New to Vermont, Part II.

New to Vermont, Part II.

It’s not too late to sign up for the free coursework offered through the Vermont State Colleges system available to Vermonters whose jobs were affected by COVID-19. (CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.)

I earned a university degree almost four decades ago, but I enrolled in two online community classes this fall, including a Storytelling and Media course (with Mike Spry) which required me among other learning modules to record a podcast and try my hand at writing a newspaper article. I ended up employing both of these assignments to highlight the story of someone new to Vermont, a young family member who came here from Portland Oregon. Bex came to Vermont to find the space to ask the questions that they needed to ask in order to shape a new story, not only for themself but for their peers, the Evangelical Christian community and maybe even this nation.

Click here to listen to New to Vermont, Part I, a podcast!

Part II, below:

It Felt Like War

Marlboro, VT
1:11 pm, November 1, 2021

Protestors march into downtown Portland, Bex Burcham, June 2020.

26-year-old Bex arrived in Vermont last month just as the leaves began to explode in color.

“I had a dream about these trees,” Bex said, “Just before I left Portland.”

It was late September when Bex messaged an aunt in Vermont in the middle of the night.

“I was experiencing some serious burn-out,” Bex said, “And I knew I needed a safe place to rest and write.”

Bex grew up the oldest daughter of six children in a relatively isolated Evangelical Christian community in rural Oregon. At 19, Bex relocated to the coastal city of Portland where they attended bible college and studied literature.

“I’d always loved to write,” Bex said of the fantasy stories they’d begun penning at the early age of 7. By the time Bex was in Portland, they’d begun to dabble in non-fiction, writing boldly on a personal blog about the war inside their body–the self-hatred of flesh, the sin of desire. 

Before COVID reached Portland in early 2020, Bex had left Christianity and had begun exploring and claiming an emerging identity. They named their new blog, The Queer Apostate–A Journey of Falling In and Out of Love with Evangelical Christianity.

The following summer, Portland became a flashpoint for the Black Lives Matter movement and Bex found themselves swept up in the protests.

“I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t really know about BLM before George Floyd,” they said. “I’d seen signs and hashtags… But I’d lived in a bubble from the day I was born.”

Just before Bex reached out to their aunt in Vermont, they made this post on Facebook:

Are you deconstructing your childhood experience in homeschool evangelicalism? I want to hear your story! I’m especially looking for more writers and artists from our community. PM me!

Bex was brought up to think that race was no longer an issue and climate change was not real and other social issues were distractions. “I just see it all so different now,” Bex says.

Bex first heard of the BLM protests in Portland when they received an alert on their phone notifying them of an 8 pm. curfew.  “I was off social media at the time so my roommate explained what was going on.” 

The roommate invited Bex to participate. “We made signs at the kitchen table,” Bex said, “And our other roommate read-aloud tips about tear gas.”

Bex dismissed that roommate’s concerns as overly cautious. “I was not at all prepared for what we walked into. Not hundreds of protestors, but thousands.”

Bex later wrote an account of their experience on their blog:

When I first heard about the brutal killing of George Floyd, I was heartbroken, but my attention faded into the noise of the news cycle… When the protests started, I saw the story as the news told it: rioters and looters antagonizing police… From my bedroom reading the news and watching live streams, my own resolve felt distracted, conflicted.

Then I kneeled with 10,000 people in front of a police station.

Bex felt hesitant at first with the idea of protesting. They were brought up in a culture of “niceness,” a niceness that didn’t allow for disruption of polite society. But Bex attributes their experience of the protests in Portland with an awakening to white supremacy and the stronghold it has in Evangelical Christianity.

When Bex describes the speakers at the protest gathering on the waterfront, their eyes light up, “You can’t turn away after you hear those stories,” Bex says.

Bex was galvanized to stand with people of color in her community by the words of Reverend E.D. Mondainé who said to the thousands gathered: “There is no safer place to be than in the company of hope.”

