Saturday, April 7, 2012

love letter to Vermont

Dear Vermont,

I haven't forsaken you. I did move across the river to New Hampshire, but I swear it was only because I found a cheap place to rent over here. The two of you may be called the Twin States, and to anyone who isn't from this area, I'll admit you look alike at first glance. But dig a little deeper and the differences start to emerge, straight from the very bedrock on which your identities have been built. New Hampshire's jagged, tough granite encouraged settlers to carve out their own space and eke a living from the woods, isolated and fiercely independent. Not you. Though your people are stubbornly independent as well, they're bound by a sense of community that sprung from the softer, more forgiving geology in your broad valleys, which proved perfect for the communal pursuit of agriculture.

Never was that sense of community more abundant or more intimately felt than in the weeks following Tropical Storm Irene. I've never seen anything more inspiring than the teamwork, positivity and resiliency your people showed in the face of so much destruction. I'll never forget the day the waters receded and the sky shone bright blue, like nothing had happened except that the roads were buckled as if someone had crumpled them in a giant fist and picturesque homes had collapsed into the rivers they'd sat on for decades, front yards covered with a foot of murky silt and littered with pieces of half-salvaged furniture like a yard sale gone awry.

I roamed around with a notebook, a pen and a camera and tried my best to capture what was potentially one of the best and worst moments in your history. Worst, because 200 bridges and 500 miles of roads were washed out, because families and farms and businesses lost everything, because we realized that some of the things we'd been doing to your rivers for a long time were not in our best interest.

But best, too, because I don't think there was a single person in the entire state who didn't lend a hand. At every ruined house a brigade of volunteers covered head to toe in mud ripped out drywall and hauled buckets of mud from basements. Old women baked bread and made sandwiches. Farmers who weren't hit donated food. Young men collected supplies in four-wheelers and roared over the secluded mountains to check on villages that were cut off from roads or electricity. I heard the most heartwarming stories imaginable, stories that couldn't have been made up – stories couldn't have happened anywhere else.

Oh, Vermont, I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. I'm leaving you again, to go to Alaska. But you'll always be in my heart. No one does seasons like you do. Humid green summers amok with flowers, sweet hay fields glittering with fireflies, rolling mountains blanketed with ferns and dissected by leaping streams. Fall – the tangy smell of the air, frost on the pumpkins, wood being stacked and the first hints of smoke curling from chimneys, and the colors, oh, the colors. Who would ever dream up the brightness of reds and oranges that paint your trees? And then winter, quiet and contemplative, weathered gray barns against fresh white snow, the ski resorts buzzing, wood stoves crackling and rocking chairs rocking and big pots of soup on the stove. And at last, spring: muddy and raw, lambs on unsteady legs in the barnyards, translucent blue tubing strung between maple trees to catch the sap, the rivers running wild. The foods that go with each season. I'll miss it all.

And I'll miss your roads: free of traffic, long and winding with surprises and vistas around every turn. I'll miss your people, who don't care about the passing trends of fashion, knowing that wool jackets and rubber boots will never fail. I'll miss your music: the masses of hippies that come out whenever Phish plays its home state; the foot-tapping fiddles and mandolins seeping out of the steamy, glowing windows of sugar shacks on cold spring nights; the scratchy public radio jazz that broadcasts out of hundreds of radios every night. I'll miss your rambling, ramshackle old homes tucked into hollows; your indomitable farmers growing organic and selling at farmers' markets before either was popular; your progressive politics and the icy slopes where I learned to snowboard and even those washboarded, rutted, oozing excuses for roads you manage to produce every spring no matter how many hours the graders spend trying to smooth them out. You may have been gentrified here and yuppified there, but at your core you're still Vermont and I love you.

And don't worry. I'll be back.



  1. Vermont will miss you too Krista. Luckily, Alaska has traffic free roads too I believe, but not quite the charm of Vermont :0)... Enjoy your road. And what a great photo by the way.
    cheers, Chip

  2. My friends in Alaska tell me that their weather and dark days are over-rated. But what is precious there is the rough adventure, and the hardiness of those who have chosen to seek it. Your writing and your photography is beautiful. Even from 'pricey' Norwich. Best of Luck, chad


Nature Blog Network