Yesterday our micro-village held a pork roast and silent auction to benefit the owners of the country store that burned to the ground three weeks ago
It was by far the largest gathering I've witnessed in Vermont. In the wedge-shaped parking lot in front of the fire hall, dozens stood in line to buy meal tickets. There was a huge line to get food, a line in front of the baked-goods stall, and the auction room was so packed you could barely get around.
I greeted the people who were selling tickets, serving food, cutting meat, selling cookies, manning the auction. I saw lots of people I recognized, and lots fewer whose names I could recall (I have a terrible time with names). I did not speak to the honorees or to their surviving dog, Molly. I figured they wouldn't remember me--we were not assiduous patrons of their store, since it stood in the opposite direction of our usual shopping expeditions--and they were probably worn out with greeting and thanking.
Instead, I sat under a tent and ate the piles of food that had been put on my plate, nibbled cubes of Consider Bardwell cheese, drank a cola for the first time in years, and breathed in the barbecue fumes, the sudden summer air, and the feeling that something of real importance was taking place.
Obviously, people showed up to support the store owners and encourage them to build again. But yesterday's crowds could not possibly have consisted only of friends and clients of the owners, or of friends of their friends and clients, or of the entire population of the micro village. No, those crowds came from other places, other villages with their own little, threatened stores. And they came not only to help these particular owners, but in affirmation of the physical, social and even spiritual importance of these tiny businesses that are hanging on by a thread even while they anchor us to the "local."
When I moved here six years ago from a land of malls and superstores, the idea of supporting local cheese makers, potters, bread bakers, oil painters, glass blowers, goat farmers, and sellers of maple syrup and quarts of 2% milk had never crossed my mind. Now, thanks to my friends and neighbors, the real meaning of "local" has finally taken root in my brain, and in my heart.