No short time later, my bus arrived in Vermont’s largest city, and I alighted at the university, the result of my own foolishness. After looking about for a moment, I crossed the street to set my bags on the seat of a bus shelter. During my two days in Burlington, I became quite taken with these shelters which had the shape of a small cabin, roofed with tin and bounded on three sides by posts and planks in which glass had been set to let light through. The structure, while helpful in summer, seemed especially important in winter, and, wherever I went in the city, I came upon these cabins and found myself transported to a warm December day and their enforced companionship.
Later, I strolled through the downtown for a time, avoiding the sheen of Church Street, noting the similarity between Burlington’s silver church tops and those which I had seen in Montréal. Of these, the Unitarian Church proved most memorable precisely in that it set me a challenge of sorts. For it asks, via black lettering on white sign, what sense there is in crawling when one is born with wings. I have known only dirt and to dirt I shall return.
Musing at an end, I found my way at Battery Park, where I was made to strike up a conversation with an Afghan translator above Lake Champlain. Against a backdrop of grey water and odd islands, a stretching jetty and sunlit notch, our conversation ranged from his experiences in the United States to developments in Afghanistan, his ploys to secure a visa through the translator bill passed some number of years ago, the distinction between liberalism and democracy on which, no fault of his own, he seemed somewhat unclear, the question of homosexuality, and his struggles to adapt to life half a world away. As our talk drew to a close, I thanked him outwardly for his service, wholly uncharacteristic of me, and again inwardly for having broached the silence by commenting on the lack of stairs between outlook and lake. Silent, I look on as the sun breaks through the clouds and a quicksilver band threads its way across the lake and bisects blue hills and grey waters.
It was only following his departure that I learned anything of the park’s origins as an artillery emplacement during the War of 1812, today largely forgotten, where in summer 1813 a Vermont company repelled a small group of British ships with the aid of the heights, gunpowder, and two scows. The engagement, though short and meaningless in the grand scope of things, has nonetheless left its mark on this place. Indeed, it occurs to me now, upon rereading, just how meaningless certain marks must be in past or future, perhaps even in their own time. I returned to the view of the Adirondacks the yonder side of the lake, hills gone dusky blue with distance, and exchanged a few words with no one in particular.