Benson House, Harvard Forest, Massachusetts
So this is what winter is supposed to look like: snow, bare trees, snow, more snow, and snow. For me, growing up in northern California, winter was a whole other experience, when the land is at its greenest and most lush. In Oklahoma winter comes visiting like a distant relative with bad manners, but doesn’t stay long enough to qualify as a Season. That distinction is reserved for the cool northern states. Nothing is more wintry or prettier than the New England woods in early March, as it was last week when we moved into our new digs, Benson House, surrounded by fresh snow, bare trees, and a lovely blue sky. This is the most charming version of winter I’ve seen outside of a Christmas card. And I got to enjoy it exactly one day.
Mike and I drove from our Oklahoma home base in a fully packed Prius (don’t laugh- it holds a LOT, and it got an average of 45 mpg the entire trip), spending our first night with old friends in Nashville. Our next day was spent mostly driving through Tennessee, a real long stringbean of a state. We popped out the top into Virginia and landed in Harrisonburg for the night, ordering pizza and falling asleep in it. I amused myself on the long drive through the South by making note of places made famous in songs and tunes of the bluegrass and folk genre: Lee Highway, Caney River, Forked Deer Watershed, Cumberland Gap, Big Sandy River, and of course, the Shenendoah Valley.
Hank n’ Loretta’s Area of Rest
The Country Music Hall of, well, nevermind. At least the acoustics were good.
Our third full day of driving we got as far as Springfield, Massachusetts, a mere hour and a half from our destination. But wouldn’t you know it, a snowstorm descended and made us duck into a nice Marriott, where we treated our tired selves to a room on the 11th floor with a great view of the Memorial Bridge.
We spent not one but two nights waiting for the roads to clear so we could press on to our little house in the woods. Press on we did, eager to see where we’ll be living for six months of Real Seasons, complete with a genuine warbler migration as a perk. Benson House is enchanting, built in the late 1700’s, small and sturdy, unadorned, with light flooding in through windows on all sides and polished pine floorboards a good foot and a half wide. It’s comfortable and perfect.
I was only there long enough to get Mike situated and unpacked, find the nearest grocery store and get the tour of the wonderful research facilities at the Forest. It was hard to wrench myself away and surreal to get on a flight back to Oklahoma. But I’ll be back soon, maybe even while there’s still some snow on the ground.