Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Leaving Vermont Headed South

August 27-September 5, 2021                                  Most Recent Posts
Arlington VT to                           Inside and Back Outside the Bennington Museum
Charlottesville VA                                       Bennington-Why Did I Wait So Late?

I started my pack up by checking all 10 tires and airing them up.  Luckily I started the RV because it didn’t start.  The battery was dead.  There is a toggle compartment switch near the bottom of the steps coming inside.  It was toggled to on and I have no idea how long it had been.  I used the battery boost but was afraid to set out on a 500+ mile trip with a weak battery.  In the end it was $361 for the battery, the charge for the tech to come out and $120/hour labor.  Yes I could possibly have done this myself except that I’m not strong enough to get the terminals off or the straps.  Being alone is expensive.

IMG_9903I did the laundry, put away the chairs, the mat, the tire covers and on and on. Getting ready to move.

To cheer myself up about the battery fiasco I made this video to say goodbye to the river my campsite at Camping on the Battenkill.  And then it started to rain.   And I mean rain!!!

Sweet Shelli Ann, the owner of the campground told me not to drive 250 miles in this pouring down rain but to just stay in my site until it stopped and leave the next day.  I was so relieved at her generosity.  AND she didn’t charge me for the extra day.  I cannot recommend this campground or these people enough.  If you are in southern Vermont, grab a site and tell them Sherry sent you.

Sept 2 Casino Parking lotMy good luck continued the next morning.  No rain and the picky jack came up without the use of a crowbar to force it.  So I left on September 2nd, not the 1st as I’d intended.  But because I didn’t have to make the dreaded reservations, I didn’t have to cancel anything and pay any fees.
I spent the night at the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino parking lot in Wilkes-Barre PA where someone came in a white stretch limo.  That’s my view.  Wonder if the driver dropped his passengers at the door and parked here.  Wouldn’t be much fun to park the limo and have to walk what is a pretty good distance to the casino.  I didn’t see them arrive so I don’t know.  And I didn’t go to the casino myself either.

The next day was a 200 mile drive to Walmart in West Virginia where I arrived at 2:30.  Really too early but driving on to Virginia was too long.   I was back in Virginia by noon the next day.  No rain the whole way.  Thank you again Shelli Ann.

Lots of things to get done while I’m here including having things redone at the RV repair shop 90 miles from my house that should have been done properly last spring like the AC which is still rattling even though they said it was fixed and the brand new TV Antenna that won’t go up and the contrary jack and some rust preventative on the under carriage that they were supposed to do but “ran out of time”. 

More problems with my father’s estate too.

But before starting in on the work to be done while I’m here, on Sunday I went on a birding walk with a great birder named Thomas who had advertised the walk on Nextdoor.  We went to walk what is known as the Monticello Trail.  It hikes up the mountain from a parking lot at the foot to Thomas Jefferson’s home.  We didn’t go all the way up.  We cut off on some mowed side trails Thomas knew of.

Thomas brought his scope and most of us had binoculars.


Not sure whose job it is to mow these  but they were very nice.


BIG thistle and goldenrod here in Virginia.


The paths wandered in and out of the woods.


It’s been a very long time since I did anything with a group of people.  It was nice to share a mutual interest with others.


No waterfowl on this almost hidden pond.


But we did actually spot some birds.  Hiding in the leaves are two red eyed vireos.  They seemed to be the birds of the day as we saw them several times.  Or others of their species.

I was told this was a Black Throated Green Warbler.  Warblers are just too difficult for me to recognize and remember.  But it was great seeing this one.  And amazing to get a picture.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Not a bird but the 17 year locusts (aka cicadas) are still here.


A little Eastern Wood-Peewee gave itself away by singing out its name.

The tree seemed decorated with birds.

House Finches

Not sure you can see him well but they tell me he’s a Prairie Warbler.  What do you think Eric?

