This post is a follow-up to another. Stories are circles. We are caught in their gravity.
January has melted away most of December in southern Vermont. The bare trees of winter – maple, locust, oak – allow a glimpse of landforms usually hidden beneath their leafy cloaks. The lay of the dormant land is easily discerned through the gray haze of branches now; broad strokes and minute details appear right under one’s nose. I was driving along a busy commercial road in town and happened to glance eastward toward the Connecticut River in an area that had earlier piqued my curiosity. Sure enough, there was another flat-topped drumlin or river terrace, wildly untouched, conjured up as if by sheer imagination amongst the heavily developed surroundings.
I parked at a nearby business, hiked across a fallow field to the steep-sided elevation and climbed to the uncannily level top. Upon reaching the summit, I was immensely pleased to see the raised banks of an earthwork fortification left relatively intact on the southern rim, curving some distance around to the west and east. This is the same tribal territory of the Squakeag or Sokoki band of Western Abenaki which I visited in Northfield, Massachusetts at King Philip’s Hill (a bit of a misnomer, since he – Metacomet of the Wampanoag – was a famous visitor passing through Squakeag territory). Situated in a very similar manner, this settlement was probably subject to quieter times than its neighbor in its day, fishing and farming at the rivers’ confluence, but still with an eye toward defense as needed. I trudged around in the shallow, melting snow cover and scouted the perimeter; the land showed the minor touch of historical alteration but the topography which had attracted the original inhabitants was still much in evidence.
Even with the flurry of nearby traffic and the encroachment of businesses, apartments, and parking lots, there was a palpable aura of timelessness in that spot. I walked back toward my car, past a tall dead maple stub covered with porcupine claw scratches, and resolved to return another day.