David A. Van Wie
It’s fitting that the guy who spent six weeks last year driving over 5000 miles on the Storied Waters fly-fishing and literary odyssey now lives on River Road. And it was quite a journey getting here.
In February, Cheryl interviewed for a dream job at Dartmouth College as Vice President of Alumni Relations. When she applied, I was certain there couldn’t be anyone better qualified. I’m biased, of course, and I’m sure there were other excellent candidates. But I was confident she would get it.
We were held in suspense while Cheryl underwent hip replacement surgery on March 1. Just as she came down off the meds and got back onto her feet, they offered her the job. That news threw our lives into hyper-drive as we prepared for the move to the Upper Valley near the Connecticut River which forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont.
Many have called it a homecoming of sorts as we are both Dartmouth lifers and then some - active alums who met in Hanover after we’d both graduated. Coincidentally, we became engaged in 1983 when Cheryl was living in a house on this same River Road, only three miles from our new home. After moving to Maine and getting married, we’ve visited the College at least once a year. Our daughter Rosa also wore the green playing rugby for Dartmouth which brought us back to campus frequently until she graduated in 2012.
Going way back, my father was a proud member of the Dartmouth Class of 1941. I grew up attending Homecoming football games and bonfires, skiing at the Dartmouth Skiway during Winter Carnival, and attending reunions. So, indeed, our move back to the Hanover area is as close to a homecoming as we might imagine. Cheryl had a few weeks between jobs in May to pack and organize full time before starting her new assignment in Hanover on June 1. She found a short-term rental house for the summer, which alleviated the time pressure to find a new house. But when she launched into her new duties, much of the punch list to prep our Maine house for sale fell to me.
We had lived in our house on Town Farm Road in New Gloucester for exactly 30 years. (A few years ago we were assigned a new address on Starlight Drive, our private side road.) Both Rosa and Garrett were brought into this world when we lived in that house. They grew up in our friendly rural neighborhood and flew that particular coop after they each graduated from college. Those thirty years also resulted in plenty of clutter, cast off furniture and junk in the basement, procrastinated repairs, and peeling paint that continued peeling while we were off at a soccer or rugby game somewhere. And thus, for over three months, we were fixing, dumping, donating, organizing and packing at a frenzied pace.
Meanwhile, I had to find time to work on the manuscript for Storied Waters, the book, to meet my publisher's August 1 deadline for the 50% draft. I painted when the sun was shining and wrote in the evenings, when it was raining, and when I needed a rest from climbing up and down a ladder.
The same week Cheryl started her job, I got a break from the packing and painting to attend the Breadloaf Environmental Writers Conference at Middlebury College for a week. I thoroughly enjoyed my first immersion experience with other writers in this storied setting. My workshop group was capably led by nonfiction author Ginger Strand. The feedback I received from her and a dozen other fellow Breadloafers on my blog episode about visiting the Adirondacks during my Storied Waters journey was both humbling and motivating. Their astute comments sent me home ready to re-write virtually everything in the first half of the book (before my August 1 deadline- yikes!)
Then, of course, we bought a new house. We were so fortunate to find this beautiful
home on River Road in Lyme, the next town north of Hanover. It was love at first sight. We’re just a couple hundred yards from the Connecticut River and Grant Brook with hiking trails on conservation land out our back door and a car top boat launch for our canoe and kayaks just a mile away. At the other end, our house in Maine went on the market on July 3 and, I’m happy to report, the very first family who looked at it made us an offer, which we accepted. All our hard work paid off! The closing was August 9, so after I sent my Storied Waters manuscript to my editor at Stackpole Books on August 1, we were ready to move the following week.
All four of us gathered for one last dinner: a lobster cookout on the back deck. We all cried when we said goodbye to our longtime home, our yard (we dug some perennials from our gardens to bring along with us), and our neighbors. But I’m confident that the new owners will love that house as much as we did.
And here we are, still settling in but loving our new digs. What a whirlwind journey… whew! On my first day at the house on River Road, with the garage crammed full of you-name-it and boxes stacked to my eyebrows, I dug out my fishing gear, hoisted my kayak onto the top of my car, and a few minutes later I was fly-casting a small popper along the riverbank on the Vermont side near submerged logs and lily pads. Blue sky, calm water, abundant bird life… and soon enough a two-pound smallmouth bass tail-walking on the end of my line! The Connecticut River here is more like a slow-flowing lake due to the dam ten miles downstream, but it is clean and scenic and home to bass, walleye, pike, pickerel, ducks, herons, kingfishers, mink, muskrats, turtles and all manner of other interesting flora and fauna.
Last week, I explored Grant Brook which flows from high up on Smarts Mountain near the Appalachian Trail, down through the village of Lyme and into the Connecticut River just a few hundred yards from our driveway. I rode my
mountain bike up a trail that follows an old farm road to a crumbling bridge across the brook. With a little rain overnight, the stream was up a bit, cascading over the slanted slabs of slate and into plunge pools no bigger than a queen-sized bed. The cooler water temperature was enough to perk up one native brook trout that eagerly took my Hornberg in a fount of foamy water.
A few minutes later I met a young man – a fellow fly-fisher out exploring the hiking trails near our house, not fishing – who said he had just seen a black bear a few hundred feet down the trail. This served as a timely reminder that we’ll have to keep an eye out for our ursine neighbors while wandering in the woods.
River Road will be a delightful place to live. We’ll surely miss our friends in Maine, but look forward to making new friends and hosting our children and good friends when they come visit us here in the Upper Valley. The river awaits.