Clippings: On a summer’s eve, 54 things I love

With a nod to the crazy cult filmmaker John Waters and the bizarre list of the 101 things he loves from his book “Crackpot,” I present to you my own (much milder) list of 54 things I love from a beautiful summer night in Addison County.
After a short excursion on Lake Dunmore (1) in my trusty 40-year-old Grumman canoe (2), I paddle up on the sandy beach at Branbury State Park (3) and immediately plunge myself into the cool, refreshing water (4). I dig my feet deep enough into the clean lake bottom to feel the strange, icy cold of the sand between my toes (5). I doggy paddle (6) out to one of the swimming buoys and slowly flip onto my back like a manatee (7) and float. As I relax my head back and my ears slip below the water, the busy sounds of the beach become muffled. I hear my own heartbeat (8) just as strongly as the buzzing of a passing motorboat. I stare up at the sky and take in a near 180-degree panorama that includes the rising Green Mountains (9) to the east and the sinking sun (10) to the west. A dragonfly (11) momentarily mistakes me for some driftwood and almost comes in for a landing on my nose.
The position of the sun reminds me that it is time to move on if I am to complete my perfect summer evening trip. I put the canoe back on top of my car and slide the wooden paddle (12) into the back. The paddle definitely shows its age and it is probably not very efficient at propelling the canoe, but its worn smooth handle (13) and sleek, elegant shape (14) make it irresistible.
I head out around the lake with the low sun shimmering off ripples caused by a gentle breeze (15). The smell of campfire smoke (16) fills my car as I round the corner by Kampersville (17). I wave to the big squirrel statue (18) and wonder why real squirrels don’t wear old time bathing suits. I turn my car toward Middlebury (19).
On the south end of town I look over at the Dollar Store and wish it were still Middlebury Lanes (20) bowling alley. I miss that old place, and the owner was a hoot. If you called to ask his hours he was apt to respond with a question of his own. “What time do you want to come by?” he would ask. I decide not to take the Cross Street Bridge (21) when I have the opportunity, even though it is number 21 on my list, because I don’t want to miss numbers 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31 and 32 in downtown (22).
 I glance over at the Town Hall Theater (23) as I wind past the town green (24) and then turn onto Main Street in front of the Congregational Church (25) and see that all the angled parking spots are empty (26). The street feels as wide as the Mississippi and I drift slowly into town. Just like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (27), I yell out, “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old National Bank of Middlebury!” (28). I know it’s not Christmas (29), but I can’t help myself. “Merry Christmas, Otter Creek!”(30). “Merry Christmas, Ben Franklin!” (31). “Merry Christmas, Ilsley Library!” (32). “Merry Christmas, you fantastic new roundabout!” (33). I drive a complete circle around the roundabout (34) so I can add it to my list twice I love it so much. I stop in front of The Middlebury Market (35) and order a vanilla (36) creemee (37). The cone is imprinted with the words “Eat it All.” I happily oblige without spilling a drop (38).
I turn past Twilight Hall (39) on my way out of Middlebury. Is there a more simply beautiful building on the Middlebury College campus? I don’t think so.
I crank down my windows and crank up my iPod (40) with some music from local singer/songwriter Josh Brooks (41). “Sweet Adelaide” (42) elevates my already soaring mood and “Ten Black Crows” (43) puts me over the top. The rushing air blows through my long, flowing locks of hair (44 — I can dream can’t I?) as I hit my stride on Route 30. The orange and pink sky (45) and golden hour light (46) tell me my journey is almost over, but I can’t resist a quick stop at Douglas Orchards (47) as I roll through Shoreham (48). I pick luscious strawberries (49) that overwhelm my senses and, since the orchard is closed, I pay by the honor system (50). I put a couple of extra bucks in the box because I appreciate the Douglases’ trust.
A few minutes later I am at my final destination. The Fort Ti Ferry (51) pulls up just as I approach. Once on board I get out of my car and watch the swirling water of Lake Champlain (52) churn behind the ferry. A few stars begin to wake in the darkening sky and I take in a deep breath of cool lake air (53) as Vermont (54) recedes into the distance. It has been a perfect summer night and I can’t wait to get off the ferry, pull a quick u-turn and reboard for the trip home.

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