I have lived in a number of states and climates throughout my lifetime. I have been fortunate to have visited all but two states in the U.S. and several different countries. That said, I feel justified from an experience standpoint to say “there is something about Vermont.” Those of you who know me have often heard me say I wished I was still there.
My family moved to Vermont when I was entering 10th grade. I wasn’t happy about it then as you may imagine. Coming from a more urban area it was an adjustment. Walking into a new high school, (Go Rutland Raiders!), not knowing anyone, registered about a 7.5 on my anxiety scale. Luckily I have the kind of personality that allows me to walk up to strangers and introduce myself. Luckier was the fact that the first people I approached were kind and curious about the new kid. It did not take me long at all to form friendships and get introduced to my new town.
At some point during this introduction I looked up. I can’t remember the exact moment but I stopped thinking about what 15 year old girls think about and I noticed something. I saw the staggering beauty of the mountains that formed a circle around the town. It was foliage season and the colors were spectacular. The air seemed cleaner than what I had been used to and there was a slowness that existed around me that felt comforting. It was like my breathing became slower there. I actually recognized that at age 15, so there must have been something special going on.
Life went on, as it does, and I left Vermont for other places but came back twice and not because my family was there. The second time I returned they had already moved away themselves. I came back because I could breathe better. I say that as a state of mind, not that I have breathing issues! It always felt safe and was a place where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my plan. The combination of the natural beauty, the people and the simplistic way of life still suits me well.
Why then didn’t I stay? Lack of opportunity for me back then was the real kicker. I had two children I was going to have to put through college someday and the prospects of advancing my career were limited. Add to that long, hard winters. I was not financially equipped at the time to have the appropriate vehicle to live where I was living. Being semi-off the grid (only wood heat) in a drafty old farmhouse at the top of the mountain is a challenge in both winter and mud season.
Each year it took 9 cords of wood to heat the house using two woodstoves and I became adept at helping to split and cut wood. It was hard living but it was glorious. Our view, all the way to the New Hampshire White Mountains, was breathtaking in every season. The kids could cross country ski out the door for as many miles as they wanted to. The four room school house they attended had some of the best teachers they would ever have. My friends were the best. There were locals and those who had come from all over the country because they too had felt that special something. I felt pretty rich then even though I had no money.
But it wasn’t to be forever given my nagging desire to grow and expand my future opportunities.
My last exodus from the Green Mountain state was 33 years ago. Seems I have lived a couple of lives since then. I still go back, not nearly as often as I would like, and still dream of having a little house there that I can escape to.
Each time I go, as soon as I cross the border into Vermont, I take a deep breath and feel the same calmness wash over me that I felt 51 years ago when I was a sophmore in high school. It’s pretty magical and I have met others who say they have that same experience.
I get to have the feeling again this week as I drive north, entering into Vermont on Wednesday. This time I will bring my work with me as I will be filming a woman in Lamoille Valley for the Beyond Sixty Project. I can’t wait to get up there with the crew and hang out on Lake Elmore for a couple of days and take in the winter scenery. Anticipating the feeling I will get is already making me smile.
I hope you have a place you can go to that gives you peace and calm. Sure is worth the journey. If you haven’t tried Vermont I highly recommend it!
Love and Peace,