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Bethel-Gilead

05/07/05 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST) If your favorite forest trail is still too wet for hiking this weekend, commentator Alan Boye says that an old dirt road offers a good alternative.


(BOYE) It's finally Spring in Vermont and, for me, there is no better celebration of that fact than just to take a walk in our lovely hills.

Today, I am walking down a road in a place called Bethel-Gilead, Vermont. Well...you can hardly call it a road. Ahead of me a couple of ruts pass through an arch of ancient maples trees. From high in one of those trees, a robin chirps and chirps, then chirps again, and from somewhere else a warbler sings out the glory of the season.

I walk down the old road and through the stately maples. Just beyond them I stop. Every tree is a hardwood. There isn't a single evergreen to mar the perfect sea of gray woods that surround me.

One of the joys of spring in Vermont is watching the rebirth of our woods. Everywhere I look are maples and birch, pin cherry and beech, and each tree is alive with color. Oh sure, it isn't the fiery blast we get in October, but the subtle colors of Spring are just as beautiful. The delicate red flowers of the maple trees are like tiny feathers gently floating on every branch. The recent rains have turned the pale earth from brown to vibrant green. I can even see the dusty curl of the season's first ferns popping up from the forest floor.

I walk on, further into the woods.

The old road I am following dates from the 1820s. The first settlers up this way named the area after a kind of poplar tree that grows here. Today I am walking the hills of Bethel-Gilead Vermont and seeing the silver buds of a tree called the Gilead glisten in the May sunlight. Like their cousins the cottonwoods, all of the Gilead trees are about to bloom.

I stop walking and take a deep breath. It's been too long since I've had a chance to spend a quiet moment in the woods. Life itself is in the air. I walk as if suddenly remembering what it means to be alive.

Just then, I see an old cellar hole. The black rectangle amid the woods is unmistakable. Beyond it, mature trees grow straight out of an old stone wall. I am suddenly aware of the many generations of people before me who have watched the glory of spring arrive, and the generations after me who will watch as it passes away.

The cellar hole, the old wall, the hardwood trees and spring itself are but mysteries turning into memories before our very eyes.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.
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