Thursday, January 22, 2009


Yep that's an alpaca, as in alpaca sweater. There's an alpaca farmer here in Grafton, and Lord knows you need sweaters around here. I guess for the alpaca there isn't much difference between being in the mountains of Chile, or being here, where it is equally chilly, if you get my drift. The alpaca farm is just down Townsend Road from the Vermont Cheddar factory. They do know how to make some extra sharp cheddar which will flavor up your bland spaghetti quick!

Today was a goregeous day, getting all the way up to 20 (heat wave!!!) so I got in the truck, sans the dogs, and headed over the mountain to Chester-- a beautiful little village which kind of encapsulates various of the virtues of beautiful Vermont.

For one thing there are NO SHOPPING CENTERS AND NO MALLS--- HORRAY! This is surely a glimpse of heaven where there will be no such commercial enterprises at all. Vermonters in their little villages have steadfastly refused to let the Walmarts of the world come in and put all the Mom and Pop businesses out of business. Good for them. Coming to Vermont is like returning to my childhood in the Old South. Everyone knows everyone and supports each other. Joe the barber supports Sam the butcher, who supports Susie the baker, who support Larry the mechanic and so on. Instead of ANY fast food restuarants we have inns, and little cafes-- like the Moon Dog Cafe (a health food place, complete with dog mooning over his owner), or the Pizza Stone where they make oven-fired hand-tossed whatever topping pizza (did I mention Vermont cheddar), and of course a country story, a post office, a local hardware store. Not only are there are no shopping malls, or shopping mall sized churches. Instead you go for the Eucharist and Homily at a little Epsicopal Church called St. Johns, and meet all your local brothers and sisters.

For another thing Vermonters would like to keep the Green Mountains Green, so they are very environmentally conscious. The big article in the Chester paper this morning was about the carbon footprint contest in the local schools. The school that could reduce its carbon footprint the most, wins a $5,000 scholarship prize.
Good for them.

Despite what you may have heard about some New Englanders, these village folk tend to be quite friendly and chatty and helpful. I was in the Country Crafts store and when I told the lady I was writing a book on worship, she went on and on about how we need more of that, and pointed in the direction of the Priory. The atmosphere around here in the winter, unless your up in Killington or somewhere moguling down a snowy mountain is quite relaxed and friendly. The postmaster boxed up all my books for me this morning and helped me get a load sent off back home-- the box and the tape were free.

Then there is the issue of driving. On all Vermont roads, except the interstates or really major ones, the speed limit is 50--- and they mean business! They want you to mosey around these mountains, not careen around them and drive off a cliff. The pace of life is blissfully slower. When you ask when the mailman or the snowplow guy is coming the answer is the same one my grandfather used to give-- 'directly' which is rather like St. Mark's 'immediately' (euthus), which means 'after a while'.

Then there are the dogs. Vermonters love their animals, big or small. This morning I watched some huge Clydesdales in a snow pasture not at all bothered by the weather and munching on frozen apples. No worries mate. Cold, what cold?

I also love all the artisans and musicians, being one myself. Windham Hill Inn is nearby where all that traditional instruments magic begun with Will Akermann and Windham Hill Records. I love the smell of the leather shops, the sound of the Celtic music store, the feel of the alpaca sweaters, the taste of the cheddar cheese.

The danger of coming to Vermont for any extended period of time is you will complete unwind.... and not be able to wind yourself up again. Coming unwound however is so much better for you than coming unglued :) This is truly a right brained state if there ever was one.

Well, its back to writing, and speaking of writing, here is a little ditty from Robert Hass, a native Vermonter who is a poet and won the Pulitizer Prize---

"It must be a gift of evolution that humans
Can't sustain wonder. We'd never have have gotten up
From our knees if we could."

Here's to sustaining the wonder of Vermont. I wonder how long it will last.



karin said...

Your post took me down memory lane during the time we had two little country churches in MA and were able to visit almost all of the eastern states! Would love to live there again. When we first moved there from Canada we found the people to be friendly but maintain their boundaries. Then when our toddler daughter got sick and had to hospitalized, there was such an overwhelming outpouring of love from all our church members, the likes of which we've not met with again. We are friends for life!!!
What a blessing!

normajean said...

Sorry to bother you. Is "The Message" version bible safe to read, if you know what I mean? I liked it when I parused through it. =)

Ben Witherington said...

Hi NormaJean: The Message is a creative paraphrase by a very fine scholar. I love it for what it is, but understand it is a creative paraphrase, not a literal rendering.


ryan said...

i am new to following your blog. I really enjoyed your post today. i would love to hear more about the book you are writing on worship. I am an evangelist in Texas and have self published one book on biblical marriage. I am working on another book, but my heart this year is to really study what the Word says about worship. My wife and i are seeking to evaluate our lives and see if we are the kind of Worshipers God has called us to be. Have a fantastic day.

ryan said...

to Normajean:

i know you didn't ask me and our friend here may have better insight but as a preacher i find "The Message" to be too weak in too many areas. It isn't really a translation. It is a paraphrase. While it may help you gain a better understanding on some texts it runs an equal risk of giving you the wrong impression on other texts. ESV- the English Standard Version is very readable and very reliable. The NAS- New American Standard is also very good.

normajean said...

Thanks to you both! Kinda get the impression I should have a companion along side then.

Zuriel said...

Ben, you've made me want to go visit Vermont now. :) Glad to hear you are having such a pleasant time and so different from the hurry and worry of the city. God bless, brother.

pennoyer said...

Vermont can be very quaint, that I will grant. However, drive the whole length of the main North-South Highway (I think it is Route 93) and you will look in vain for a convenient gas station or any kind of familiar restaurant. That may be great if you are camping or skiing, but if you are traveling with your family it is a frustration. And I understand Vermont accomplishes this "rural feeling" by excessive government regulation and a kind of green fanaticism (witness the class contest you mention). What a relief it was for my family when we crossed the border into New Hampshire! It was like they actually cared about travelers!


Ben Witherington said...

Ray, Ray gots to be kidding. Vermont is a tiny state, and you can get to New hampshire from almost anywhere in 20 minutes tops from the eastern part of the state. It takes me 15. And as for that contest--- it was a very good thing. It's time more of us went green, including driving more green cars as well, and yes there are plenty of places to get gas off I 91 if you know where to look, which only takes a little time with a Googled map in advance--- no problem.


pennoyer said...

Ben, you've given me inspiration for a new Vermont welcome sign:

Enjoy our Rural State - and if you need anything, remember New Hampshire is only about 20 minutes away!

By the way, to get directly theological for a moment, one of the main images the NT uses for heaven is the New Jerusalem - a CITY, right?

Hey, I'm glad you are enjoying the beauty of VT.