Rock of ages

Sometimes I feel this need to write about something for no other reason than to get it in writing, to put it into words, to somehow “memorialize” it, to enter it into the record — into the transcript of my life. This is one of those occasions — I feel this need to scribble down a few facts and a few thoughts about one of my favorite places — the Dorset Inn and the town of Dorset, Vermont.

The Dorset Inn’s just a great place. Wonderful food. A great, comfortable, throwback sort of elegance — my favorite things are to just sit out on the porch with a cup of coffee in the summertime or to just sit in front of one of the old fireplaces during the winter — warming drink of some sort in one hand and a good book in the other. Here’s a link to the Dorset Inn’s Web site: www.dorsetinn.com.

And here’s a photo of what the place looked like at the turn-of-the-century. It still looks very much like this but the dirt roads are now paved:

Anyway, here’s the thing about Dorset. First time I ever stayed there, it was simply happenstance. I was looking for a nice bed-and-breakfast inn to stay at during a trip to Vermont, checked all the usual print and online sources like Fodor’s and Mobil and travelocity.com, and just happened to choose the Dorset Inn.

Dorset is quite the affluent town, and that affluence traces back at least in part to the fact that the town once did a booming business in high-quality marble mined from several quarries within the municipality’s boundaries. Just down the road from the Dorset Inn is one of the old quarries, now filled with water and a popular swimming hole. 

From those Dorset quarries, it turns out, came the marble for two American landmarks. Blocks of marble from Dorset were used to build the glorious main branch of the New York Public Library, the one at Bryant Park and 42nd Street in Manhattan. the one with the granite lions standing guard at the gates of knowledge. And slabs of marble from Dorset were used as the gravestones for more than 5,000 of the soldiers buried at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, of course, inspired Abraham Lincoln to his greatest moral and oratorical heights. And Dr. Charles Leale, the physician who was the first to treat the mortally wounded Lincoln,  happens to be buried at Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers, where many of my relatives on my mother’s side, the Crooks and Nash families, are buried. That’s the sort of cosmic convergence that prompted me to dub this site “World of Wonders.”

And it all reminds me of “To the Stone-Cutters,” the great poem by Robinson Jeffers:

    Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you fore-defeated
    Challengers of oblivion
    Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
    The square-limbed Roman letters
    Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
    Builds his monument mockingly:
    For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth dies, the brave sun
    Die blind, his heart blackening:
    Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
    The honey peace in old poems.
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