Prairie Warbler

And finally two more red eyed vireos to wind out the day.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo2

Coming up next is the post I’ve been dreading writing for months.  It explains why I am still in Virginia in late November.  I haven’t been in temperatures this consistently cold since 2010.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Inside and Back Outside the Bennington Museum

Friday August 27, 2021                                            Most Recent Posts:
Camping on the Battenkill                    Bennington – Why Did I Wait So Late?
Arlington, Vermont                                                   Prospect Rock

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you reading this post today.  I hope you’ll enjoy going back to the warmer weather of late August.  I apologize again for being so far behind.

In my previous blog I talked about some of the wonderful things on the outside grounds of the Bennington Museum.  Now it’s time to go inside.  As I said before,  after visiting, I wish I had gone to the Museum at least twice during my month stay nearby but I seemed always to have a hike or a kayak I wanted to do and not enough foul weather to make me want to be inside.


I know my friend Pam will appreciate the dalmation statues guarding the entrance.  I’m not sure if they were part of the sculpture exhibit on grounds or are a permanent feature.  I forgot to ask.


I’m definitely not a shopper so it doesn’t take me long to take a turn around a museum shop which I usually do first to get a sense of the place.


These two caught my eye and I could imagine them on the wall of the kitchen in a Vermont home.  Clearly the effort here is to discourage relocation to the state.  HA!


On the ground floor of the museum was an exhibition entitled Love, Marriage and Divorce.  The information provided was very interesting.  Apparently the nature of marriage has changed a lot since the first settlers arrived in Bennington in 1761.  The idea of marrying for love was a new concept.

Survival in colonial America required “help meets”.  It wasn’t until the Victorian era with Vicky and Albert that the idea of romantic love and “soul mates” came about particularly for the more well to do.

IMG_9706The industrial age seems to have changed marriage as women moved away from their rural homes to work in factories. Weddings might not be arranged for them.  Marriage might be for love.  These two wedding dresses were both worn by women associated with the Bradford Mill.  White wedding gowns were not universal.  The wedding dress on the left was worn in 1896 by a woman who worked at the mill.  The one on the right was worn 10 years earlier by a woman who married one of the owners.  Both dresses were the height of fashion for the day.  If you could sew, you could craft whatever you wanted from material you might have saved up to buy.

Not sure we can assume Mary Colton who wore the dress below for her January 14 1879 wedding married for love but apparently Queen Victoria’s white wedding dress made white gowns very popular.


IMG_9703But all was not always happily ever after.  It was customary for the groom’s family to provide land and a house for the couple while the bride’s family provided furniture, linens, silver and other household items suitable for her station. This toilet case was given to Ann Amelia Day by her parents when she married George Whitney in 1859.  Whitney had a reputation for being what was termed “erratic”.   I thought that was a cute Victorian description for a man who abandoned his wife at a train station and disappeared for several weeks.  The couple divorced and Ann married someone else in 1869.  Not sure why I was surprised to find that in Vermont you could get divorced in the 1860’s.

In contrast, in the early 1800’s Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake lived together in Weybridge Vermont in what was widely recognized as a same sex marriage.  Charity’s nephew, poet William Cullen Bryant, wrote about their relationship after a visit in 1843.  “In their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life…this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony for more than 40 years…they slept on the same pillow and had a common purse, and adopted each other’s relations”.   The women were good business partners and valued members of the community.  Their neighbors understood the women were lovers as well as friends and partners and simply ignored what they did not want to acknowledge.

On the other hand, Mary Sanford and Mary Safford were another same sex couple living together in the late 1800’s in Vermont.  They were not working women. The two parted ways in 1910.  No need for a divorce.  Wealthy women living together independently was not unusual at the time.  Such independence would not have been forfeited as in a traditional marriage.  The arrangement was called a “Boston Marriage” from a popular play depicting such a relationship.  I loved the description of the “Boston Marriage”.  “They often kissed and hugged, wrote passionate letters and shared beds.  Such intimacy was not necessarily seen as sexual by society since women were assumed not to have the physical desires of men.”   What do you think about that girls?

