far too much writing, far too many photos

A note to the stalwart few who waded through far too many entries concerning the DELE exam I took in Madrid back in May: the results arrived today. Late, on one hand, because they told us grades would be posted on the web in August. Early, on the other, because traditionally, hard-copy results don’t show up until October.

The outcome: I passed the bugger. Not summa cum laude — no surprise, given how difficult the exam turned out to be. But considering that when I began prep. in early March I wasn’t sure I’d pass the intermediate level and wound up taking the superior level, I’m satisfied.

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Anyone who’s visited this page more than one or two times may bear painful emotional scars be aware that my modest fiefdom is located on a hill 15 to 20 miles northeast of Montpelier, Vermont. Out in the country, on a narrow gravel road (a third-class road, according to local standards) that climbs the hill, becomes a fourth-class road — meaning just this side of a trail– at the top and meanders down the hill’s far side past this area’s old one-room schoolhouse and out to Pekin Brook Road, another third-class thoroughfare that connects with other parts of this rural town. A handful of houses lay scattered around the hill, three along this mile-long third-class stretch, two more along the mile-long length of fourth-class road. A quiet place with little traffic. Or was.

Three years ago this summer, area folk apparently realized this road cuts through from the two-lane blacktop that winds along the valley floor to Pekin Brook. Seemingly overnight, traffic tripled or quadrupled, a lot of it zipping through at well over the limit. Looking to save time, to get where they were going via a short-cut, the ones coming off the two-lane in a 50+ mph frame of mind, not grokking the residential, low speed limit dirt-road thing. And what the hell — no speed limit was posted. Probably seemed like a time-saving, pick-your-own-velocity free-for-all. Which might have been understandable if it weren’t for the size of the road and the fact that two of the three houses on this stretch front right on it, with kids, old folks, all that.

I have not been especially crazy about the shift from peaceful dirt road to ersatz highway and hit the tipping point when I went out to get the mail about five weeks back and some knucklehead in a big, blue muscle car came tearing up the road, barely slowing as he passed within a foot of me. That got me talking to my uphill and downhill neighbors. I mentioned taking the situation to the Town Selectboard as a safety issue, asking for help — turned out my unphill neighbor had attempted that some years back, asking to get the road’s speed limit reduced. He said he ran into the classic we’re-vermonters-you’re-an-outsider attitude, left the meeting with nothing material to show for his attendance. He’s a genuinely good guy, this neighbor, a smart guy, but in the minimal time I’ve spent in his company I’ve noticed a tendency to sometimes display sharp, confrontive displeasure when he feels wronged in some way — not necessarily a bad thing, though possibly counterproductive should it surface in a Selectboard kind of sitch. He originally offered to accompany me to the meeting, wound up not being able to attend. My downhill neighbor, on the other hand — Mo — was available and agreed to come along. Providing an automatic end-run around the vermonter/outsider thing, given his family’s lived in this town for generations, he’s lived here all his life, has lived in that house for 60+ years. Not that I anticipated trouble. No, really — I had the distinct feeling the experience was going to be a good one, whatever the practical results.

Came the evening of the Selectboard meeting, I picked up Mo, we drove winding dirt roads over to a part of the town called Gospel Hollow. An old, white church nested there functions as the town meeting space, we walked into a basement room, found the five members of the board getting ready to convene, a handful of other folks talking, finding seats. Vermonters, all — country folk, dressed in hot weather duds.

I could see everyone taking note of Mo’s presence, whether or not they called out a greeting. Our matter placed first on the agenda, Mo’s simple showing up clearly added weight to it. When the moment came for me to describe the situation, mention the concerns shared by everyone on the road, ask for help, suggest a couple of approaches we’d come up with, the Board listened with gratifyingly focused attention. Mo had trouble hearing everything in the following discussion, when he finally spoke up all other talk stopped. He didn’t say much, but his simple expression of concern had a visible impact.

Himself:

[continued in next entry]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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