It is possible I’m already growing wistful for Vermont, and we still live here, I mused aloud to The Chef a few days ago. Incredulous, he asked, Do you mean to tell me when we’re down in North Carolina, you’ll miss Vermont? Mm-hm, I answered. He’d have face palmed, except we were in the car and he was driving. This is because I complain a lot, especially in the winter, when I’m predisposed to long spells of grumpiness.
I went on to catalog aloud and in my head the things I still have not done since moving to Vermont eight and a half years ago. I have already come to think of this grand adventure as my Decade in Vermont. (Maths were never my strong suit, so give me my decade.)
Here are but a few items from that list, in no particular order.
1. I’ve never been to Boston, even though it’s within spitting distance of us.
2. I’ve never been to see New York City Ballet at its summer home, Saratoga Performing Arts Center over in Saratoga Springs, NY. True story, and it’s within even closer spitting distance. (But Chef David and I have been to Saratoga Springs many times, and on one occasion saw the Cuban National Ballet’s Giselle at SPAC, so there is that.)
3. I’ve never been to Jacob’s Pillow to take in any of the summer dance performances there, and that, gentle reader, is a crying shame, because Jacob’s Pillow is right down the road from us in Massachusetts, and offers a wonderful mix of summer programming when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic.
4. I’ve never visited Montreal, even though I spent a week as a guest artist teaching ballet at the Lake Placid Performing Arts Center, and on a clear day, if you lean forward and squint your eyes just right, you can see Montreal from a certain spot in Lake Placid.
5. I have never seen a live moose.
In truth, the pandemic may yet conspire to make any of those items an impossibility at this point, save that last one, because we’re not out of the woods despite what Certain Governors would have us all believe.
Still, reflecting on the past eight years, I’m rawther gobsmacked by the incredible wealth and diversity of experiences I’ve enjoyed as a Vermonter (and to any Vermont native who’d call me a Flatlander, I would like to point out that I’ve lived in both mountainous Colorado and mountainous East Tennessee and so you can just put a sock in it).
Here are but a few items from that list:
I’ve skated on Frozen Lake Morey several times in the dead of winter, at least one of them with The Chef, roughly five miles around. I lived right across a narrow two-lane road from that lake my first year in Vermont, and although I was mainly terrified at the time, it was admittedly an incredible, almost idyllic place to live. I may not have been right enough in my head at that moment to fully enjoy it, but managed to at least appreciate it, let’s say, three-quarters.
On that same lake, I walked around among the ice fishing shanties one grey day in late winter and made photos of them; on that occasion I also accidentally put my foot through a fishing hole and into the frigid lake, a rookie mistake that was nonetheless comical.
I have lowered myself fully nekkid into a hot tub under the stars in Thetford, Vermont, urged on by a former American Ballet Theatre soloist who had invited me over for supper, and after soaking a while, jumped out of it and rolled around in the snow piled high on the ground (also at her urging) and then jumped right back in. That is a kind of exhilarating that just about defies words; imagine electrocution, maybe, but pleasant, sort of.
I’ve learned how maple sugaring is accomplished the modern way, and I’ve also watched The Chef tap our own maple tree the old-fashioned way and make syrup right on our stovetop, a thing which, while not exactly a complicated science, does demand diligence and a weekend devoted to keeping an eye on the stove. (And in October of 2019, I watched the expression on my mama’s face change when she mouthed her first spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream with our homemade maple syrup drizzled over it, sitting at the table in our Vermont kitchen, and that was something.)
We have gone apple picking at Mad Tom Orchard in Dorset, The Chef and I and two of his kiddos, which got me thinking about Robert Frost. Then after returning home with a bounty of fruit, I documented The Chef showing his daughter how to bake an apple crisp.
Appropriately, we later visited and documented Robert Frost’s home, where he penned Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
Vermont has an impressive farmers market culture, and Chef and I have managed on many occasions to avail ourselves of the bounty of offerings one is likely to find at any local outlet here.
Ditto the general store culture, which is the norm in any of the small hamlets within our state, not so much in the population centers, like the one where we live now.
I have become well acquainted with running or cycling along a particular stretch of the Battenkill River, many times with a dog in tow, other times alone, and still others with The Chef, and along some exquisite stretches of countryside in North Bennington. All told, I’ve enjoyed hundreds, if not thousands of miles of bicycling, running, and hiking during my tenure in the Green Mountain State.
And while I’ve never met a live moose up close and in person, I have met many deer flies; I even composed a humorous column about them entitled “Deer Dear Fly,” for a local magazine.
We’ve been to MASS MoCA down in North Adams, Massachusetts, and to The Clark in Williamstown, and documented each visit. They are entirely worth spending a weekend day and then some immersed in all the incredible artwork and the buildings that house it.
We visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater as a little flyout finger on one of our summer vacation adventures. And while it’s not in New England, Fallingwater was much more attainable because of its relative proximity to us.
Once we traveled to Camden, Maine for a long weekend visit to David’s chef friend Ken and his wife Delle’s house. Ken prepared a superlative birthday supper for us at his and Delle’s erstwhile restaurant, Atlantica, and they showed us so much hospitality at their lovely home.
What else is there? Food, and lordy, lots of it. Chef David and I (mainly David) have prepared cuisine fit for royalty and peasants in the last many years; even in the days when we scarcely had two nickels to rub together, and saw each other only on the weekends, we still did okay.
And on and on.
And then there are people. I was telling my dad recently, I’ve met many genuinely good, caring, loving folk in New England. Also, I have met a few turds. True anywhere, he observed. Yes, but also, I think each region has its own temperament, and that is a good thing. We ought to try to hang on to that a while, if we can. Our regional dialects are slowly dying, have been for a few generations now, as we’re all plugged into the same network. A (peaceful) global community is also a good thing, and we’re all the richer for it. But the character traits that make us unique are worth holding on to. New England has a decidedly reserved character about it, but is populated by people with grit who would gladly give you the shirts off their backs (or pull your car out of a snowy embankment) if you needed it.
Notably, while I bade a sad farewell to my German Shepherd Clarence-the-Canine scarcely two years after the pair of us arrived here, The Chef and I welcomed 65 pounds of shy Goldapeake Retriever into our small family in December of 2016. Scoutie, we’re so happy you belong to us. Clarence is buried on the breathtaking property in central Vermont I called home for about 18 incredibly difficult months.
I have only just scratched the surface.
About two years into my time here, I closed the chapter on my career as a classical ballet instructor; it was an ugly, messy end and should not have been so. But it led to the new and fulfilling professional chapter I find myself immersed in now, as a writer and editor of digital marketing copy. A lemons-to-lemonade story, you might say. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, the single most important item on this list is meeting my Handsome Chef Boyfriend David and his family about an instant after I first crossed the state line in 2012. He has been with me through the worst times and the best, my lifetime partner, friend, and lover. How lucky for me, to have landed in Vermont, right when I did.