Lately it has been raining uncertainties for us and each time we would think of a serene getaway to assuage our rattled nerves, life would happen. To cut a long story short, we were in desperate need of a break. Since the summers and in between the nagging disquiet, I had nurtured countless dreams of a picturesque North American autumn (somehow, I prefer the poetic 'autumn' to the bland 'fall'), the kind that we come across in glossy photographic magazines. A trip to New England was always on the cards but we had often found ourselves at crossroads when it came to pick one of the six equally breathtaking states. Since the time was autumn, New Hampshire or Vermont ruled the gamble, and ultimately Vermont it was. So there we were, up in the air one cloudy afternoon, exclaiming at the jaw-dropping aerial view - stretch after stretch of red, like the unfurling and fluttering of a giant mass of red cloth. Beaming with happiness at so surreal a sight, we realised it was only the start of a humdinger of a vacation.
A snug little log cabin awaited us, nestled in the lap of mountains overlooking a little wooded pond. Every single arrangement befitted my fancies - red Adirondack chairs in the patio, vintage floral curtains, unlimited solitude and most importantly the "there's a jungle out there" feel. But we should have foreseen the jinxing of a situation so beguilingly perfect and blissful. Mother Nature, like always, had a mood of her own. It rained intermittently on the first day, like a curse, with a vengeance. But the resolute leafpeepers braved it anyhow! For this was a break that seldom comes twice in a person's lifetime, and what's more, we were spot on time for the elusive peak - the time when the leaves pompously display their best colours. Autumn was in the air- cool and crisp. Being the quintessential maple land, one can see the roads and lanes thronged with flaming maple trees that appeared to be on a feisty, full-throated song. Never had I seen so rich a palette - yellow, orange, red, rust, mauve, gold; nor could I understand the divine magic of the same leaf turning so many brilliant shades one after the other, in just a fortnight's time.
The quaint countryside with its little country stores, verdant hillocks, grazing cattle and weathered barns contributed to my perfect autumn idyll. I was brimming with emotions of one who loves to be far from the madding crowd, feasting on the virgin beauty of nature and relishing country delights like maple candies and syrup soaked pancakes. The remnants of a deep-rooted English tradition - red telephone booths, old English inns, bleached white rectories, and gastropubs named 'Mr Pickwick's, It's a Dickens of a place' - was quite inescapable to my Anglophile's eye. It seemed as if a chunk of England has glided across the Atlantic and has pieced itself to the most charming pocket of North America.
The Green Mountains that garland the northeastern territory of the state are a vast expanse of sheer delight - lush greenery and charcoal black crests veiled with mist. Our inn keeper had assured us that rains make the colours sparkle, and he couldn't have been more right. For the wet leaves not only sparkled, they spoke. After a day of incessant rains, the sun burst forth in nooks and corners highlighting a resplendent blanket of mellow tones. Like us, there were several others who were in quest of that little patch of blue sky and at the end were fairly rewarded. The sun peeped in and out of the stubborn clouds throwing a ray or two on the faraway mosaic mountains, giving the landscape a dramatic edge. The warm rays piercing the mist shrouded mountains gave the impression of one being in a futile battle to win against all odds.
There is a lot more on the tourism platter of Vermont like apple cider mills, sugarhouses (where they make maple syrup) and vintage covered bridges. The spectacular covered bridges that symbolise a fine melange of architectural beauty and history are a treat for the historians and photographers alike. These completely wooden bridges that date back to the nineteenth century were meant for accommodating a single lane traffic, mostly horse carriages. Due to their sturdy roof and enclosed sides they still hold good in spite of the continuing damage from rain and snow. We stopped by one of the bridges to bask in the tranquility of its surroundings. It felt like the moment had frozen into timelessness, echoing a hundred tales from the past - the monotonous clopping of hooves, the creaking of wood under the weight of the hurried carriages, the legends of many a distressed maiden who tumbled off the bridge for love. One of my musings also had Francesca plucking wildflowers alongside the bridge, just like in The Bridges of Madison County.
Intoxicated with ecstasy and quenched to the core, we returned to our life of duty and obligations, to be a part of the routine again. Now the Vermont of my dreams seems far removed, a mere blurry shape of autumn colours. But I do have the memories and of course the photographs, that will keep me warm in many a winter nights. And oh, there's my prized maple syrup bottle too, 'Vermont's finest'!