Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Twilight

Prose Poem by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I well remember the very widespread custom, back in the South, of “twilighting.” Carried over from before the Revolution, it might have also been fortified by the meager, perilous years of the Civil War. Yet this practice had come about much earlier. Was it born of the months-long warmness of the Southern dusk? Many became accustomed never to rush lighting their lamps; yet, having completed their chores (or tended to the livestock) before nightfall, they were in no hurry to get to bed. Instead, they emerged outside to sit on dirt ledges, or benches, or just lounged inside with the windows wide open—no light to draw in bugs. One after another they would sit softly down, as if lost in thought. And long remained silent.

If someone did speak, it was quietly, delicately, unobtrusively. Somehow, in those exchanges, no one got fired up to argue, or to reproach spitefully, or to quarrel. Faces could barely be made out, then not at all; and, lo, one began to discern in them, and their voices, something unfamiliar, something one failed to observe through the prior course of years. 

A feeling would take hold of everyone, of something impalpable and unseen that descended gently from the dimming after-sunset sky, dissolved in the air, streamed in through the windows: that profound seriousness of life, its unfragmented meaning, that goes ignored in the bustle of day. Our brush with the enigma that we let flit away.

Friday, April 19, 2013


As April is National Poetry Month, and the Vermont Humanities Council is launching it’s Vermont Reads 2013-Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, the Cavendish Historical Society is encouraging readers to explore the poetry of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived in Cavendish from 1976-1994. While this Russian dissident and Nobel Prize winner in literature is known for his books, such as Gulag Archipeligo, he also wrote a number of poems. Below is Freedom to Breathe from his 1973 book, Stories and Prose Poems.

A shower fell in the night and now dark clouds drift across the sky, occasionally sprinkling a fine film of rain.

I stand under an apple-tree in blossom and I breathe.  Not only the apple-tree but the grass round it glistens with moisture; words cannot describe the sweet fragrance that prevades the air. Inhaling as deeply as I can, the aroma invades my whole being; I breathe with my eyes open, I breathe with my eyes closed – I cannot say which gives me the greater pleasure.

This, I believe is the single most precious freedom that prison takes away from us: the freedom to breathe freely, as I now can.  No food on earth, no wine, not even a woman’s kiss is sweeter to me than this air steeped in the fragrance of flowers, of moisture and freshness.

No matter that this is only a tiny garden, hemmed in by five-storey houses like cages in a zoo. I cease to hear the motorcycles backfiring, the radios whining, the burble of loudspeakers. As long as there is fresh air to breathe under an apple-tree after a shower, we may survive a little longer.
(From: Solzhenitsyn: Stories and Prose Poems: Penguin 1973).

Friday, April 12, 2013

CHS News 4/12/13

This coming Sunday, April 14, will be the Annual Meeting of the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS). Beginning at 5 pm at the parish hall of Gethsemane Church on Depot Street in Proctorsville, there will be a potluck super and short meeting, followed by showing the film “The Homecoming.” This film documents Aleksandra Solzhenitsyn’s return to Russia.

On May 11, the deed of Cavendish Universalist Church will be handed over to the town of Cavendish. The Stone Church will be used as a small venue space for concerts, lectures, readings etc., as well as the permanent home of the Solzhenitsyn exhibit. Volunteers are needed to help with the May 11 event, as well as with other CHS activities. Learn more about CHS volunteer positions

CHS will be holding its annual summer fest and plant sale on Saturday July 6. Those interested in vendor space should contact or call 802-226-7807. The Stone Church will be open and available for tours that day.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Volunteer Opportunities at the Cavendish Historical Society

 Updated 4/10/13


Become a Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) volunteer and learn more about Cavendish, make new friends, meet interesting people, share your skills and gain new ones and help leave an important legacy for future generations.

A wide variety of volunteer positions exist at the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS). Please visit frequently for updates.

Unless posted otherwise, contact Margo Caulfield or call 802-226-7807 for volunteering or for more information.

Summer Fest-July 6: Help is needed with the plant sale, including donations of plants; selling of raffle prizes etc.

Raffle Prize Ticket Sellers: CHS is conducting a raffle, which includes 10 prizes all connected to Cavendish-paintings by the artist Craig Rankin; original 1927 flood photograph; Delicious Cavendish (food items made in Cavendish); Out and About in Cavendish (Fun things to do in Cavendish); Historic Cavendish (a collection of interesting items from CHS) and more.  The drawing will be held on July 27 at 1pm at the Stone Church. Tickets are $5 a piece.

Docents: Interested in learning more about the Museum’s collection as well as the famous and infamous of Cavendish, then this is the job for you. Docents are needed to staff the Museum on Sundays from 2-4 pm.

Hands on History: CHS provides a variety of workshops to the school, home school groups as well as to the community throughout the year. We are currently offering a series on WWII and will be doing gravestone cleaning in May and June. Volunteers are needed to help with workshops, which are often during the day Monday-Friday. 

Fundraising: Need ideas and volunteers to conduct fundraisers

Board Members: Help shape CHS by being on the board. The commitment is five meetings a year.

If you are interested in volunteering for CHS, please contact the CHS coordinator, Margo Caulfield, at or by calling 802-226-7807

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cavendish Farewell Speech 2/28/94

The following speech was given by Alexksandr Solzhenitsyn and interpreted by his son Stephan.

Citizens of Cavendish, our dear neighbors,

At town meeting seventeen years ago I told you about my exile and explained the necessary steps which I took to ensure a calm working environment, without the burden of constant visitors.

You were very understanding; you forgave my unusual way of life, and even took it upon yourselves to protect my privacy. For this, I have been grateful throughout all these years; and today, as my stay here comes to an end, I thank you. Your kindness and cooperation helped to create the best possible conditions for my work.

The eighteen years which I have spent here have been the most productive of my life. I have written absolutely everything I wanted to. I offer today those of my books that have been translated into English to the town library.

Our children grew up and went to school here, alongside your children. For them, Vermont is home. Indeed, our whole family has come to feel at home among you. Exile is always difficult, and yet I could not imagined a better place to live, and wait, and wait for my return home than Cavendish.

And so this spring in May, my wife and I are going back to Russia, which is going through one of the most difficult periods in its entire history-a period of rampart poverty, a period where standards of human decency have fallen, a period of lawlessness and economic chaos. That is the painful practice we had to pay to rid ourselves of Communism, during whose seventy-year reign of terror sixty million people died just from the regime’s war on its own nation. I hope that I can be of at least some small help to my tortured nation, although it is impossible to predict how successful my efforts will be. Besides, I am not young.

I have observed here in Cavendish, and in the surrounding towns the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy where the local population decides most of its problems on its own, not waiting for the decision of higher authorities. Alas, this we still do not have in Russia, and that is our greatest shortcoming.

Our sons will complete their education in America, and the house in Cavendish will remain their home.

Lately, while I have been walking on the nearby roads, taking in the surroundings with a farewell glance, I have found every meeting with many of you to be warm and friendly.

And so today, both to those of you whom I have met over these years, and to those whom I have not met I say: thank you and farewell. I wish all the very best to Cavendish and the area around it. God bless you all.