As I mentioned in my last post, my lovely bride and I have recently moved to Vermont. She hailed from Rochester, New York, before coming to San Francisco for graduate school and ensnaring me along the way, and had wanted for a while to be closer to where she grew up for access to family, friends, etc. So two years ago, we headed out to Salem, Massachusetts, which met her criteria (same time zone as family, same day drive, direct transport links, far enough from the city that we could have a little bit of space) and met mine (near a big city with major artistic resources, access to nature, and on the ocean). It was our best guess at a 2,700-mile remove about what might work for us. The thing is, it never really did.
Please don’t get me wrong, Boston is a great city, with a lot to offer. Salem has quite an active arts scene for its size, especially on the literary front (shout outs to my writing group and the folks behind Salem Writers and the Mass Poetry Festival). I worked with an inspiring group of people who were doing good things in the world at the Housing Partnership Network. And I made some friends during our two years there who I will keep for life (hopefully you know who you are!). But the pace of things was just a little too hectic for both of us, and Boston, as close as it was, was hard to get to without feeling like you’d fought your way through. For both of us it seemed like everything was a little too draining, too much of a struggle, and we didn’t have enough reserves left at the end of the day to get out and do the things we loved.
So, we traveled around, and kept our eyes out for places that might work for us. We found ourselves consistently drawn to the areas around Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Maine. Both had a lot of things in common- beautiful natural settings, smaller cities that were easy to get into and out of and get around in, but cultural scenes more like a big city in terms of art, music, literary happenings, events and food. Of the two, Burlington was better for access to New York, had a lot of resources around local-food and food-justice issues Abbey is passionate about, and I ka-loved the lake and mountain combination. (Ka-loving is like “loving”, but with a “ka-bam!” added). So I started a Vermont-centered job search in the Spring of this year that I honestly thought might take a while- a year, maybe more. But, I’ve observed in life that when something is ready to happen, it can unfold in a hurry. And so a July interview resulted in being totally up and moved by the end of August.
The verdict so far? I love it here! Abbey does too, although of course she can tell you about that herself. A few examples of the why’s and wherefores of my new-found love:
Mountains. One thing I realized I really missed from California while living in Massachusetts was mountains! This is the view from our driveway (and living room window, for that matter). Those are the Adirondacks in the background, over in New York across Lake Champlain. Which you could see if it wasn’t behind some low rising hills. You can see these guys, and/or the Green Mountains of Vermont, from pretty much anywhere you go.
Lake Champlain. I’ve always thought I needed to live somewhere near the ocean. It may still prove to be the case, as I feel heart pangs every time I see pictures of crashing surf. However, in the meantime I’m certainly enjoying being near a lake that stretches for over 100 miles, touching New York, Vermont and Canada along the way. Lake Champlain (seen here from the top of Mt. Philo, a few miles north of where we live) is the 13th-largest lake in the United States. However, if you read the fine print, you’ll discover that two of those are man-made lakes, two of those are saltwater lakes, and one of them is in Alaska. So I like to think of it as the eight-largest naturally occurring freshwater lake in the lower 48. And also possibly home to…
Champ. Sighted over 300 times since the 1600s, Champ is -a surviving pleisosaur? a relict zeuglodon? a giant sturgeon? a trick of the light and standing waves? Whatever. Put me near a possible cryptid, and I’m happy. Now to get a kayak and take up diving so I can find him! Her?
Wilderness. Vermont is home to the Green Mountain National Forest (where Abbey and I found this handsome-looking fellow) as well as a wealth of State Parks, and the aforementioned Adirondack Park just across the bridge in New York. Nearly every weekend we’ve been tromping out somewhere. Including this weekend, when we went to North Hero State Park to take part in a beach cleanup to protect the habitat of baby turtles. I mean, come on, baby turtles is practically worth it’s own entry!
My job. I’m working at Middlebury College. Which, besides meaning I get to work with really nice people and see ridiculously pretty views like this every work day, also means I’m part of a fantastic, creative and progressive community. Founded in 1800, Middlebury was the first university in America to accept African-Americans, and one of the first to admit women on a co-educational basis. It reminds me of some of the things I missed about working at the Exploratorium. There are lectures, films and performances going on all the time, and there’s even a museum where I can visit Assyrian reliefs, mummies, classical statues and centuries of painting for lunch.
Vergennes. We live here. There are falls (as seen to the left). A riverside park where you can see a heron walk down the dock. A downtown that’s all of 3.5 blocks, but has a row of cute little shops and several excellent restaurants. And we actually live a little outside of town, where things look like the below right. That was a scene from strolling up the road we live on earlier in the summer. Farms, cornfields, rolling hills and mountains in the distance. We even saw a deer bounding across a field one day. It’s pretty ironic that someone who couldn’t wait to
escape from the country as a teenager is now thrilled to be greeted by the horse across the street who eyes me suspiciously as I go out to the car each morning, and then has a commute that regularly includes cow, horse, sheep and goat sightings (with occasional turkeys, vultures and the stray llama and gratuitous extra camel (yes, camel)). But I am thrilled! And best of all, we get to live someplace as laid back as this, but still be an easy drive to Burlington and all the city has to offer. Which in the last two months has included…
Last but not lease best, in fact most vital to who I am and what I do, Burlington is home to quite a vital writing scene. The last event pictured above was co-hosted by Geek Mountain State, which is delightfully just what it sounds like, a community encouraging geeky pursuits in Vermont, and the Renegade Writer’s Collective, a group that hosts readings, holds workshops and otherwise provides resources and support for local writers. I’ve already taken one of their workshops, and look forward to doing more.
Since getting to town, I’ve also started to become a regular participant in the ongoing writing feedback workshops held by the Burlington Writer’s Workshop, where people get together every week to provide critical (in the helpful sense) feedback on pieces submitted by local writers. Anybody who’s attended at least one session can sign up to have their work reviewed at a future one.
I could go on, but the point is, being here seems like it might just work out okay. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!