I can’t go anywhere this time of year without hearing them—in the woods, along the street, in supermarket parking lots, and even my own back yard. If spring is alive with warbling birds, and
summer has clicking crickets and rhythmic cicadas, leaf noises are the soundtrack of New England autumn. While most people are justifiably distracted by colors—flaming maples, lemony birches and elms, copper-plated oaks—I revel in the often unnoticed sounds voiced by the bright, falling foliage. No, they’re not reciting poetry or saying anything profound, but they make a music seldom heard in the hubbub of flashy visual display. While everyone else is agog with a kind of sunset tangled in the limbs, I like to listen.
In the old mill village of Collinsville, Connecticut, we don’t just break for artists, we close Main Street for them. In brilliant September sunshine last Sunday a dozen talented people used the pavement as
their canvas and drew vibrantly colored images on dull macadam where tires and shoe leather usually tread with impunity. Vendors sold handcrafted item from booths set up along the curb and music from a local band rocked the neighborhood, creating a festival atmosphere. In a contagion of talent, children drew pumpkins, animals, robots and ghosts on the sidewalk until every step was a literal art walk. The street was busy with smiles as bright as the sunlight.
Grabbing our attention like shooting stars streaking across a velvety night sky, ordinary and frequently
seen objects sometimes pop out of the background scenery and ignite our consciousness. One of the starkest such experiences struck me about a year ago. It’s about a bridge. Now a thing that I hardly noticed for years has become something I go out of my way to see.
“Vermont” and “school bus” are not terms usually associated with barbecue. But just off I-91 and a short hop from the village of Putney all three converge at Curtis’ Barbecue, the self proclaimed 9th
wonder of the world. I first discovered this Mecca for ribs and chicken serendipitously while looking to gas my pickup about twenty years ago. It had slipped memory until recently when a similar errand took me off the big road at exit 4 and led to a reunion with what felt like an old friend. Unlike most things recollected, it was even better than I remembered.
Not all flowers are lovely. Some are downright ugly. It’s not a matter of aesthetic deficiency, but due
to their poor ecological deportment, their noxious relationship to other flora.
On the banks of the Farmington River a couple days ago I found a lone trout lily with its elliptical freckled leaves and nodding yellow bell of bloom growing among emerging shoots of Japanese knotweed. The large, plum-blushed knotweed leaves seemed sinister, a gang of bullies about to engulf one of the most enchanting and delicate spring wildflowers.
There are few American icons as universally recognized and yet deeply personal as a pair of Levis jeans. But today's classic denims may not exactly match the images fostered by our imaginations. First brought to market in 1873 by dry goods merchant Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis, who
hit on the idea of copper rivets at pocket corners and other stress points, their creation by a pair of European Jewish immigrants in itself tells a very American story. Designed originally to be worn by men working in the outdoors, the descendents of these denims have not only clothed factory and construction workers, but starting in the 1950s, cultural rebels like Jack Kerouac, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley and James Dean.
Over the last couple months the beavers in my neighborhood have been as busy as . . . well . . . beavers. Darkened pointed tree stumps and partially healed basal areas stripped of bark are testament that these flat tailed rodents have been active in the area for a long time, but the recent burst of
activity between the upper and lower Collinsville, Connecticut dams on the Farmington River is beyond anything I’ve seen in nearly three decades of almost daily observation. Though I’ve often spotted the glossy furred creatures swimming at twilight, I’ve never caught them at more than hauling away a few light branches. The fresh piles of wood chips, sculpture gardens of bright conical stumps, and freshly gnawed limbs suggest I’ve been missing a good deal under cover of darkness.
Few errands are more routine than a trip to the bank. In fact, it’s a downright dull chore and we like it that way. Excitement or surprises when it comes to depositing or withdrawing money are usually not a
good thing. But if you are absolutely stone bored when you do your banking, you haven’t been to the bank that rocks.
The Collinsville Savings Society is a handsome, squat structure of granite, brownstone and brick in the heart of the old mill village of Collinsville, Connecticut. With thick masonry walls, it’s a strongbox of architecture, a place where, unlike the transparent cubes of mostly glass that often pass for banks today, you have the feeling that your money is safe. But the exterior display of earth’s bedrock is not the only place you’ll find stone at this bank. Go to the far left teller window where you will find Lisa’s ever growing assemblage of rocks on the golden oak counter. Collected by colleagues, customers, friends, and Lisa herself, the stones sparkle in late afternoon sunlight.