Sable Mountain, Windsor County, Vermont

by A.L. Fern


It was the summer after the stormy St Patrick’s Day meeting when she introduced him back into single life after twenty-two years of married calm and monotony. Coming from the southern Illinois section of the corn belt, her gravitation to Washington and the real estate business led her to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic beyond. She was a water person - preferably the ocean or The Bay, but a pond or river would do in a pinch. ‘Sailing’ seemed to incessantly play in the car’s tapedeck apparently reminding her of a jaunt with some boyfriend on a frostbite cruise on the Bay. He, on the other hand, had grown up summers on the family farm in Vermont. Surely, he liked the water too, but after turning the 16 foot Comet over in Wethersfield Cove, the mountains seemed more appealing. And Sable Mountain became a part of him (or he of it) as much as anything in adolescence.

When his children were growing up, there was at least one trip up Sable each summer. With new guests, it had to be straight down to the brook and up the steep side - the last couple of hundreds yards were only doable on all fours. The top - near the slight notch in the tip - was strewn with spruce toppled by winter winds. Still you had to climb a tree to clearly see the house two and a half miles across the valley. Other mountains were grander, more scenic, more of a challenge, but Sable became a part of him - he identified with it. Even more than he knew as time passed.

As a longing for the water still occupied a small corner of his heart, Jean also harbored a budding feeling for the mountains. With the suggestion - it was not an invitation - of quietude in the Green Mountains of Vermont, a remote pond for skinny-dipping, kerosene lamps in the barnsided living room surrounding the fieldstone fireplace, Jean took the initiative to plan their ten day trip to New England.

Although their relationship only stemmed from St. Patrick’s Day, Josh theorized her aggressiveness was brought on from the attack of Washington real estate or her burns. (God, it pained him when she described her seduction of a married vice president in her firm). Her burns were not apparent to the causal acquaintance and not obvious in the summer because she always wore a one-piece bathing suit. Josh could only conjecture that men were repulsed when they went to bed with her. Hey, but what the heck, we’ve all had our hard knocks. Whatever the cause, Jean enjoyed the hunt - her aggressiveness emerged in the most subtle, enjoyable ways. Sit back and enjoy the turn of events.

"Jean, before we go back to Washington, I’ve got to take you up to the top of Killington. It’s the Mt. Washington of Vermont, the highest in the State with a great view of Sable across from us. Got to see it ......" offered Josh. "Hey, I’m game. You’re the leader here, this is your territory, Josh," she said. "OK, we’ve just got to check the weather forecast. If we’ve got four or five hours with no clouds or rain, we’re off! WHOM, Radio Mt Washington, was broadcasting the weather for central Vermont as Josh put his wine glass on the nightstand. Jean snubbed out her cigarette, "Looks like tomorrow is the day for Killington." "Sure is," he said as he cupped the chimney of the kerosene lamp to blow it out.

To hike up over 4,000 feet would be an all-dayer so the gondola at Killington Basin was the chosen avenue. Besides very few people, if any, would be taking this tram. The traffic starts in leafpeeping season and continues heavy when the snow flies. But now it’s light.

On top by the restaurant they just stared. "God, this is exhilarating," she muttered. "I know it’s trite to say, but this is awe-inspiring, really," she continued. Josh began to think he had her - converting her to the mountains away from that damn water - that water thing of hers.

Clouds were forming to the north, although Sable was still in sunlight. Both thought, but did not utter that they should think about going back. They could always putz around in the shops down in the valley if they got back early. There was no line, if fact, none of the gondola chairs was taken as the attendant strapped them into their seat. Even before they had reached the first support pole down the mountain the seatbelts were unbuckled.

They were alone some fifty feet above the log slashes either side of the gondola trail down the mountain. "Damn, I wish I could paint or write or something about these mountains - and your Sable, your Sable Mountain," Jean said in a low stutter sliding down in the chair. Her back rested mostly on the seat with one boot hanging over the edge of the step. Turning, her knee caught in the shoestring of his Reebok. Josh stared ahead at Sable. The chair sloshed back and forth as it inched over anther support pole. He could feel - identify - with Sable. A fleshy cap of mist had settled around Sable swirling gently around and moving up the steep side.

"Oh, God, yes, it’s beautiful, it’s never been so beautiful before" his voice rising. Josh’s face took on the bright glow of a blush. "I never want to stop seeing Sable Mountain - God, never!" Jean paused to take a deep breath of the mountain air. "Imagine Sable Mt is rising out of the sea - a volcano that will erupt."

Josh’s eyes slowly slid shut closing - yet he saw. Sable Mt was rising with molten lava boiling deep, its steep sides lapped by the warm water of a tropical sea in the undulating motion of sea breezes. His mind joined the mountain with the warm, growing motion of the sea . He didn’t notice the gondola chair rocking. But a rush of magma from Sable. Mist - or was it snow - avalanched down the mountain. A stillness settled the gondola chair.

On retirement they bought a place on a bluff in the Caribbean. On the wall facing the incoming waves hung a picture of a Vermont mountain.


Copyright 1997

A. L. Fern can be reached at