The other day I spent an afternoon on the Stowe Pinnacle trail, marveling at all that trail and others here in Vermont have given me. Well, for one, it gives me a workout — it’s all uphill and technical, because everything in Central Vermont seems to be that way. It gives me a few hours to be out in nature, the way I intended when I decided to move here in early winter of 2019. It gives me a doable mountain climb, where the summit is accessible and the view spectacular. It allows me to see evidence of humanity all along the trail, my favorite being the cone-shaped shelter of branches about a half mile in from the Stowe Hollow Road trailhead. There are also two massive cairns; on a different trail they would serve as navigational tools, but these seem to simply be a tradition, as the trail is very clearly marked. The trail also gives me connection to other human beings out for a hike or run, with their families, their schools, alone. Most everyone acknowledges other folks out on the trail. There is a shared stewardship, an excitement about the beauty we have before us.
This is what I think of when I think of Vermont — shared responsibility; collective wonderment; a sense of community even if we are at different places on the socio-political spectrum. Just last night as I looked out my window, I heard a group of children, protesting? “Geez, they start them early here,” I thought to myself. Wow! They chanted, “What do we want? Justice! Justice for who? Children! What do we want? Justice! Justice for who? Children!” They were led by the oldest in the group with two adults trailing behind.
I was so proud of them. I felt honored to be in their presence if only peripherally. They reminded me that I have indeed moved to the right place.
A few months ago, I limped over to the State House lawn allowing an energy I’d never felt push me towards the synchronized chants of “Black Lives Matter!” and lines of cars with horns honking down Main and State. There were signs everywhere, held by little children in strollers, by same-gender couples, older folks, college-aged persons moving about, folks in medic uniforms. And by some stroke of luck, brilliance, or care, everyone seemed to be appropriately socially distanced and in masks. I had never been to a protest. I’d sworn them off in college because I didn’t want to seem to be self-righteous about my causes, but this one was different.
That same morning I attended a solemn and meditative Buddhist ceremony on that same lawn. It was beautiful, peaceful, contemplative. Even when a biker stopped their bike right out front on the street and made as much noise as possible, in defiance and disrespect, it only disrupted the sentiment of this circle of peace momentarily.
I went to Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music for an undergraduate degree. Almost my entire four-and-a-half-year stint there I felt bombarded with everyone’s politics and causes. No, I did not want to participate in a three-hour discussion on why our co-op should buy organic peanut butter. No, I didn’t want to ride on a bus for seven hours to attend a march in Washington D.C. No, I didn’t want or need to be a radical. I didn’t want to play devil’s advocate to every single thought someone had in my Latin American Studies class.
But, I guess it got to me. Although I didn’t appreciate it in my late teens and early twenties, I honor the social justice training that I received there, if even by simple osmosis. I couldn’t escape it, and when I found myself as an adult in communities in which people didn’t give a second thought about others in those very same communities, I longed for something different.
Many years later, after trying out adulthood and parenthood in several cities and towns in a variety of East Coast states, I find myself in Montpelier. Those same things that I tried desperately to escape in college seem to have drawn me, and in a big way, to this little state. (NO! I still don’t want to have a three-hour discussion on peanut butter. Land conservation and environmental justice? Yes. Count me in!)
On a trip here in December of 2018, I drove past the Black Lives Matter banner and a Pride flag on Main Street, and I took it as a sign from the universe that I should probably explore living here, and not only for the easy access to mountains and winter adventures. A week filled with snowshoeing, a snowboard lesson at Bolton, the breakfast special at Skinny Pancake, and coffee at Capitol Grounds sealed the deal. I even walked out of my hotel one day and made way for a gentleman walking in the same direction. He looked my way and said, “Well, if we’re going in the same direction, we might as well walk together and have a conversation.”
I knew this place was for me.
I have found a gentle and engaged community that I can call home and that fulfills all of my Maslovian needs. I can head to the mountains by car, foot, or bike. There’s beautiful Hubbard Park, where I can be ensconced in the wilderness for a few minutes in the middle of the day and reinvigorate myself. There’s spirit-calming Peace Park. On summer mornings as the fog is lifting, this little spot is such a gift. There’s even a co-op where I can buy organic peanut butter — if I want to.
Could there be more parking? Yes. Could we do better by our homeless community? A resounding Yes! It is by no means a perfect place. But I’ll take it as it is now, embrace it, and love on it, as it has shown me and my family warmth, kindness, and generosity of spirit.
I think I like it here.
More information about Mirna: https://themirnavator.com/