I walk as though I know where I am going, even though I have never been there before.
I write as though I know what I am talking about, but that could all change tomorrow.
I speak as though people should listen to what I have to say, even though my silence is often louder than words.
I believe that each life is a story. We speak words with our actions. We write stories with our lives.
I live as though today might be my last day. And if my life did end today, I would want my story to be told.
This is what pure joy looks like.
A turbulent start….
I worked a wedding this past weekend at Shore Acres Inn & Restaurant in North Hero, Vermont. This was the second week in a row that I tended bar for a wedding.
The week before was idyllic; bluebird skies, gentle lake breezes, open bar, lakeside luminaries under a full moon which grew out of the Vermont skyline. I’ve not experienced many days that were any finer than that (other than my own wedding of course.)
This past weekend, was the complete opposite; tornado watch throughout all of Vermont, an unstable tent and Asian men in kilts. Wedding vows were shared, the first drink was ordered and then Armageddon broke loose. The skies instantly darkened while they let loose swirling winds followed by monsoon like rains. The order was given to evacuate the tent, yet no one was foolish enough to run out into the storm. We poured more drinks, the bag-piper continued playing and scenes from Titanic rattled through my mind.
The storm did pass, as all storms eventually do, and the couple was treated to an incredible double-rainbow under which they took many of their first photos together. Double-rainbow guy would have been in his full euphoric glory.
The evening featured ever-changing skies from calm to turbulent, much like many marriages ultimately turn out to be. The couple weathered the storm with much patience; the did not postpone the ceremony nor move it elsewhere. It seems likely upon reflection that they will cast their memories back on that day with many stories and pictures that could never be duplicated.
I wanted a dog….
…but on the coldest night of the year, she appeared at our kitchen door instead. My wife, Susan, who was steadfastly against any pets, was seduced by her petite face immediately and called her Molly on the spot. It took three nights of -20 temps, bowls of taco meat and mammoth piles of snow to finally coax her inside for good. She stayed under the bed for nearly a month, only coming out to prowl in the wee hours of the morning.
Then, she became a part of the family. She played with the kids, she warmed Susan’s heart, and she made us laugh. We nicknamed her Kramer for her spontaneous and awkward bursts into a room punctuated with a skid across our smooth wooden floor.
She loved being outside, like us. She made it through winter and awaited the days when she could roam our yard, our own private sentinel of sort. When we played ball outside, she came to participate. When we went for walks in the gardens, she pretended not to follow by racing ahead and acting as if she had been randomly waiting in the exact spot we were headed towards. When we came home after work or school or being out for the night, she was always waiting in the driveway for us, puffing up her body into a prim and proper pose for us to pet her when we approached, as if it was our pleasure to stroke her gentle soul. It was.
And she knew her name, Molly.
She refused to came inside during the summer months. She longed to be wild and sleep under the stars. And now she has not come home for four nights. Maybe she is on her summer vacation; she’s been gone before and returned looking rather haggard but relieved, as were we.
It’s amazing how a pet can become part of the family. Susan says she doesn’t love cats, she just loves Molly. Kate and Rob have learned a new level of responsibly that comes with another living being to tend for. I enjoyed how she would wake me up each morning before the sun was officially up so she could get her start on the day outside, sometimes jealous I couldn’t join her.
She was graceful yet goofy, private yet friendly, gentle yet frisky. We hope she comes back soon and that she had a great vacation.
Vermont has a very human scale - it was something that I noticed when I moved here from New Jersey nearly 25 years ago. It was that scale that held the greatest appeal to me.
Towns and our (small) cities have very distinct identities. People tend to be connected to their neighbors and communities and actively seek out ways in which to sustain and improve their place of habitation.
There seems to be a little of something for everyone, though very little in excess. The mountains are large but approachable, the cities are diverse but not complex, the people are friendly yet still reserved like most Yankees.
Culturally Vermont still seems to be evolving to me. Burlington has a growing immigrant population of Somali and Bosnians, migrant farm workers are on the rise throughout the state, and people from other states in the Union continue to find the Vermont way of life very appealing to their lifestyle. It’s an interesting mix of Yankee, New York & New Jersey personalities.
The seasons are distinct here, though winter is the most dominant. We even include a 5th season - mud season! For an idea of what I mean by mud-season look here:
The spring is marked by Sugar-on Snow parties. It’s not easy explaining to a flat-lander the significance of Sugar-On-Snow, nor the ritual involved with it. It’s the end of a typically long and bleak winter and the celebration of spring and the renewal of life, not to mention indulging in one of our State’s most notable exports. I’m not really sure about the Dill pickle part, but damn it tastes good.
Vermont has it’s quirks too. We are welcoming to new people, yet not to new development. We claim to be green, but few people wish to pollute our views with solar panels or wind mills. We romanticize our rural past (and future?) provided we do not have to live downwind of a farm or know where/how animals get slaughtered. We want economic development provided the businesses do not bring too many people or infrastructure needs.
Politically we are liberal, perhaps too much at times for a healthy balance and genuine debate, although we had a Republican Governor for 8 years. And regardless of your political affiliation, you can meet the Governor and it’s not really a big deal. Vermont in population would not even register as a small town in most states. Often people will ask me, “Do you know so and so” and quite often I do. We are all neighbors.
We are Ben & Jerry’s, we are Phish, we are same-sex marriage, we are “Quiet” Calvin Coolidge, we are “Freedom and Unity” (think about the contradiction of that for a moment).
I love Vermont.
A note to all the NCAA commentators and analysts, for the record it’s pronounced ver-MONT, not VER-munt. And our mascot is the Catamount, not the ‘Sap Buckets.’ And the initials UVM stand for the Latin words Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains, not U of VerMont. Now Go Cats Go!