Thursday, January 22, 2009
TALES FROM FROSTBITE FALLS-- PART 4: I'LL PACKA SWEATER
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.