years ago. It took the state two and a half years to carve back out the pass, and it looks nothing like the pass I remembered for the three decades prior.
Fourteen inches of rain changed that all. So when I have the chance, I drive KSR. I’m relearning it, as I’m relearning the currents and deep water of the Battenkill. There is nostalgia for the familiarity of what was, but I know that change is inevitable.
The thing about KSR is that it never fails to make me happy, whether it’s the road I knew before the storm or the road I know now, or whether I’m in a fantastic mood or fighting back tears. I could be creeping along in deep spring mud ruts. Driving white-knuckled with a truck full of friends as we realize the ice hasn’t fully melted from winter. Or cruising on a gorgeous summer day with the windows down under the lush, green canopy of the Green Mountain National Forest.
There is a Swahili word that I love: ambata. It means “to connect” or “to join.”
KSR connects Arlington to Stratton. It’s the most direct route to Brattleboro. But it’s the only spot in the world that grounds me. It’s my ambata.
The irony of this all is that this post was written prior to literally getting grounded on KSR yesterday. It’s never good when you head over the mountain with just a kayak and return with said kayak and a blown out tire…
So many building ideas have stemmed from driving this pass, from a friend throwing two petrified root balls in her kayak after seeing my vision to use them as table legs to deciding to pull over on the road and soak fully clothed in a swimming hole as I thought out the logistics of a new table design. There is just something about ambling down this remote road, remembering how precious of a gift it is to be alive at this very moment in such a beautiful place.
For one reason or another, I became a huge fan of nineteenth century poetry at thirteen. I’d read the complete works of Riley, Wordsworth, Whitman, and Longfellow over and over in the years that followed because there was something so comforting in the words of these poets who had found the words to express themselves. When you are a teenager and life isn’t making much sense at all, you cling to whatever will ground you, whatever will connect you to the thing that matters most in your value system.
I don’t think that changes when you hit adulthood. Everyone has his or her own ambata.
These barn wood signs have been recent custom orders for people who wanted small, daily reminders in their homes of what roots them in the earth.
(I loved the chunk of concrete embedded in this piece. Perfect for the verse that the customer chose since they just finished the construction of a beautiful new home and wanted this to be their daily reminder of where that gift came from.)
Your favorite poem, quote, verse, or song lyric can be hand painted on a plank of your choosing. Signs vary in price (depending on the size) and can be shipped nationwide.
“And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.”