There’s a place up a Vermont hill where the roads have never been paved and the trees still grow among their ancestors. A place where, if you quiet your mind, you can hear a story gently spoken by the whispering pines. It was there that I found myself one summer night, a brief hiatus from the great concrete jungle of the city.
I knew immediately, from the second I turned down Popple Dungeon Road, that I was in love.
The dirt kicking up plumes behind my truck, I drove slowly through the lush landscape, immersed in the shadows cast by this corridor of dense eastern white pines and red oaks. I’d never been this far into Vermont, and there was something foreign, yet welcoming about this sanctuary.
Passing an old cemetery, the faded tombstones etched with names long forgotten, I arrived at The Whispering Pines. A cabin nestled into the tiny hillside like a babe in a mother’s arms, with trees standing guard around the parameter as if sheltering an oasis. Smiling, I breathed in deep, filled my lungs, and savored the fresh smell of pine and dry leaves, the musky undertones of wetland, and the sweet scent of chestnut. I exhaled. Only to gasp again moments later upon entering my home for the evening.
The cabin was illuminated by the afternoon sun pouring through the skylights. Every wooden inch seemed to glow with amber hues. I was overwhelmed by the craftsmanship, each massive log cut and stacked perfectly. The floors and ceiling, each wall and corner carved as if from one giant tree. Looking up I saw blue sky and white, billowy clouds. I was alone but not lonely.
Hours passed as I read Shakespeare on the porch, listening to the brook churn its tepid waters. The breeze was warm and soft upon my skin. I tried to gauge the passing of time by the movement of the sun, knowing that soon enough my friends would be joining me for the night. The clouds became thicker and urged me from my chair to go wander, so I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my camera, and set off, leaving a note on the door in case the others arrived while I was away.
I am no stranger to the woodlands, but I was not prepared for this new landscape. Passing a sea of ferns and moss, I trudged deeper into the brush, the cabin disappearing from sight. Soon everything darkened around me, both from the passing clouds and the increasingly dense canopy. Movement became tedious, my feet sinking into the soft earth, my arms pressing through thick foliage.
It was then that it occurred to me that I may be standing where no man had stood before. It was a strange, alien feeling that both excited and unsettled me. Who was I to partake in this reverie? This was not my land. This was not my home. But as the feeling subsided, the wind passed through the pines and I felt at peace. I was welcome.
As the sun set beyond the horizon, I decided to return to the cabin and was soon greeted by two friends who had arrived only moments before. Though somber to bid farewell to my solitude, I felt eager to share the experience.
The night passed gleefully as we filled the cabin with mirth, the hours slipping by without notice, without care. Soon enough the morning would come and we’d begin a new day, but that night we rested soundly under the stars, nestled in the hillside, at peace among the whispering pines.