And the most popular post on Shivaya Wellness for 2012 is . . . “Why I Love Vermont”.
Vermont strikes a big chord in many people — and it is certainly one of the most magical places on Earth. No matter where I lay my head over the course of my life, Vermont will always be home.
I could write a book on how much I love Vermont. I’ve made these hills my home for 8 years now – but I’m still considered a newbie. A flatlander. That’s okay. One of the things I most appreciate is the fierce love that native Vermonters (we’re talking true-blue 6+ generations) have for the land. Some may call this insular, but I see it as protectiveness of a magical place. The Chef — whose family stretches back to the early settlers — assures me that after 20 years, I might be considered a Vermonter . . . but I just think she’s being nice.
I am well-traveled when it comes to beauty. My mission after graduating college was to explore the world and live in different places. My beloved NYC. Portland, Oregon. Jersey City. Cape Cod. Colorado. Florida. Even Las Vegas (!). I’ve visited numerous countries, backpacked through the Canyonlands for a month and walked/driven through major cities and hundreds of quirky towns.
They were, however, places of uneasy rest. Not home. The closest was New York, but that was like staying at your adored but crazy aunt’s house. After a time, you grow weary of cat hair in your coffee and the blaring TV. Love ya, and I always will — but…I gots to go.
Don’t get me wrong: Vermont didn’t welcome me with a ticker-tape parade. I tried to leave during those early years — it was too cold, too lonely, too white — and continued a fruitless search for the perfect utopia. The problem was two-fold: a) the old adage wherever you go, there you are became glaringly apparent and b) no other place compared.
Why? Well, 10 immediate reasons:
1. No traffic and empty roads. At a 4-way stop, be prepared to wait even longer, simply because everyone waves at other drivers to go first. If you space out at a green light, don’t worry. No one will honk. Vermonters are patient and polite to the point of annoyance.
2. Gay rights and progressive politics, though I am far from “political”. This is a biggie. I won’t pay taxes to a state that doesn’t protect me — which leaves about 11 options, none of which touch VT.
3. Organic food, thriving farmers’ markets and co-ops that smell like co-ops.
4. 94% of the state is blanketed in trees and 10 acres is considered a modest backyard.
5. Again, that fierce pride. Most are proud to live and be from here, even when they leave.
6. Very little ridgetop development. If any, it is 2nd homeowners completely out of touch with the VT vibe.
7. No billboards or state-sponsored ugliness. Check out the Welcome pavilions — especially Brattleboro.
8. Crunchy hippies who protest everything under the sun — and usually win.
9. Meticulously maintained and well-loved trails such as the AT and Long Trail. Rarely will you see a soul in the woods.
10. Every season — yes, even dreaded winter — has enough strikingly beautiful days that I am captivated again by her beauty.
Vermonters know the balance between friendly and respecting your space. More often than not, people will pitch in without a moment’s hesitation. Just read some of the Irene stories. For a more personal example, Pyramid Fitness had a new treadmill waiting on the sidewalk last week, but not enough people to carry it up 20 steps. The chef from Three Tomatoes ran across the street in his chef whites. Pyramid didn’t ask; he just saw a need and helped.
These are things that I take for granted and forget that most of the world isn’t like this (and if your home is, lucky you.)
Time goes as slow as you want here. No one really cares about your degrees, cars or keeping up with the latest style. There’s a reason why I’ve always called it The Enchanted Forest, as I am more in tune with the natural rhythm of cycles and seasons. It’s an ageless quality of healing and remembrance. The perfect place for a writer, a dreamer and anyone who needs an experience other than “the grind”.
For Vermont, indeed, is a great healer.
I’ve often said that people come here to rest and heal. I did. But Vermont is also a mother who encourages you to explore other options. She doesn’t kick you out of the nest, per se, but promises that she’ll always be there when and if you return.
When I lived in Portland, the commonly-known bitch was Californians taking over the state. Here, it’s the flatlanders, the Massholes, any place other than Vermont. Even when you’re here, you’re not — because if your family tree doesn’t stretch more than a generation back, you’ve basically come for a very long visit.
But Vermont doesn’t have to worry. There’s a reason why it is the least populated state after Wyoming: it’s not convenient to live here. It’s cold for 7+ months. It’s hard to find work. We are at least 1-2Gs behind the latest technology. It’s not diverse or a cultural mecca by any means. It’s expensive. It takes an hour to get anywhere. It can be difficult to make friends or become ensconced in a community. Hence, the insular part. It’s not a utopia, and I’ve met plenty of new residents with stars in their eyes (I’m going to live off the land, start a farm, live a simple life, etc), only to race out after one hard winter.
Welcome to the Vermont vetting process.
If Vermont doesn’t want you here, you won’t stay very long. And if you are meant to be here, you will more than likely stay, even when you feel the pull to leave.
When someone asks, “Oh, should I move to Vermont? I love it so much!”, I always answer, “Don’t worry. If Vermont wants you, she’ll call until you answer.”
I’m so glad I said yes.