Flamingo Season up in Vermont




The sun is always going down when I get up to Vermont on Fridays after work in the fall. When I picture my room and the view out my window, like I do all the time during the week, I see the landscape and all my things in the patina of those hours and that time of year.


Stiff and groggy from the drive, I pace the porch and drink coffee from a tin mug that, like my flannel shirts and Red Wing boots, makes me feel outdoorsy. I have an identical mug at my desk, which serves as a totem of where I’d rather be.


The house faces a long valley. The hills, on the other side of the state highway, turn dark blue when the sun goes behind them. Whether or not I make it in time for the hour before sunset when the foliage burns brightest depends entirely on traffic.


A ground fog settles predictably at dusk this time of year from the temperature difference between the air and the valley floor. There are signs on the highway warning of the fog and other local hazards like moose crossings and rockslides. I have no idea how a motorist is supposed to handle a rockslide, but at least they warn you.


It’s my apartment in the city, and not the country house, that feels like a money-pit, even though it’s where I live most the time. When I’m at my desk or out with friends, I think about being here, but when I’m here I never wish I were in the city, at work, or on a date.


Out in the yard, a young fox, one more autumn colored thing, is stalking low around the bushes. Yet to learn his own power and place in the food chain, he balks at the critical moment. He then does a strutting a lap around the yard to regain his composure before making another attempt, as if his kill is going to wait around. His coat is pristine, almost like he’s been raised indoors. I take a picture with my phone and text it to a friend in the city who replies that she wants to name him.




I postpone my hike over the ridge to wait for the well digger to fix the electric pump, which I ran over with the lawn mower last weekend. The mowerblade cracked the pump’s plastic cover and exposed the deep shaft of the well. The digger blows it out with compressed air to clear whatever may have fallen down there. He says sometimes dead mice and frogs come up when he does that. I picture a geyser of toads, and I want to believe that’s what happens so I don’t watch. That and I don’t want to know what’s in my water.


The well digger has a compound bow on a rack in the cab of his truck, and I ask him a dozen questions about bow hunting while he puts his tools away. He tells me he’ll be going out on Monday. Monday. I suddenly hate the guy.




My neighbor takes me shooting after breakfast at her place. She’s a full-time transplant from the city working on a novel, with a walk-in gunroom under the stairs, which is also where she keeps her drafts.


For targets, we have four garden flamingos, dozens of beer cans, six flowerpots, two pumpkins, and a steel plate that makes a satisfying ding when you hit it.


It’s raining and with ear protection on, I can’t hear it falling. Somehow this makes me feel a little drier, like I’m watching the rain but not in it. We reload under the shelter of the opened hatchback of her station wagon.


The trunk looks like a terror plot. There are .22 and 5.56 NATO rounds in every crevice of the upholstery and under the floor mats like lost pennies and quarters.


I feel a tingle of worry that somehow my friends will be up here on a foliage tour and happen to drive down the fire road and see me. I craft the excuses in my head: my neighbor is a feminist blogger who just happens to be well armed, and this town, where you can buy ammo at the grocery store, doesn’t vote the way you might think.


The flamingos turn to pink confetti when you hit them with buckshot.


On Sundays I have to come up with reasons to be okay with driving back, and every week those reasons get more nuanced. I used to tell myself that ammunition is expensive, or that I’d get tired of eating venison all the time, or I’d get less done working from home. But lately, I’ve been writing off the very reason I’m drawn to this place. By way of self-preservation, I convince myself that the specialness of going up to Vermont is the way I long for it Monday through Friday. Calling the city home, I hold on to my daydream walks in the woods and keep fly-casting in my mind.


Cape Cod, 2017