Been There, Done That, Back Home Again

Benson House in March

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.

American archeology- the Great Pyramid of Memphis, Tennessee.

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.

A fine view, plushy bed, hot showers, and dinner in the sports bar downstairs (surprisingly good).

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.

The view outside Benson House, drawn from a little table at the kitchen window.

11 thoughts on “Been There, Done That, Back Home Again

  1. Janet Wilkins says:

    It is interesting to hear what “non New Englanders” enjoy experiencing (like snow and the four seasons). I recently had another such experience on my own blog (maple sugaring), something that I, apparently, have taken for granted. It seems that I am getting the chance to “see through a new pair of eyes!” 😀 Thank you.

  2. TR says:

    You’re going to have a fantastic summer! Can we trade – I’ll help with ants in Massachusetts and you take my place in Beijing among the Olympic madness??? My inner E.O. Wilson would trade you in a minute!

  3. 100swallows says:

    I really like the view from the Benson House of that little shed or empty shrine, with the car tracks and the road going back to the woods. Aren’t you sorry it is in your notebook and not on a sheet of watercolor paper? The Memorial Bridge is good too.

  4. zeladoniac says:

    Yes, it would be nice to have it on a single sheet of real watercolor paper, but I was traveling very light and only took a moleskine sketchbook. There’s actually something nice about the binding down the middle- it looks even more ephemeral. I’ll have watercolor paper next time. Time to post the travel watercolor kit, don’t you think?

  5. Linda says:

    Oh, you passed right through Knoxville! (from someone who travels Lee Highway all the time, and who frequently crosses the Caney Fork …) 😀
    Benson House is beautiful in the snow, and I love the Moleskine sketches — there’s something wonderful about a sketchbook for travels. Your tiny watercolor kit is brilliant!

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