Graham and I went away to New England this weekend, just the two of us, for his 40th birthday. We passed through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, settling in Stowe, an idyllic mountain town just about 100 miles from the Canadian border.
It was such a sweet time for our marriage. We literally needed fresh air and a chance to lay down our work and domestic roles for a few days. I took the opportunity to celebrate my guy in the ways he appreciates: time spent out of doors, good food and bev, deep conversations, acts of love, full out living.
I’ve learned that thinking about living is not the same as living.Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow
We arrived on Friday morning and began to weave our way out of Boston traffic and into New England countryside. Fall foliage was still at its peak in the low lying areas, with fewer colors on the mountains and higher elevations. We stopped for lunch in Woodstock, Vermont, and fell in love with this quaint town, its covered bridges, tiny shops and stunning views from the Ottauquechee River. What started as a quick break for food turned into hours of combing the village—stepping into vintage shops, admiring businesses like The Vermont Flannel Company where everything is still made in the USA, and stopping at a memorial park where we read the names of more than 75 WWII casualties from the tiny town.
The Molly and Graham from five years ago would have been on a mission to get to our final destination so we could attend the three reserved events we had planned for the evening. But the couple who has been actively unraveling busy in our home for the last few years carried this simplified way of living into our weekend trip. We had no place to be, no plans to make (I actually canceled a tour of Sugarbush Farm that afternoon), and no agenda to keep.
By the time we arrived in Stowe and checked into our hotel—a boutique lodge called Field Guide Lodge managed by Lark Hotels—it was dusk. We decided to explore the town the next day, but that evening we visited local breweries and cideries like The Alchemist, von Trapp Brewing, and Stowe Cider before finally landing on dinner.
On Saturday morning, the clouds parted and blue sky reigned all day. A gift. After a morning spent reading by the fire in our lodge, we headed out to explore Stowe. This place drips with ski town charm: restaurants and cafes tucked into the nooks and crannies, littles shops, darling side streets, festivals galore. We—and by that, I mean me—oohed and aahed over estate pieces at Ferro Jewelers and even followed the signs to an estate sale in town. We were a bit late in the day for anything worthwhile but the foliage and views alone were worth the climb.
We moved along to Burlington, Vermont for lunch, a picturesque college town on the banks of Lake Champlain. New York state is just across the water and the Adirondack Mountains form an idyllic horizon. Graham and I got lost in Crow Bookshop, a You’ve Got Mail kind of magical place with creaky wood floors and rolling ladders. It’s a wonder we didn’t spend the entire afternoon there.
I got a little carried away for our final Vermont experience, a surprise I had kept from Graham until Saturday. At 3 o’clock, we met the good people of Above Reality for a hot air balloon ride over the New England countryside. Watching the process from start to finish, we saw the huge balloon get rolled out, tied, and filled with hot air—it’s not just a figure of speech, gang; they use giant fire balls to heat and lift the balloon.
A dozen of us climbed into a wooden basket and gasped as the field’s hay bales slipped away from view. Our pilot used metal burners to lift, lower and steer the balloon. We saw snow tops on the Green Mountains and the glint of the setting sun on Lake Champlain. When we sailed low, we waved at children running into their yards to see a giant balloon fly by. It was magical and the very best way to witness the foliage (of course).
Life Lesson: Things get really quiet a few thousand feet up. You don’t hear the chaos, don’t observe all the details you’ve been turning over and over in your mind, don’t quite understand how you got so caught up in the minutia on the ground. If you want to quiet the noise, get above it. Perspective is a refreshing thing.
There is only one today, with holes in our pockets, with time spilling out. We cannot keep it for tomorrow. We cannot mend our seams to hoard, save, carry.Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow
That night, we canceled our reservation for an Italian dinner in Burlington, and ended up instead at a tiny restaurant back in Stowe, crowded with locals, cuddled up at the bar, foregoing our fancy clothes for jeans and sweaters. It was about 40 degrees after all.
We left the next morning having celebrated fully and loved well and tended to the sometimes dry ground that is our marriage. Listening to our favorite podcasts on the way back to Boston, Graham and I understood that on this weekend away, we were doing the most important work. It didn’t involve conference calls or coffees or business meetings or parenting lessons.
It did involve tending and tilling and planting and weeding. We showed up. We put on our gardening gloves, shovels ready, only to find the other one already there with hands in the dirt.
And isn’t this the dichotomy of marriage? There are moments spent covered in the mess of muddy soil and moments floating high above the ground, casting vision together from the mountaintop.
At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.Toni Morrison