Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: A flatlander receives an education

Friends, I moved to Vermont in 2008, after living in many cities and towns in four states and three countries. I planned to stay for a year or two. Life laughed at me, and here I am still. Recently, I came across some observations on Vermont’s uniqueness from the first years, and thought you would enjoy them.
I have moved to a new town. My mailing address is Vergennes, and the nearest road sign says Welcome to Monkton. I lived here for two months before I found out I live in Ferrisburgh.
I’m on Route 7 near Vergennes, looking for Middlebury. The first sign says Middlebury — 13 miles.  The next two signs, each about a mile apart, say Middlebury — 13 miles. Hmmm. Space-time continuum warp?
So I’m trucking along a dirt road, in and out of frozen ruts, up and down on frozen clods, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk. Then, just before the road changes to pavement, there’s a sign:  “BUMP.”  I can’t even feel that one.
On the WDEV radio program “Trading Post” a fellow said how much he wanted for an item, then added, “Or maybe a little less, depending on who I’m talking to.”
Entering Bristol, there is the “Welcome To Bristol” sign on one side of the road, and the cemetery on the other. Does anyone else think that’s funny?
Asking at the Vergennes Farmer’s Market if the chickens were organic or natural, the proprietor replied, “It’s not a happy chicken, if that’s what you mean.”
Weather report:  “A good chance of showers to the east; showers likely in the west.” Then: “Showers through this afternoon. Showers tonight.” In most places they would just say, “showers.” Vermonters must have a lot more time.
I bought a dress at a thrift store and it was missing a button. I went to the quilt shop that used to be on Route 7 at the New Haven junction. What were the chances they would have the one I needed? They did not, but a woman working in the back room heard me and said she thought she had it. Out of millions of possible buttons, and the thousands she had, she knew she had it and she knew where to find it, and it was exactly the right one.
I found a VISA card at a laundromat. I went into a nearby Kinney’s to buy something and asked to use their phonebook to find the card owner. The clerk said, “Whose is it, maybe I know her. Oh yeah, she used to work here. Do you want to leave the card here? I’ll call her, we’ve got the number.”
A scene at Ilsley’s garden in winter was like an arranged photo: in the snow-covered library garden, a woman sits on a bench all bundled up, reading. On the next bench is a beautifully made snowman only as big as a man’s hand.
So I’m going to see someone’s couch for sale. I get there at the agreed-upon time and no one’s home. I call.  “Okay,” she says, “Go around to the side of the house. The door’s unlocked. Go on in, go into the living room, and take a look at the couch. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” So I do. I’d been concerned about giving them cash for the couch and then leaving it there for a few days until I could get people to help me move it, wondering if I should ask for a receipt or if that would insult them.  Guess I don’t need to worry about that.
She came home. “Welcome to our house.” We sat and chatted like new friends; I met her husband. We found out one of her daughters was trained in work similar to mine.
I bought the couch. She and her husband threw it into their van, followed me the eight miles home through gently falling snow, and brought it into the house for me.
Email I received one March: “I noticed a pair of glasses hanging around the offices here at the Addison Independent. When I asked if anyone knew whose they were, someone suggested that they might be yours since they turned up around the time that you were in having your photo taken. The frames are kind of purplish in color, and plastic. Could they be yours?”
I’d had my picture taken there the previous summer.
I love it here.
Barbara “shulamith” Clearbridge offers interfaith spiritual direction and energy work healing. She lives in Middlebury. She is the author of “Finding God/Prayers & Spiritual Practices from Many Tradition),” and “Heal With Your Hands”. Her website is FeelingMuchBetter.org .

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