The Coldbrook is a real place. It is also a fantasy, a an unattainable dream, and a wellspring of strength and innocence. And sadness.
When I was a child it was the faraway outback of an already remote place, a rough mile back in the wilderness behind our house in Vermont, which stood, already old when I was young, on a dirt road with grass growing down the middle. Adults hardly ever went back to the Coldbrook anymore.
Dinosaurs dwelled there, and valiant knights, and the captains of starships who could count on my discretion not to betray their presence, for they came in peace and secrecy. No girls were allowed back then, though now I realize that was a mistake. When I brought the girl who is now my wife, she somehow made the magic stronger still.
There were glades of birch and red maple, and darker cathedrals of sugar maple and oak, where fishes glinted coyly under the surfaces of pools, and great green frogs croaked rude remarks at me from hidden lairs among the reeds. Tiny golden slime molds did their slow, amazing dance in the shadows between the dappled spots of sun. There were black bears who seemed more scared of me than I of them, and white-tailed deer, and porcupines, and moose. There were serpents, too, but no apples.
Every day was different. In spring the glades were carpeted with red and white trillium or wild leeks, dark green and pungent. In summer ferns replaced the colorful spring flora. Flying insects filled the hot, humid air with their almost imperceptible hum, pierced now and then by the shrill shrieks of cicadas late in August. Puffballs on the moist rotting logs provided endless entertainment, their spores drifting in little brown clouds through shafts of yellow sunlight. After a summer storm the water rushed in dangerous torrents I could hear from a mile away. By the end of October, the buzzing insects vanquished by successive frosts, there was barely a rivulet and the silence was almost perfect when the air was still.
When my son was very young he often asked to be taken to "the water down there", which had worked its magic on him before he was even two. Later he discovered, farther up, the still functional remains of a corduroy bridge, built of black locust logs, that timber men had abandoned there more than a half-century earlier. From then on it was known by the name he gave it: "The Indiana Jones Bridge". The allure of the forest was lasting; today he makes his living there.
When I grew up and my life filled with the stresses that come with family, medical practice, and the politics of a small town growing too fast, I often went there when I needed to feel its magic again. It was a balm that hardly ever failed me. I would go there still if I could.
But alas, the magic is gone. The headwaters of the brook have been engulfed by a major ski resort. The crystal water is now clotted with a bright orange bacterial slime, and the pristine pools where once I skinny-dipped are silted up with dirty bits of plastic sheeting and broken ski poles. Though the water still runs, its eddies are marred by stinking rainbow slicks of discarded oil. The trillium and wild leeks are gone, and even the ferns, present since before there were real dinosaurs, now struggle to survive there.
So I retreat into my photography and digital images, and remember the magic that was. It is not the same, but it will have to do. And you can join me there. That is what ColdBrook Studio is for.
© 2013 - 2015 All text and images copyright William Sargent.
All rights reserved.
The ColdBrook Gallery
is a great source of affordable art for your walls or website! A large variety of themes is available. Prices and fees are very reasonable.
All the gallery images are available as fine high resolution, archival quality giclee prints for purchase in a variety of sizes, framed and unframed. No order is too small, but we can complete high volume orders, too.
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