When I was a young girl, my grandfather, who had a real estate and auction business and was also a skilled woodworker, gave me a pair of antique Hitchcock chairs. They were small, with low, caned seats suitable for a child, and traditional stenciled decoration, but instead of fruit or flowers, my chairs had a lyre in the center: I was the musical child. For almost sixty years, those chairs have been with me, too small and delicate to be practical, but impossible to part with because they were such an early affirmation from someone who didn't need words to tell me he loved and knew me. The cane seats have been replaced once, but the stencils are in remarkably good condition. I ate my lunch today, as I usually do, seated on one of those chairs, with its golden lyre pressed against my back.
We slept in that bedstead with the carved lyre last week, while visiting friends on Lake Champlain, in a small old town that used to be the summer home of affluent families from New York City, as well as longtime local families. The town has the mansions and summer hotel one might expect, but the storefronts along the one main street are mostly empty now, the hotels and inns turned into rental apartments, or even torn down. So, the town and the lakeshore were quiet except for migrating flocks of Canada geese and smaller groups of ducks, or the occasional hawk or vulture or heron overhead, and the lake itself was calm, with long ripples instead of waves that caught the light and slowly progressed from the opposite shore towards us, as if a long knife had sliced the water at an angle from below.
Our hosts took us for a short but steep climb up a nearby mountain, to a rock outcrop that gave a panoramic view of the high peaks, the lake, and Vermont's Green Mountains beyond it; we lounged on the warm rock, eating apples and almonds, while their basset hound crunched acorns with his strong teeth. My knees were grateful for collapsible hiking poles, especially on the descent, but we were happy to find we were in pretty good shape for hiking.
Later, we sat on the porch in sweaters, drinking vodka and eating homemade gravlax, watching the lake until the sun set, and then ate dinner at the kitchen table, and talked into the night.
Camel's Hump, in Vermont, seen from the New York side of the lake.
In the morning, a long breakfast of eggs and Montreal bagels with labneh and grilled peppers, another walk, and then a slow drive back to the city, along the lake for a while. We stopped at a farmstand where workers -- there to dig potatoes? pick cabbages? apples? -- were sleeping in the grass under the trees, and again for lunch at a diner in a deserted village, bought some apples at an orchard, and made it back to Montreal in time for choir rehearsal, feeling like we had been away far longer than we actually had.