Cabot, Vermont | Where the Heart Rubs Against the Place
In fact, if you overlaid all the maps the seventh- and eighth-graders made, you’d have a Republic of Recreation, where inhabitants pledge allegiance to swim in the O’Connors’ river, jump on their trampoline, go to the Creamery and eat cheese samples, ice-skate on the common, run in the woods in the rain, bike from Cabot Plains to Danville Hill, go apple picking at Burtt’s Orchard, chase cows, ride pigs, drive tractors, hang out with awesome Emma, bomb on your four-wheeler, get a haircut, fix up trucks, and drift canoes with Forest.
While Cabot’s terrain may be owned in deeded chunks and parcels, these maps attest that it’s also an unincorporated territory: the great estate of rambunctious, joyous youth.
And as for mapmaking itself, there’s the joy of being the author and writing the story. Cia Considine, mother of four grown children, drew a map of Cabot that can be read as a “choose your own adventure” guide. On it she offers three ways to find her house from Cabot village, and in relating this information, she conveys their quirks. “One way to get here is really twisty and serpentine–it’s the best choice to travel when there’s snow, but people who don’t live on this road don’t know its bends, and so they tend to go off the road,” she explains. “Then there’s another way that’s convoluted, with a hard right-angle turn at the Talberts’ sugarhouse. It’s steeper–you can’t drive very fast. And last is a pretty straight three-mile route up from Lower Cabot, a steady incline, steep at times, which can be tough if you don’t get some momentum or traction. On the crest you’ll pass the farmhouse where Pauline Churchill lives, undoubtedly the hill’s matriarch.”
Cia’s map also discloses the adventure’s reward: where to find wild onions, chives, currants, the best apples for making pies. And those tiny red dots? Wild strawberries.
These maps may not be accurate documents whereby historians can gauge the exact placement of structures, the agreed-upon boundaries, or the proper names of roads and rivers. And you’d be hard-pressed to find your way around navigating by a hand-drawn map; nothing’s drawn to scale, and north is anyone’s guess. But no matter how crude, elaborate, or abstract, these maps celebrate the secret ordinary feeling of Cabot. Each imperfect document contains a totally unique short story about what that person notices around him or her day by day. And if we allow that “noticing” is a form of affection, then these documents show a kind of ownership, legalized not by a courthouse but by awareness, by abidance, by love.
And so on the one hand you could argue that the People’s Atlas of Cabot project just facilitates the creation of unnavigable maps and fallible diagrams–but on the other hand, it has helped further a discussion about what matters here and now. Cabotians have the chance to recognize something they love, the facets of this place before, not after, it has been irrevocably changed. Perhaps those who peer into the Atlas & Gazetteer 200 years from now may still be able to guess where kids go biking and bombing on four-wheelers, and point to the woods, with its descendants of those long-ago boundary-marker trees, and find the pond with a new skin of ice and the prize patch of wild leeks.