When you tell people you’re taking a trip, there are some destinations met with a polite but bemused, “Why?”
The short answer is that I wanted to; that I love the snow and the cold (and maple syrup). The longer answer involves explaining how characters in a years-long story my Best Friend and I write together are from Vermont.
My original plan for this blog was to be something of a travelogue, chronicling my trip across the state as I got as many stamps on my Vermont Independent Bookstores Passport as I could. I’ll still mention that part, of course. I managed to visit 11 bookstores across the state--if you’re having trouble imagining that, you’re not alone: I’m still in shock that you can drive Vermont from top two bottom in about three hours. (The whole state. Three hours.) And added 10 new books to my stacks (a few of which I've scattered throughout this post), plus one I donated to a local Christmas book drive through the Norwich Bookstore. I loved every city and every store; I loved the winding state roads that took me up the mountains, watched all the while by bare birch trees and moose that signs kept warning me about, but that I never did see; I loved the single witch window I saw on the way to the place that, to my surprise, is what I’ll actually be writing about.
The Museum of Everyday Life is in a barn just off a state road, tucked between small towns with no cell reception and miles of trees on all sides. I arrived just as the sun was starting to set around 3:30 PM. As I pulled in, a car came around the bend and disappeared in a whoosh of tires on the salty road. In the stillness it left behind, I realized how deep the silence ran, and how alone I was.
Join me there. Feel how cold your hands are in your gloves; how cold your feet, your cheeks. Listen to the silence of a snowy mountainside. Now come with me towards the door; there’s three switches on your right. Two of them turn on lights inside the barn, the third starts up a turn-table, whereupon sits a spool, tied to a metal curtain threaded with bells. And listen now to that curtain of bells; a hundred little frozen faeries whispering to you as you step inside.
Inside is nothing you’d expect, but it’s exactly what you were promised. The first exhibit is a collection of toothbrushes, many of them turned into prison shivs. There’s a two-way mirror--which you can’t quite make yourself look through; there would have been someone in the little room on the other side--and a collection of tone balls: masses of lint and anything else that can get stuck deep within an instrument, and are believed to affect the tone. Further in is the current exhibit: scissors. On the far wall: paper snowflakes, cut by previous visitors and hung with tacks. Next to them, what looks like the corner of a barber shop, the sound of innumerable scissors muttering through a pair of headphones hung by the chair. You know in your bones that you are between things here. That if you’re here when the sun sets, you’ll be caught in that in-between. Even with the lights on, and the sound of the bells, you don’t come out the same. You sign the guest book, and buy a notebook from the honor-system gift shop.
You’d better believe I was expecting to see a Door.
I wish I could end this by simply telling you to go there now, right now, right this minute! But it's much easier to travel through Vermont than it is to travel to it. So instead I'll just hope you can find your way there, or maybe give them a donation so they can keep up their museum, performances, and to help as they start work on their first official book (of which you can absolutely expect a review, as soon as I can get my hands on it). Until then, join me in picking up the portals our own little slice of Vermont has to offer, and if you should see me looking a little lost, assume I'm still on the mountainside, listening to the sound of the bells.
-Marilyn Kearney is a Youth Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.