(Written December 1st, posted December 2nd due to power outage.)
Six years ago today, we bought our house in Vermont. We arrived the night before, weary and frazzled from selling the house in Annapolis, packing the car with the dogs and every last belonging that the movers had left behind, and driving eight hours down crowded interstates to sparsely-traveled two-lane roads to Vermont.
The owner of the house we were buying had kindly offered to let us spend the night there, there being no motels nearby. The house would be empty and unlocked, he said.
"Unlocked?" we asked. "Sure," he said, "I never lock my house."
We arrived in the dark. I remember that as we reached the eastern edge of New York State, Bach's Concerto for violin and oboe came on the radio, and I started feeling as if I were ascending to heaven. We found our driveway in the dark, and as we climbed towards the house, we saw a herd of deer, their eyes phosphorescent in the surrounding darkness, standing in "our" field.
At the top of the hill the house awaited us, lights blazing, doors unlocked.
We got out of the car, let out the dogs--Lexi, and little Mojo, R.I.P.--and walked down the driveway in the cold. We hadn't seen such darkness, nor such stars, since we were kids.
Today was weirdly warm, with winds up to 53 mph. Coming back home from an errand, I had to take a detour because of a huge pine tree blocking the road. In the afternoon, the lights predictably went out.
Thanks to our generator, we have water, and a single lamp, and I can write this (though I can't send it out), and the food in the fridge and freezer, the fruits of my summer striving, is safe. But the noise from the generator is so awful that the chickens refused to come into the shed this evening, and I feel battered by the uproar. Still, we have water, we have the one lamp.
The last six years have been...something. Without the anchors of jobs or schools, it has not been easy to make inroads into the community. On the other hand, many of the people we have come to know have become instant soul-mates--no need to explain about gardening or composting, no need to explain about animals. I've gone from friends who, when they learned I had goats would exclaim "but why?!" to people who nod and ask "what breed?" (I no longer have goats, alas, but that is another story.)
Like an adopted child, Vermont is a "chosen" state. People don't come here for jobs. They come because they want to be here. They come for the hills and for the farms in the valleys, for the sense of place, the town meetings, the progressive politics, the commitment to the environment (which doesn't mean there aren't furious fights, such as the one between proponents and opponents of wind energy). And once they're here, they figure out a way to cobble together a living.
There is not a day, driving out of our house, that I don't glory in the fact that there isn't a single ugly direction I can take. Driving down the valley, or up into the mountains, I will encounter no traffic jams, no road rage--just the winter-ready fields, and the bare woods.
I may come across, in winter, treacherous black ice, or wheel-stopping mud on a dirt road in spring. I will not chance upon a conveniently-placed mall where I can stop for a spool of brown thread or a spur-of-the-moment meander through a shoe store, or a movie. The village libraries, though they couldn't be more friendly, don't have a lot of books on their shelves. And we do not, alas, alas, have curb-side recycling or garbage collection, but must take every molecule of our waste personally to the dump.
But we have deep snows, wood stoves, cows in the fields, and thrushes singing in the woods in spring--and people who feel about these things the way I do.