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(From left) A heritage country store; Facade of a century-old inn in Wilmington, Vermont.

Just this one spot: Not simply a wondrous sight

Alegria A. ImperialHow easy it sounds as if that spot on earth, where one might be instantly implanted, were the most wondrous sight. Consider romps on meadows that the Green Mountains let nestle on their bosom—the little I learned from browsing through Wikipedia on the state of Vermont, cloud shapes like grazing sheep, mountain mist on waist of giant firs, descending in diaphanous calm, as if eternity would uncoil on one’s tipped toes; were that getting there, Nature was all that swept me.

But there’s more. In the course of our trip, a friend and I discovered specifically in Wilmington, a town that has staved off not only the physical corrosion of time but more so, shielded with great zeal its legacies, the kind of beauty and wealth impervious to ruin. Consider how driving into a century-old inn for meal and bed, transported us into to the end of the 19th century, still lived by its people who seem to wake up on both the dawns of their ancestors and their own; it had felt like stepping into book pages or postcards, even turning into an extra in a movie—how familiar it all seemed, and yet, strangely dream-like.

We woke on our first day not just to a present of black-framed French windows thrown open to the mist, seeping up from rivers and streams that trickle around roots of flowering hydrangeas, the delicate picket fences of white balcon-ied homes, farm estates rising on grassy knolls or glinting like an accent on foot hills, but also a way of life as tactile as a child’s first touch of a goat’s horn or sinking fingertips into a sheep’s coat, a moment as vibrant as the mooing of cows in the glen.

During a brief pause after a breakfast of squash omelet, made of fresh-picked vegetables and multi-grain pancakes doused with farm-made maple syrup, we had rocked on a wooden swing at the inn’s balcony, taking in the breeze that brushed an unhurried town of laced windows and a clock tower with a rooster pointing its beak where the wind goes, while not so distant, a few solid pillars of silos and sugar shacks, pivot on the eyes, diverting one’s awe off the sprawl.

Strolling later on Main Street in a pace that would have asked of dirndl skirts and a parasol, I couldn’t resist climbing a boardwalk that led to artists’ workshops, where in one, if it were not Memorial Day, I could have sat for a pencil portrait. An inner court shaded by cherry and apple trees then curves by the country store, where the touch of woolen yarn from local sheep triggered a picture I had so loved in my nursery book—a grandmother knitting on a rocking chair.

We would later find in farmers’ markets pears and apples named after their grower like Robert Frost’s—yes, the poet we revered in our youth once lived in a cottage we did go to in nearby Shaftsbury, where he ventured, though failed, into farming—as well, fruit and berry preserves in mason jars, and maple sugar in clay pots. Tastings of frozen yogurt on a stick had us wanting for more, realizing nowhere else could we find such blend of creaminess and fruit tanginess—in a moment of greediness, thoughts of loading some for home did flit by.

Would this be a mere feast of travel memories? Indeed, a thought quite valid to a visitor. But herein, my consciousness tore in half—I began to live them all; writing about it just now, I’m consciously stealing from Wilmington locals, who, by simply and staunchly preserving and living their heritage have, unknowingly perhaps, enhanced its value by passing these on not only to their children but to strangers, like me, who now claim a share.

Indeed, what legacies we carry hardly ever figure in our daily lives with bequeathals— except mansions and other such obvious signs of wealth, of course; more common to us, like mine, in varying degrees hardly overwhelm or glitter. Often summarized in a word as ‘values’, which may include status either inherited or earned by noble action, even a way of life, families prove to be their innate source, but more priceless still, would be heritage.

Yet, at what price would preserving the past entail? Driving away from Wilmington, I realized that as compelling a thought to compare maybe Intramuros or Vigan to it, in the same vein, mirroring that spot on earth one had lived for the moment with one’s own—a birth place, even if slightly fading from absence—would have been futile. Somehow, even configurations of land, mountains and sky differ, or is it size and how light falls on our shadow that cause the shift?

What widens the gap, for me, would be what and how we value and fight to preserve just this one spot on earth. Strange how such, like The walls of Intramuros, Vigan’s Crisologo Street and the heritage town of Wilmington, draw the traveler wanting to own a piece of them, and take time to ponder, no matter the price.

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