In 2000, Vermont was the first state to introduce Civil Unions with the same legal rights and obligations as marriage.  Assumedly that would enable same sex couples would be considered next of kin in medical and inheritance circumstances.  In 2009, Vermont was the first state to introduce same sex marriage and in 2015 it became Federal Law.

At this point it was time for lunch.  I asked the museum staff if there was somewhere I could walk for lunch and they directed me down the street.  Lovely mountain views on my way.


The name of the restaurant made me laugh out loud.  I’ve known some people who could be called loose cannons I hope they aren’t in the restaurant or among its staff.


Looked like a little converted house with seating both inside and on its porch.


Order at the counter and they deliver to your table.


I had a delicious salad and would definitely return for other dishes on their interesting breakfast and lunch menu.


Walking back up the hill to work off my lunch, the mountains were just as beautiful.

IMG_9729Before reentering the museum I was drawn by what looked like what I know as a wickiup but this one was red.  In the northeast these rounded domed Native American huts are known as Wigwams. 

This one was part of a sculpture exhibit which was on the grounds at this time and which I sadly did not have time to explore. It was placed right next to the one room schoolhouse attended by Mary Anna Robertson Moses better known as Grandma Moses.  Her formal education took places here as did that of many of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  In 1966 the building was opened as a historical site by Grandma Moses’s son Forrest and his wife Mary, featuring an exhibit of Grandma Moses’s personal belongings.  In order to preserve the building and its contents, the schoolhouse was moved twelve miles to the Bennington Museum grounds in 1972.

Today it is accessed from the Moses Gallery and serves as a place for student and teacher art exhibitions, and sometimes as a meeting space.  I found children’s books and games there today.


The sculpture was entitled Red Oculus: Our Year of the Preposterous and had a scan code for more information.  I think all the sculptures did.

I passed a second sculpture on my way back inside.  The rest were further away on the grounds.


I could have checked out the sculptures after the museum was closed but by then I was exhausted from such a full day.  Bad on me for not doing this much earlier in my stay so I might have returned.

IMG_9713 (2)Back inside I headed for the Grandma Moses Gallery.  The exhibit is permanent and includes the largest public collection of her pieces.  She lived a very long life (1860-1961) and began painting at 77 years old as something to do “to keep busy and out of mischief” after the death of her husband.  Perhaps there is hope for Laurel though I doubt for me.  Grandma Moses had been a very hard working farm wife and it appears she was bored.

She lived the majority of her life on a farm in Eagle Bridge NY near the Vermont Border and about 10 miles from the museum.  Her paintings included scenes from Bennington and one included the museum though I didn’t see that one here.

Don’t they bring out the nostalgia for a simpler time and place.  Try not to think about how hard they all worked.

There were several other exhibits in the museum but I limited myself two downstairs and two upstairs. 

Although the Jane Stickle quilt mentioned in the previous post (see link under Most Recent Posts) was no longer being shown, upstairs there was one dated 1873. Sadly the maker is unknown.

A block in the center advertises “a calico hop” held in Factory Point Vermont February 21, 1873.  A calico hop was an informal dance  where women wear simple cotton dresses rather than the silks or satins normally worn for evening entertainment.  The variety of fabrics used in the quilt is impressive.  The 3 D effect was amazing.

I was quite surprised and pleased to find that there was a temporary exhibit on Robert Frost’s time in Bennington County at the Stone House about which I’ve already done two posts.  If you would like to read them the first link can be accessed by clicking the highlighted Stone House above and the second can be found here.

IMG_9738Frost arrived at what is known as The Stone House in South Shaftsbury located very near the campground where I’m staying just over 100 years ago and lived in the house from 1920 to 1938.  This exhibition is all about that time in his life.  Frost wrote many of his most famous poems and won 3 of his unprecedented 4 Pulitzer Prizes while living here. 

