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Whose Words These Are. Thoughts on Robert Frost + America.

Robert Frost's Home. This is where he lived when he wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
The house Robert Frost lived in when he wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." He wrote the poem in June. This photo was taken in June 2022.

June 5th, 2022

We drove down the winding country roads of Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest, full of trees so flush with green leaves the sun couldn’t find purchase beneath them. Chris, my husband, drove. I rode shotgun. 

It’s not something I have to call anymore. Shotgun. Twenty-seven years have passed since my lips raced to form the word ahead of friends, siblings, or cousins. 

My mind hummed, “Whose woods these are I think I know.”

I sang these words in the eighth-grade choir at Willow Creek Junior High. Mr. Oudal conducted. His white hair stood on end as often as it did not.

My brain dialed back more than three decades and called up the following line. “His house is in the village, though.”

Whose words they were, I knew. Frost. Had Robert Frost ever lived in Vermont? I wasn’t sure. What was the poem called? I couldn’t remember. I remembered snow. The poem had snow in it.

Chris drove us by and beneath beech, birch, and maple trees. We went through a single-lane, red, covered bridge. Soon after, our Toyota 4Runner’s oversized, off-road tires gripped gravel down the last stretch of road to our home-of-the-month, an A-frame deep in the woods of Stratton, Vermont. It looked like the house I wanted back when I considered mornings spent cutting through Lake Zumbro’s glassy surface on a slalom ski and hot afternoons sipping canned margaritas while anchored next to other ski boats and party barges in Ryan’s Bay bliss. 

On our way to the A-frame, we saw a couple of houses – each with green space and tall trees between them. No fences.

Our Stratton home-of-the-month was the last location of our yearlong slow travel adventure. We spent twelve months living in twelve different North American locations. In July, we planned to zigzag through American skies and on U.S. soil to visit family and friends before flying across the pond to spend three months in Ireland, followed by three in Portugal, unless…

Unless we chose to stay in Portugal. A country we’d never visited before.   

An American Flag swung above our new home’s front porch. We rolled our suitcases beneath it on our way to the lower-level family room. 

My Dad put an American flag up on national holidays. 

Respect the flag. 
We live in the greatest country on earth.  
United, we stand. Divided, we fall.

He recited those words, making good on his duty to ensure his children understood their civic duty. I pledged allegiance to the flag each school morning and learned how to fold it right in Girl Scouts. Pride in my country was taught, and reverence for its symbols was insisted on.  

Those memories are there, but my feelings are not. 

Feelings. Not thoughts. Distrust took pride’s place. Caution dwells where reverence lived. The stars and stripes taunt from the backs of pickup trucks. 

Distrust of country wasn’t part of my neighborhood’s fabric. My feelings are not fueled by rebellion. The desire to build that fire moved out long ago.  

Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America by Donald Trump was centered with evident care on the coffee table. My eyes rolled from its cover to Chris. What had we gotten ourselves into?

I believe in God, enjoy country music, and I am a follower of rules. 

Once we were moved in, I sought out the house manual. Most vacation property rentals have them. I paged through it, and below a rule about not being noisy at inappropriate hours, it read, “Our neighbors own guns, and they know how to use them.”

May 24, 2022

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Seventeen others were injured.

June 9th, 2022

We began the D7 visa application process to stay in Portugal. It felt equal parts impulsive and logical. Our situation matched their visa requirements. Like so many Americans, my husband and I are over the country’s gun violence. America: Love it or leave it. Those words weren’t meant for my American-born blonde hair and blue eyes. 

Chris and me on the grounds of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum at Bennington College.
Chris and me on the grounds of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum at Bennington College.

June 14th, 2022

The power went out. We left our luxurious, A-Frame cabin in the woods with its non-functioning dishwasher, non-existent washer and dryer, and sloth-like internet speeds for the nearest Starbucks we could find. As Chris drove the 37 slow-going, rural road miles to our destination in Manchester, Vermont, Frost’s words again sang themselves in my mind. “Whose woods these are I think I know / His house is in the village though.” 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” – that’s the poem they belong to. I Googled it on that first night in Stratton. 

Manchester charmed me with its small town, bustling Main Street ways. In Starbucks, I Googled things to do there and found a list of seventeen suggestions posted by Vermont Explored. On it was Robert Frost’s Stone House, located about twenty-four minutes from where we drank our coffee and did our work. 

It was Tuesday. The museum was closed. Our luck in Vermont wasn’t great.

June 23, 2022

At Robert Frost’s Stone House Museum, I stood in the dining room where Frost wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening on a hot June morning in 1922. It came to him at once as if by hallucination. 

Reverence for his words. As I stood in the space where he conjured them from pencil to paper, words spoken and memorized in American classrooms for decades before I sang them and with any luck for decades after I am gone, that’s what I felt: reverence and pride. He loved this place, his apple trees. Vermont and New Hampshire were Frost’s favorite states. 

Apple trees were being propagated from his trees on the museum’s land to sell. If we were staying in America, I’d want my own Robert Frost apple tree to plant in my front yard for all to see. 

The table Robert Frost sat at and wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
The table Robert Frost sat at and wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

A Brief Update on our location.

On August 2nd, 2022, we landed in Ireland and spent three months on the gorgeous green island.

From November 7th, 2022, until March 29th, 2024, we called Portugal home. As I write this, we are in Kelowna, B.C.

For more on our roaming the world adventure, check out On Dishes and Nomadic Life.

What's it like to live in the woods of Vermont?

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While Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a gorgeous poem, I loved reading this explication and examination of Frost’s  The Road Not Taken by David Orr:

The Road Not Taken Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong

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