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Faith in Vermont: The Summer of Patience

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Posted on June 14, 2016 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



The summer of 2016 may hereafter be referred to by our family as: “The Summer of Patience.”

Ah, patience! Defined as, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset,” patience seems to be on the wane in 21st century America. Sure, we give respectful lip service to patience and toss around platitudes like, “Patience is a virtue,” but the truth is that our entire culture is increasingly constructed to discourage the practice of patience.

We have apps for everything. Want groceries? Restaurant reservations? Taxi service? Up-to-the-nanosecond traffic updates? Gasoline delivered to your car? A potential life partner? All these and more can be acquired with the touch of a finger. (It’s not even accurate to say, “With the click of a button” anymore. Buttons have been replaced by button icons on a flat screen, possibly because the effort of pressing an actual button wastes precious time.)

Remember when two-day delivery was a luxury? (I believe that was sometime last year.) Now we expect two-day delivery, and my Amazon.com account allows me to request same-day delivery for everything from diapers to dog food.

“Seize the day!” “Strike while the iron’s hot!” “Grab the bull by the horns!” These are old expressions, but they seem particularly relevant in our fast paced and competitive culture – a culture in which self-help gurus exhort us to “Be your best self, TODAY!” and nobody bats an eye. 

The result of all this efficiency is that we begin taking it for granted that life will be as quick and easy as a drive-through Starbucks. Our collective capacity for patience has shrunk, and it shows.

Two weeks ago, our family returned to Addison County from a five-month sabbatical in Berkeley, California. Berkeley is a remarkably impatient city. Most of those apps we depend upon for speedy services were invented in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the “app ethos” permeates the region. Touch screens are everywhere: in the hands of parents and children, at every store and library checkout counter, and in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices where they hand out iPads in lieu of paperwork clipboards. The house that we rented throughout our stay in Berkeley was located on a busy street corner, and for five months barely a traffic light cycle passed when we didn’t hear the honking of horns, as drivers frustrated by long commutes and chronic traffic trumpeted their impatience with those who didn’t move quickly enough through the intersection.  When a house goes on sale in the Bay Area, the owners typically hold one or two open houses, decide between multiple offers, and hang a “Sale Pending” sign days later.

After five months of this, we flew into the near-empty Burlington airport and drove a traffic-less hour through the dark to our home, which has been on the market since mid-March and has been seen only five or six times, with no nibbles. We’ve been told that the average sale time for Vermont houses nowadays is six months, so we’re prepared to sit tight and wait.

To be a seller in the Vermont real estate market requires patience.

Several days later, we visited our new house – the house into which we’d planned to move in late June, the house we knew needed some polishing, but which we’d been assured was structurally sound. When we departed on sabbatical, we left our immensely capable and trustworthy contractor in charge of what we kept telling ourselves were “mostly cosmetic” renovations. Our immensely capable and trustworthy contractor discovered that almost every supporting beam in the house was undersized, and that most of the house was under-insulated -- the result of Vermont’s residential building codes, which are relaxed to the point of nonexistence. While we’re grateful that we won’t be moving into a house that’s falling down around us, the additional time required for our contractor to build essentially an entire new house under the existing house has pushed our move-in date back at least a month. (Which is okay, as it turns out, since our current house remains un-sold.)

Renovating a house in Vermont requires patience.

Having surveyed our new house, we moved on to the land that surrounds it. We bought this house primarily for the land: 12.5 gently sloping acres with views towards the Green Mountains. Before it was divided into parcels and sold, our property was part of a farm that raised Angus cattle; an octogenarian friend of ours remembers (with mixed emotions) haying along the slope of our back field. The previous owners had let saplings and brush begin to take over, but our vision was to gradually return it to pasture. I say “gradually,” but I still expected that by the end of this summer we’d have a vegetable garden, perennial border gardens, fruit trees, and a flock of chickens.

Walking our land with our new neighbors, who have decades’ worth of farming experience, I let all of my expectations go. By the end of this summer, we hope now to have some decent fencing erected and a couple of (borrowed) horses grazing down the grass, in preparation for brush hogging the following summer. The vision remains, but it’s going to take years.

Working the land requires patience.

All of this patience is not easy for me. I like checking off boxes, and turning 40 has only exacerbated my sense of urgency: I’ve started uttering statements like, “I might die before I finish this book/garden/sewing project!”

But life seems to be bent on teaching me patience.

Except for one thing: As I drove the 6.1 miles between our new house and our old house, I passed through four stop signs and not a single traffic light. Having spent five months crawling through stop-and-go California traffic, I will gladly accept the patience of long-term, worthy goals in exchange for the patience required to sit in traffic.

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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