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that time in August…

10450769_10152631768798746_8326396009489492599_nOur oldest’s birthday has always marked the shift in seasons.

The rain comes, as it did yesterday, and then suddenly autumn whispers.

The breeze at the pond is too much for adults to swim, and the boys fall asleep earlier than they have all summer.

My husband and I finish a movie before 10, and after we turn off the tv, we notice light falling across our just finished floors.

Out the kitchen window, we spy the moon, perched between the evergreens–our trees–out our window.

We closed on the house today… and it seems to us that the moon is offering her approval.

Casey steps out on the porch–something he’s always dreamed of–and I join him there to say goodnight to the stars in the silent sky.

Just then, music comes screaming across the pond…

“I believe in miracles, since you came along, you sexy thing, you sexy thing…”

(We built our home on the same dirt road as a summer camp.)

I want to resent this intrusion, this robbery of perfection, but I always liked that song, sang it all the way down to Key West when I was 12.

There’s something funny about disco music playing across from our home in the woods. Serenity and dancing. The sublime and the mundane. It fits our family. Reminding us that miracles abound.

(kelly salasin, 2005)

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Cows, connections & caring–in Vermont

calf-with-flowers
Twenty years later and Vermont is still giving me warm fuzzies for things I didn’t even know I cared about–like politics or energy or something called a “heifer.”

Last month at the River Garden was just one of those times. Students from area schools gathered for a mid-point check in on their science projects for the upcoming Neighborhood Energy Science Fair, sponsored by the Strolling of the Heifers.*

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Executive Director Orly Munzing addressing students.

Executive Director Orly Munzing, who founded the Strolling, was on site to address the participants as they prepared to have their work reviewed by science professionals. She told these young innovators that their passion for energy science would help define the future of this planet, and as such, they would serve as ambassadors–educating others, even adults, especially adults. (I got chills.)

I’m only just beginning to comprehend the full scope of what has transformed (in my mind) from a novelty parade into a movement, experienced closeup through my children, who insisted on going to that first “cow” parade in 2002.

A decade later, one of those children is among those enthusiastically preparing an entry for the science fair.

My son Aidan, 13, has been working with peers, Leander, 12, and Cyrus, 10, on a project they began shaping last winter at their elementary school. After School Program Coordinator Emily Wagner worked with regional educator Lisa Holderness from the Vermont Energy Education Program*(VEEP) to engage students who were interested in energy science and who might like participate in the Strolling’s Neighborhood Science Fair which they were helping to sponsor.

It’s exactly these kind of opportunities that create the warm fuzzy feeling that Vermont so freely offers; and its the conscious connections behind those fuzzies, so richly interwoven, that make it hard to know who to thank for making Vermont such a caring place.

But I’d like to try, simply as an exercise in appreciation and recognition:

Was it the Strolling of the Heifer Parade, and the accompanying events that ignited an interest in sustainable energy for my son? Was it the after school seed-growingscience programs, partially funded by the VT Agency of Education, that flamed that interest? Was it his teachers at Marlboro Elementary who, year after year, emphasized experiential, place-based education, capped by independent research, followed by field study abroad and at the Nation’s Capitol with opportunities for social activism? Was it the accessibility of government officials, like VT Governor Peter Shumlin and Senator Bernie Sanders, which so empowered him? Was it our neighbor, Gary MacArthur, who installed our hot water solar panels? Or was it my husband and our community who raised the energy-efficient home in which we live? Was it our grocery store–The Brattleboro Food Co-op whose mission includes outreach and education–connecting food, people and place? Was it the unique community of Brattleboro itself, known for its activism, art and engagement and the enthusiastic support of that by local businesses? Or was it something even simpler, like the hatching project in my son’s kindergarten classroom, or the visit to the local farm in first and second grade, or the creation of the school garden in third and fourth grade–each supported along the way by educational grants from the Strolling of the Heifers?

