Heading Home

One week into virtual school, into complete telecommuting for work — save those phone calls. The world, however, is not virtual, but wholly real, even more connected.

Always awake and working first in our house, I fold my laptop shut while my daughter eats her breakfast. The cats brush up against our legs, savoring luxurious rubs beneath their chins. The felines are utterly, fully, radiantly happy.

On our walks — every day, sometimes repeatedly every day — we see people, although always at a distance. Here in my Vermont corner, the world isn’t heavily populated. There’s no one in Hardwick this evening, save for two women walking towards me, who prudently cross the street and then wave at me.

In this world we live in, these days, right now, I wave back. We holler good evening across the empty street.

Then I head home.

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Home

These days I’ve discovered I’m phenomenally grateful for the state library listserv. An email sent with the subject line What’s happening in your town? opened a flurry of communication.

Librarians, like so many people, have an innate desire to please. Want a book? We’ll get it. Have a problem? We’ll solve it.

Innumerable emails have debated the merits of closing libraries, first, then of leaving books out. No one seems concerned about theft or loss. The concern is, obviously, disease. How can you leave free books on the library’s porch and not expect a few loyal (and likely elderly) patrons to shuffle through those? The library is a place of congregation and chat. How do we suddenly shut that down? Close our doors and ask you not to come? And yet, we are.  I read:

Our town library has been closed to the public for two days. Staff is now being sent home to ride out the storm.

Be well and we’ll see you soon.

We’ll leave the wi-fi on for you.
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Last night, walking in the dark around empty Hardwick, we wandered by the melting ice rink. Hardwick, VT, Day 4

 

Vermont Postcard

A few years ago, an enormous storm dumped gravel on local farmers’ fields and generally wrecked significant agricultural damage. Farmers around here are small, small-scale, no one ever gets adequate insurance compensation, and the storm hurt.

I bought this sketch below at a community fundraiser for local farmers at the Woodbury Town Hall, where the people from the surrounding towns came together for a dinner and live music, and many folks donated all kinds of beautiful handmade things that switched from hand to hand with some cash.

Some money, no doubt, was raised. The night was a goodwill, community gesture after a bad event. This is the better, more generous, gracious element of Vermont. We are not always so kind.

Walking around this small town where I live – Hardwick – whether to the post office, or crawling under broken boards with my visiting nephews to get into the  empty granite sheds for an “historic” tour, I keep returning to the notion that more deeply understanding all the variations of this small town, I would gain some tenor of illumination.

Just to mix things up in the little-light month of December, I’ll aim to share a few snips of life within walking distance.

Whether the recollection is of fascist Italy in the 1920s, of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, of the Soviet Union during the Great Terror of 1937-38, or of the purges in communist eastern Europe in the 1940s and ’50s, people who were living in fear of repression remembered how their neighbors treated them. A smile, a handshake, or a word of greeting – banal gestures in a normal situation – took on great significance. When friends, colleagues, and acquaintances looked away or crossed the street to avoid contact, fear grew.

–Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

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