Category Archives: Thoughts on Life

Fear of Falling

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The other night, I dreamed of snow.

In my dream, the world was white. I was at my daughters’ preschool, sitting on a sled that was perched precariously atop the roof ridge. This didn’t seem particularly odd, because the roof was covered with snow, and snow was piled halfway up the sides of the building. Down below, the preschool teachers urged me to push off.

It’s not often that I remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me.

The obvious explanation was that, the day before, our family had returned to Vermont after a week spent celebrating my father-in-law’s 70thbirthday on a Caribbean cruise. The cruise originated in Florida, and docked at the islands of St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. In late June, these places are hot, with temperatures in the 90s and humidity you could cut with a butter knife, ocean breezes notwithstanding.

By the end of our vacation week, we longed for Vermont’s climate, which, at the time of our departure, was delivering unusually cool temperatures.

Then we exited the Burlington airport into a long and brutal Vermont heat wave, which, when temperatures topped out at 97°F, exceeded anything we’d experienced in the Caribbean – and without any ocean breezes, at that.

Snow was looking pretty good.

But my dream was also about a fear of falling – about that stomach flipping moment just before you push off and lose control to gravity.

Click here to continue reading my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

A Life Lived Deeply

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Until our family moved to Vermont, I had very little exposure to people aged 65 or older – the demographic often referred to as “senior citizens,” but which I prefer to think of as “elders.”

I wasn’t alone; our ultra-mobile society, with its emphasis on education and achievement, encourages young people to follow educational and employment opportunities. As my husband and I moved from college to early jobs to graduate school in major metropolitan areas, we were primarily surrounded by members of our own generation – give or take a decade at most.

Vermont, as many Vermonters know, is aging faster than the rest of the United States: The 2015 census put Vermont’s median age at 42.8, which ties Vermont with New Hampshire for second oldest state in the nation (after Maine.) Caring for the aged is a growth industry here.

That Vermont is an elderly state may have something to do with why I came into closer contact with my elders after we moved here. But the main reason is our church.

The church that my family attends, Memorial Baptist, has an age distribution of roughly 12 months to 91 years in the pews each Sunday. Because the congregation is small — about 60-70 people in church on a given week — there’s little opportunity for people to form cliques based on age; you rub shoulders with babies and nonagenarians alike.

This June 7, our church and our community lost one of our best elders: my 91-year-old friend Persis Rowe.

I’d love to introduce you to the extraordinary Persis Rowe; click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Goodbye, Ben Franklin

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The news came on the heels of other strange spring tidings in Addison County: There were warnings of severe storms bringing high winds and flooding, followed by fire danger alerts. There were the multiple bear sightings around Chipman Hill, as a mother and her three cubs beat a path of destruction between backyard bird feeders and compost bins.

And then this: Ben Franklin, the five-and-dime that’s been a fixture of Middlebury’s Main Street since 1943, will close its doors in August.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Love in the Poultry Yard

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“I think those hens are about to start a #MeToo movement,” my husband said, coming in one night after tucking our chickens into their coop.

Yes, spring fever has struck our poultry. Watching the chickens and ducks act on their hormonal urges, I can almost hear the voice of Friend Owl in Bambi: “Nearly everybody gets ‘twitterpated’ in the spring!”

In that Disney-fied, animated world, being “twitterpated” involves a lot of animals fluttering their eyelashes, blushing under their fur, and slinking off into the flowers. That is not the truth; at least, not in our poultry yard.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Watching My Daughters Climb

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All four of our daughters love climbing, but one of them has elevated climbing to a lifestyle.

I’m not talking about “climbing” in any metaphorical sense; I’m talking about actual climbing, defined in Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary as, “to draw or pull oneself up, over, or to the top of by using hands and feet.”

My climbing daughter has always scaled whatever was available, with the goal of getting as high as possible. She began, as a toddler, with the boulders and trees that filled the yard of our house; her first word was “rock.” At two years old, she amused herself during her big sisters’ swimming lessons by climbing the trees by the town pool. It was from one of these trees that she fell that summer, thankfully from a height of only about four feet – she was on her way down – thus earning the dubious honor of being the first of our children observed for signs of concussion.

In recent years, this same daughter has climbed rocky cliffs by the Maine coast. She claimed a willow tree in our yard (named “Willowbee”), in whose branches she sits whenever she needs time alone. She once scaled the six-foot-high, spike-topped metal fence that borders the library parking lot, rather than simply using the entrance. When we visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a recent trip to New York, I found it necessary to warn her beforehand that the trees there were not for climbing. The friends we were visiting understood my warning the next day, when they watched her attempt to climb every city fence we passed.

Raising this daughter has made me curious about the human impulse to climb. What ancient code in our DNA compels us to lift feet off the ground, pull up with arms, and attempt to defy gravity? Was climbing necessary to avoid predators? Did an elevated perspective improve one’s success in hunting and gathering? Were climbers valued members of society because they could keep watch from the heights and be the first to spot impending danger?

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Brooklyn, Take Me In

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“I’m still thinking about that man who lied to us,” my daughter said as I tucked her into bed the night we returned from a family weekend in New York City.

My husband and I lived in Manhattan for seven years, throughout our dating and early marriage but before we had children. Only one of our daughters had ever set foot in the Big Apple, and since she was six months old at the time, “set foot” isn’t quite accurate. So, this was our first time in New York City as a family of six.

We stayed for two days and two nights with dear friends who live in Brooklyn with their three children. The best way to describe our family’s relationship with these Brooklyn friends is to say, “We have the same books on our shelves.” This means that, although we see these friends rarely, and although we live “city mice/country mice” existences, when we get together it feels like home.

In emotional terms: We love spending time with this family. In practical terms: Because everyone gets along so well, this is the family to be with if you’re trying to shepherd seven children around New York City.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” — about some of our adventures OUT of Vermont — in The Addison Independent. 

April Showers

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Photo by Georgia Gong

During the last days of March, we fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof for the first time in a very long time. I awoke in the morning to the sound of morning doves calling, filling a months-long silence.

It felt like the release of a long-awaited promise: that maybe spring would, indeed, come again. The week before, my daughters – who had wished for the coming of winter snow back in autumn – went outside with shovels and attempted to help spring along by clearing the snow off of our lawn.

And now, the snow was melting, all on its own, revealing the first shoots of the bulbs I’d planted back in the fall starting to poke through the thawing ground.

But the rain, which sounded so soothing on our roof, also carried the threat of impending danger – or, at the very least – the threat of inconvenience.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.