You’ll have to ask Aidan and his friends, Leander and Cyrus, why they devoted week after week of their free time to a project that even their parents don’t fully comprehend. You’ll find them Saturday, after the parade, on the Brattleboro Commons, as part of the Slow Living Expo, at the center of the Home Energy Village where the first annual Neighborhood Energy Science Fair takes place!

~kelly salasin

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Students meet with science professionals at the River Garden in May.

sothLogo1*Now in its second decade, the Strolling of the Heifers has grown from a small-town parade (of cows) into a regional movement with year-round programs and events. The Stroll has expanded its horizons to include not only sustainable agriculture and food systems, but other aspects of local economic sustainability, highlighted by a three-day Slow Living Summit which opens tomorrow, June 4th, 2014. The parade and fairgrounds take place on Saturday, June 7th.

VEEP (Vermont Energy Education Program) is one of the sponsors of The Neighborhood Science Fair. Founded in 1979, their mission is to cultivate energy literacy among Vermont students. “Students who understand energy and how it works will make more informed choices about energy use and inspire others to do the same.”

VEEP_WPlogo4An Energy Literate Person Knows:

  • What our energy resources are and how we utilize them
  • The many ways electricity is made and the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Why it is important to use energy wisely and how to do so
  • How government policy effects our energy choices

An Energy Literate Person Chooses:

    • To use energy wisely, recognizing the impact of their choice on climate change, our environment and our economy
    • To share their knowledge and inspire action and learning in others

To schedule a free in-class presentation, or learn more about VEEP’s standards-based curricula and ‘hands-on’ science methods, visit www.veep.org.

 

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The Great Escape

1970951_10152342628658746_1383157807_n-1“Be in a devotional relationship to your life force.”
(Shiva Rea)

On Saturday, we had one exquisite hour of hope: the sun shined and the temperatures rose above freezing for the first time in way too long of a time.

Everyone (and I mean, everyone) abandoned their snow encrusted homes on the hill and ventured forth to points east and south.

We were among those souls, stopping in town for provisions: the library, the pharmacy, the grocery store–and coming across handfuls of neighbors moving from place to place. We were like a village of ants. Not so much joyful or even relieved, as we were urgent about capturing this moment.

The clouds moved in later that afternoon, as did the rain, but before then we made our way further south, heading to a place with less snow and a larger art museum, where we came across yet another handful of neighbors who had done the same.

Then came Sunday. Frozen and cloudy and winter all over again. I checked the weather: more of the same on Monday. I re-read my daily inspiration: “Be in a devotional relationship with your body,” and I hatched a plan to do just that.

Monday came in dark and cold and heavy, but I followed through with devotion.

I headed south, alone, in my car, with my backpack and my journal.

I’d been to the Butterfly Conservatory at least once every winter before, but this time would be different. I wouldn’t just stroll through and then depart. I would stick.

I spent 3 hours on the same bench among the butterflies and the flowers and the warm moist air.

I sat. I drew. I read. I wrote. I even napped.

There was the sound of water. Of toddlers toddling. Of birds peeping.

There were scents of life unfolding.

And there was fluttering.

Constant fluttering of magic, color and wonder.

And then it was Tuesday. Today. Brilliantly sunny. Still frozen, but with temperatures climbing, promising true spring.

 

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POSTED!

17591643The sight of the Legal Load Limit sign at the bottom of our road brings a leap of joy to my heart.

“POSTED!” I say, with an exhale of…

Spring!

Followed by a flip

of my stomach.

Not so easy, I remember.

Like any birth, first comes
the labor.

And like any labor, we can’t  be sure how

long,
it will last.

How hard
it will feel.

How filled with complications
it will be.

In Vermont that labor is called

MUD Season.

And it lasts longer than any labor,
so long that it really is a “season,” apart from the others
spanning weeks or crossing over into a second month.

Every year, we consider a truck.

We can’t afford one.

But it’s a necessity, we sigh.

Until it’s over.

