Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coming home

We are on the train, returning from Vermont. Phone access is spotty in the mountains; internet access, more so. We have survived nicely without technology since mid-Thursday (though the older girls did have games on their phones). I'll post photos when I arrive home.

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The train ride up was long and uneventful, until we were 8.5 hours along and just outside our destination of tiny Montpelier, VT. Suddenly our car started filling up with people and their luggage. It was a little odd, but I figured perhaps there was a leak in one of the rear cars from all the rain. Then the conductor came through saying sternly, "No one is to go back in those cars."

Shortly thereafter came an announcement that the train had a 'security issue', and under these circumstances they were not allowed to stop in a town, on a bridge, or in a tunnel. So we'd be stopping shortly outside of Montpelier. The State Police would be coming onto the train.

So there we sat in the dusk of rural Vermont, with a grand total of perhaps a hundred people on the train. No one was particularly worried, since we all thought that any terrorist worth his salt would have planned an attack for somewhere further down the line (like, say, swarming Penn Station in NYC). 

The police trooped on to remove "the device" which was in the rear-most car. We think it was someone's iPhone charger, accidentally left behind. But security being what it is, we weren't told the whole story. Because, you know, they wouldn't want people to panic.

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We stayed in my cousin's barn. It has an apartment in it; the goats are gone. My cousin Susan spent the weeks before our arrival installing plumbing so that we'd have a working shower. She is a pretty amazing woman. There was a composting toilet (rule of thumb: one poop, one scoop of peat/sawdust), which Susan assured us would not smell. It was a tall thing, up on a pedestal. Kind of regal, really. A couple of days in things started to get a bit fragrant, so I turned on the fan.

Susan warned me there might be mice. I didn't tell the kids, figuring that if they saw some we'd deal with it, and if they didn't see any they wouldn't worry. I could hear mouse-like scurrying in the ceiling at night, but apparently the kids didn't notice. Little Guy saw a field mouse once by the edge of the pond, and proclaimed it cute. Still, a mouse outdoors is different than a mouse in the house.

Last night as Little Guy and I came in, a largish mouse scurried across the stovetop and disappeared into the stove vent. I wondered why the mouse would have bothered with mere crumbs (I did clean up well after we ate), since Susan had left a baited trap below a shelf. So I looked down below to where the trap was, and discovered that it was already occupied. And then I discovered that it wasn't the composting toilet that was causing the smell. 

I tossed the mouse, and turned off the bathroom fan. We awoke this morning to a fresh-smelling apartment and the sound of chipmunks chasing each other through the ceiling insulation. 

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The occasion for our visit was a family reunion. My dad (79) and his two brothers (82 and 85?) and most of their families were there. There were some cousins I hadn't seen in 15 years, and one aunt I hadn't seen since my wedding. It was good to be in the swirl of large-scale family life. I especially liked the sound of second cousins discovering each other, bonding through silliness and stories.

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Nature in our city neighborhood boasts plenty of woodchucks and skunks, the occasional raccoon or fox, and various small rodents. There are coyotes in the Bronx, but they haven't crossed over yet. We don't get big animals, like moose or bear. Fortunately we did not encounter these in Vermont, either.

I hadn't told the younger kids about the possibility of snakes, for the same reason I didn't tell them about the mice. They found two. One was small, in the creek. The other wriggled between Snuggler's legs as she walked to the pond with Little Guy. I didn't hear screams, and no one seemed distraught, so I guess it was okay. The big snake had stripes going down its body, which is the right way for stripes to go if you're looking for friendly reptiles. The kids did sing a lot while walking through the fields after that, though, to create advance noise to scare off anything lying in wait.

to be continued...

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