Faith in Vermont: An introduction — California to Vermont

<p> &nbsp;</p><table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 590px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p> <img alt="" src=" style="width: 590px; height: 430px;" /></p> <p> <strong>One of the author&#39;s three daughters gets a first look at Vermont &mdash; in a California library book</strong>.</p> </td> </tr> </tbody></table><p class="Bodycopy"> &ldquo;Vermont?!? Wow, I&rsquo;m not sure I could handle those New England winters again. Especially with kids.&rdquo;</p><p class="Bodycopy"> It was January 2011. My husband, Erick, and I were standing in the kitchen of our little rented bungalow in Berkeley, California, discussing his job prospects. Our two daughters, age 3 and 1, were asleep in the bedroom next door, and I was eight months pregnant with daughter number three. Erick had just told me that Middlebury College, a small liberal arts school of about 2,000 students in central Vermont, was flying him out to interview for a position as assistant professor of economics.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> On the wall behind Erick hung a large framed map of Baffin Island, the biggest island in Canada, which straddles the Arctic Circle. A few years before we met, in his adventurous bachelor days, Erick had gone dog-sledding on Baffin Island. He said it was so cold that he survived mostly on butter and chocolate &mdash; which actually doesn&rsquo;t sound bad, other than the so cold part. The map of Baffin Island is almost entirely white, with a few patches of light blue to represent the Arctic Ocean.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> At this moment, &ldquo;Vermont&rdquo; existed in my mind in the same category as &ldquo;Baffin Island&rdquo;: a frozen white hinterland.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> I attended a college much like Middlebury: Williams College, a small liberal arts school of about 2,000 students located in the far northwestern corner of Massachusetts, near the Vermont and New York borders. It&rsquo;s a bucolic, small town setting, nestled in a valley in the Berkshire Mountains. And, for much of the year, it is cold. I have one memory in particular of a January night during my freshman year, when I had to venture across campus after dark for a seminar. Piles of snow that had been cleared from the sidewalk rose taller than me on either side. An icy wind blew right through my parka. I was totally alone, and I thought to myself, I&rsquo;m not going to make it. I just can&rsquo;t go any further; I&rsquo;m going to lay down in one of these snowdrifts and they&rsquo;ll find me after the spring thaw.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> And Middlebury, Vermont, the small town of about 8,000 people where Middlebury College is located, is two-and-a-half hours north of Williams.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> Now, a decade later, my husband was telling me that there was a possibility that we would relocate to Vermont; standing in our kitchen in Berkeley, California, on a January day when the temperature had averaged 60 degrees, and telling me that we might move to a faraway place of snow and cows and barns.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> I wasn&rsquo;t sure I could do it.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> On second thought, that isn&rsquo;t quite accurate: I&rsquo;m a big believer that I can do just about anything that I have to do. Moving our soon-to-be family of five across the country to small-town Vermont wasn&rsquo;t like repairing a jet engine, or quarterbacking, or baking a meringue; I could do it. Whether I wanted to do it was another matter.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> Middlebury wasn&rsquo;t the only place interested in Erick, but it was the most far out in every sense; the other institutions interviewing him were large research universities and consulting firms in major urban areas. That was familiar territory; with the exception of my four undergraduate years in rural Massachusetts, Erick and I had both grown up in the suburbs (Washington, D.C., for me; San Francisco for Erick), and we&rsquo;d lived our entire adult lives in New York City and Berkeley.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> So, because Middlebury was the anomaly &mdash; the strangest, least comfortable, scariest of all the possibilities &mdash; I thought about it the most. I tried to picture our family&rsquo;s life in small town Vermont: I pictured us living in a converted farmhouse surrounded by acres of fields, pictured our children romping outside with an energetic but gentle dog, pictured us raising chickens and planting a garden, pictured our mudroom stuffed with three little sets of gear for all seasons. And, because I thought about it the most, I found myself secretly rooting for Vermont. By the time Erick called to tell me that he had one week to accept Middlebury&rsquo;s job offer, it was really a no-brainer.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> We moved into our new house, into our new life in small-town Vermont, in June 2011. We do not live in a converted farmhouse, but in a 25-year-old grey Cape on a wooded ridge at the foot of the Green Mountains. We do have some flowerbeds, but no &ldquo;garden&rdquo; to speak of; sink a shovel more than one inch into our land and you&rsquo;ll hit solid rock, and the growing conditions at our house are best described as &ldquo;full to fuller shade.&rdquo; But those are the only two departures from my original vision of Vermont Life: our children do romp outside with an energetic, gentle dog (even better, it&rsquo;s our neighbor&rsquo;s dog); we are raising chickens &mdash; a little flock of four laying hens; and our mudroom looks like the L.L. Bean stockroom after an earthquake.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> Our move to Vermont was one big &ldquo;Whoa&rdquo; moment: a moment when I felt truly grown-up for the first time; a moment when I embraced my role as a mother to three young girls; a moment when I learned to appreciate quiet, solitude, and patience; a moment when I began to know what it means to live in the woods, in a small town, in community.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> Hello, Vermont! Nice to meet you!</p><p class="Bodycopy"> This is my first post to appear in the online edition of The Addison Independent, but from now on you can find me here every other week. I&rsquo;ll be writing about life in Addison County &mdash; and life in general &mdash; from the perspective of a parent with young children, who is still relatively new to the area. Here&rsquo;s what you will not read from me: parenting advice (good God, NO!), political opinions (too complicated), or an authoritative guide to Vermont living (I just moved here). I&rsquo;m not much of an expert on anything; I&rsquo;m just a person who loves living in Vermont, and I hope my writing will reflect the same love and respect that Vermont has shown my family.</p><p class="Bodycopy"> <i>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, three young daughters, and four laying hens &mdash; and writing for her blog,<a href=""><span style="color:windowtext;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"> The Pickle Patch</span></a>.</i></p>

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