And then, like any mother,
with a newborn in her arms,
we forget.

Spring returns, and we swoon.

 

 

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Where I belong

img_2220The Co-op is quiet this morning; the town itself demure–wet and waiting–for spring.

The ice spitting from the sky before dawn was the first sign that the winter was willing to surrender, something, before April.

I step through the tiny glistening shards as I cross the parking lot, thinking the day dark and heavy, just as the first flock of geese flies overhead, announcing its return.

The regulars are waiting. Mostly men. Mostly older men. Like an Italian piazza. They talk politics, instead of bocce ball, because this is Brattleboro. One has a wild, silvery beard and could be in Russia, playing chess. Talking treason. Instead he is running for office. Asking for signatures. Interrupting his companions’ reading of the cafe copies of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

There are 8 men now, some a bit younger, one on a computer with headphones, smiling. A single, middle-aged woman unpacks her morning pills, her breakfast, her book.

“It’s like we are home,” says the cafe attendant, as I step up to the sink to wash my dishes. “We all know each other. It’s the way it should be.”

I don’t know any of them, really, but I know their faces, and their smiles, and their bad days. I join them in their morning ritual, a few times a month, when I’m needing an escape from working on the hill, where I live, encrusted in snow.

The mountain across the river is our steady companion, in every season. The Co-op itself sits beside a brook that runs into that river. The black, grated iron along its banks defines and holds the space we occupy: captures our silent gaze, keeps us safe, serves as a leaning place for children tossing pebbles.

As we crest 9:00 am, the cafe empties and fills, new faces, a few women; and the traffic across the bridge and up the main thoroughfare picks up to a hum to fill in everything in between.

A father and son cross the street at the light, beside the tall amber grasses at the corner, which some kind souls planted to remind us that there are other colors coming even when the world has been monochrome for so long.

It is this time each year, March, when I seriously consider moving; but this morning I’m right where I belong.

 

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Forced Poetry

It is impossible, is it not, to step out into our landscape,
without receiving or sensing or feeling, or in my case, spontaneously writing…
poetry.

How this soft, silent, sparkling world of fresh snow
with stenciled trails made by tiny paws,
and carved paths, made by larger ones–mine–

In a southernly snow-shoed spiral on the front lawn
just beyond the waves of White tossed
by Jimmy Cloud’s plow late last night

Is now being sprinkled by fairy dust falling
from the blue sky, or is it the Evergreen
boughs shaking

Upon me
as I write
this verse
in my mind.

 
 

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Marlboro Vigil for Sandy Hook

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Community members in front of the Marlboro Post Office

We woke to zero and bundled up better than ever to stand in a circle outside the post office where the green banner hung with the sweet faces of those 20 children and the tender adults who cared for them.

There would be no classroom photos of loved ones this year. Noah would not turn a year older. He would not lose his tooth. The candles of the Menorah would be lit without him.

We came for different reasons and for the same reasons, and we came because…

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Marlboro Meetinghouse

they couldn’t;

because children deserve our protection;

because it’s criminal to let this continue;

because without the collective consciousness, we are without a compass…

Despite the bitter cold, we chose not to step inside the Meetinghouse, but we rang its bells, “28 times,” (as decided) including Adam and his mother, among the names we spoke:

of each child,

each teacher,

the Principal,

the aide,

the substitute,

the therapist,

the psychologist.

We were an aging group–the youngest almost 50, and the rest older still. The young people were at home with the children, doing the work of families; while we stood as their representatives, in witness.

There were 10 of us in all, some strangers, some dear friends, sharing hopes and tears, and ending with a long, group hug.

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Susan & Casey sounding the bell… 28 times.

Saturday, December 13, 2013
Marlboro, Vermont

Susan Kundhardt
Joe Mazur
Jennifer Mazur
Beth McDermet
Marge Wright
Jonathan Morse
Ellen McCulloch-Lovell
Chris Lovell
Casey Deane
Kelly Salasin

 

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