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” which he called “my best bid for remembrance” and “New Hampshire” in which he lays out his personal theory of poetry and his deep affection for New England were composed in the same all night writing session in 1922.  “New Hampshire” ends with the ironic line, “At present I am living in Vermont” which was adapted as the title for this exhibition as you can see in the photograph above.  The exhibition explores Frost’s relationship with the landscape and people of this area.

It was interesting to see copies of his published works on display, as well as his handwriting on signed copies of books by Frost to his local friends as well as letters to them.  I found his letters to be particularly fun and this one written on October 23, 1920 made me laugh.  He writes that he has moved to the stone cottage where “if I have any money left after repairing the roof in the spring I mean to plant a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety.”

IMG_9752This copy of his book Mountain Interval which contains 16 poems was inscribed to his friend Edith McCullough with the last line in the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” the first poem in the book.

What I personally found equally interesting were the numerous woodcuts of J.J. Lankes which illustrated many of Frost’s poems over the length of his career. The men were collaborators and close friends, each greatly admiring the others work.  I am sorry for one of the real drawbacks of museums and my photographs, the reflections of the lights.  I’d love any solutions to this problem you may have.

Lankes’ detail is simply amazing.  I can’t imagine carving this into a block.  I’m showing only a few of the many on display here.  They were mesmerizing to me.

October (Moonlight and Apple Tree) is one of Lankes first attempts to capture the essence of Frost’s poetry pictorially.  Lankes said this woodcut was an attempt to do the poem “After Apple Picking” “in another medium”.

This one was published in Frost’s Pulitzer winning book New Hampshire.

The woodcut below was created as a tailpiece for Frost’s poem “The Star Splitter” when it was published along with 4 other images in the September 1923 issue of Century Magazine. 


Lankes designed this bookplate as a gift to Frost in the afterglow of the publication of the book New Hampshire.

Lankes created a gorgeous woodcut of Frost’s Stone House which was published in the periodical Bookman in December 1922 along with an interesting article about Frost and the house by his fellow writer, neighbor and friend Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  You can read Canfield’s entire piece here.



It was fun also to see some of Frost’s possessions in the exhibit.  His assistant during the last 25 years of his life wrote that the greater part of his poetry was written using his writing chair and board.  I love the inscription on the wall above the radio, sweater and chair.  Those of an age that they were forced to memorize the poem “Breathes there a Man” by Sir Walter Scott in grade school will recognize the reference.

“On Being Chosen Poet of Vermont”

Breathes there a bard who isn’t moved
When he finds his verse is understood
And not entirely disapproved
By his country and his neighborhood?

Also on display was this signature quilt, an unusual artifact, made in 1910 but signed in the 1930’s. It documents the concentration of literary and artistic talent that lived, worked and summered in southern Vermont during the 30’s and 40’s. 

Many of these were friends of Frost and of Lady Beatrice Gosford who lived in Shaftsbury and collected signatures on the quilt.  I didn’t recognize all the signatures but among those I did were  the ones pictured below as well as Sinclair Lewis, Sarah Cleghorn, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell.  There were many more.

I closed the museum down of course and when they locked the doors, I walked up the road to the The First Congregational Church.  Known as The First Church it was built on the green in 1765 and replaced by this second and larger church  in 1805.   It is the oldest organized church in Vermont from 1763.  The church yard is directly behind the museum property but they are not connected so you have to walk around.

White New England Congregational Churches seem to be in every town and often the first church built there.   They just say New England.  I love the architecture both inside and out.



Looking from the front of the boxes to the rear, the two docents are visible downstairs as is the wonderful church organ off to the right on the second landing.



Like many people who visit the church, I’d come to see the grave of Robert Frost.  There were clear signs leading to it though it was not in a particularly prominent place despite his fame throughout his life.


Of course like everywhere there is anything related to Frost, there was a poem.



In keeping with the age of the church, there were many grave stones much older than Frost’s.


I’d had a very long day here at the museum and I was tired as I took the sidewalk along the beautifully maintained white picket fence from the church and back to the museum and my car.