Last summer I started looking around Vermont for a place to live when it seemed more and more likely that I would be powering down my life in East Tennessee and pressing the reset button in New England. I knew that when I arrived in August for the teaching audition that serves as a job interview in the ballet world my potential new employer would have a lot of savvy advice, and ultimately it was she who spent hours driving me all over the place to look once I was on the ground. But I thought I would do some leg work ahead of my trip; I had only a few hours to find a home, and I wanted to be at least a little prepared.
In short order I began sifting through online listings for interesting rental properties. The biggest challenge for me at that early stage of the game was learning Vermont place names and determining their whereabouts in relation to my work in White River Junction. There were plenty of rentals out there but I had the gathering impression that I would be driving some distance to work. My ideal home—within walking distance—simply did not exist, at least not at my price point. And I have since learned that a thirty-mile commute here is kinda like being right next door. It’s all relative.
So I started exploring options. One of the first listings that appealed to me was a barn conversion. It was a gem—open concept floor plan with cathedral ceilings (of course), hardwood throughout, fully modern kitchen, in an idyllic setting, and significantly, dogs okay. But then this perk caught my eye: “Plowing included.”
Sitting there in front of my laptop at the dining room table in my beautiful vintage Knoxville home which was only days from being sold at auction, I tried to suppress giggles. Plowing included. Er, okay, whatever. I am not a farmer. I can’t even foster a plain old house plant, much less cultivate a garden. Besides: when would there be time for that?
But plowing was mentioned in just about every listing I came across. And then this: Snow removal included.
Oh. That kind of plowing.
Yep, I am officially a hayseed.
Plowing is the lifeblood of a New England winter, I think. The unmistakable sound of that truck rumbling down my picturesque street tells me first, I am not alone here. And second, somebody has successfully braved the storm for the rest of us. How very reassuring. Standing in my tiny, chilly kitchen in the early morning, fumbling with the coffee maker before I can even see straight, countless times I have heard that sound and looked up to watch the plow truck rattle by with its cheerful grinding and scraping. Sometimes what comes off the road is powder laid down overnight as part of the last storm system that came blasting through. Other times it is a messy accumulation of sand, road grit, and ice that formed after yesterday’s warm daytime sunshine melted some of what was on the road, and it refroze. When you actually watch what the plow is catching, it can appear to be nothing. But when you back out of your (poorly shoveled) driveway, you are eternally grateful the truck made a couple of passes down the street in the last dozen or so hours.
The plow trucks occasionally zip past me when I am running with Clarence; we get out of their way. Sometimes the drivers wave to us. I have seen one truck around here with block letters that spell THINK SPRING on the front of its plow. This lifts my spirits every time I see it and reminds me that even seasoned Vermonters get tired of dealing with winter. (Handsome Chef Boyfriend insists this is a play on a local expression, Think Snow, but I am not so sure.)
Lately I have come to view this removal of layers of winter impediment from the street as a metaphor for starting over. (New England pals: go ahead and collectively roll your eyes.) It is not unlike how I think of the cleansing effects of water: life-giving, renewing—an essential element that brings relief at the end of a difficult work day, that calms a distraught child when nothing else will, that is the single most important nutrient. Washing away the day so there is the promise of something new and better. The snow plowman prepares the way for us so that we can go about the business of finding something new and better. Or even finding what we have grown accustomed to, or of what we need.
And what we need may be a fresh, unimpeded start.
Thank you, plowman.