In the Company of Hope
was the title Bex gave to their post about the protests, calling on others to join in.

“Kneel with us,” Bex shouted among the other protestors kneeling in front of the police. Bex was just feet away from the line of officers in riot gear who were gripping batons, tear gas, pepper spray and guns.

Bex wrote on her blog that they stared into the eyes of a young cop, barely over twenty and thought he was on the edge of tears.

“Maybe I was projecting,” Bex wrote. “Maybe I needed to see humanity in these soldiers.”

Bex said her heart broke that night. “There was no question in my mind,” she wrote, “The police started the riot.”

“I can’t breathe!” the voices of the kneeling protestors called out. “I can’t breathe!”

They gave us three minutes before the tear gas hit… There was nowhere to run. Any group over ten was surrounded and gassed, flash bombs hit every few feet, people were choking and pouring milk over their eyes, calling for our medics, but still chanting “Stay together, stay tight!”

I wanted to run, but the smaller the group, the more danger for each individual. They needed bodies. I had to stay. Even as we faced the line of cops marching toward us with our hands up, standing still, they launched attack after attack.

Bex watched not only the city they called home but their worldview, transformed over the days of the protest in Portland in 2020.

There were chain-link fences blocking off half the streets, police car lights flashing behind them. Businesses… boarded up. Helicopters and drones hovered above us –

“It felt like war,” Bex said of Portland. “The fear I felt of the police… a tiny fraction of what people of color face consistently.”

In the months that followed, as the protests waned and COVID dragged on, Bex began to spiral. They couldn’t keep up with their studies or their workload and they had difficulty meeting very basic personal needs. When they found themselves unable to eat or bathe, they reached out to an aunt back east. Although Bex didn’t say it, what they describe sounds like PTSD.

“Come in time to see the leaves change,” Bex’s aunt replied. “Before the first snow flies.”

Just days after Bex arrived on the backroads of rural Vermont, they celebrated their 27th birthday.

Almost a month has passed since and the surround of color that welcomed their arrival has fallen to the ground.

“It mostly rains in Portland,” Bex says, about the west coast city they left behind. “I’m looking forward to a real winter.”

Bex tells their aunt that they want to shape a new story while they’re here and when their aunt, who is also a writer, asks Bex how they think Vermont might play a part in the telling of a new story, Bex smiles and replies that it already has:

“In the space to ask that question.”

Bex in Vermont, October 2021. Kelly Salasin.

Kelly Salasin

New to Vermont

New to Vermont

This fall, the Vermont State Colleges system offered free classes and training to Vermonters whose jobs were affected by COVID-19. I'd earned a university degree almost four decades ago, but since I could no longer lead in-person classes and needed to brush up on my online skills, I enrolled for two courses at CCV. 

One of those courses is entitled Storytelling & Media and we were recently assigned to make a mock podcast so I interviewed a family member from Portland Oregon who had just moved in with me in Southern VT. 

Despite the thirty years between us, Bex and I are both writers and passionate about social justice which made for easy conversation on everything from Black Lives Matter to what it means to tell a new story and find the space to tell it--in Vermont: 

For New to Vermont, Part II, click here.

Bounty: Southern VT

Bounty: Southern VT

I wanted to share some of the nourishing fall programs & events happening in our area of Southern Vermont (and online.)

First, my longtime friend/artist/mystic Jess Weitz is offering two online programs: Inner Landscapes: exploring our psyche through the landscape and Archetypal Doll Making, the latter also in person at the River Gallery School where Jess leads Art & Meditation classes as well as daylong retreats.

Secondly, in addition to her weekly WORD CAFÉ gatherings in downtown Brattleboro, my gentle, soulful & talented neighbor Robin Marie MacArthur is offering a 6-week Fall Writing Workshop for poets, fiction & non-fiction writers which she describes as (and to which I can attest) “supportive, encouraging and semi-formal.”

Lastly, our esteemed teacher & dear family friend Scott Willis is offering his Hits The Spot Yoga Teacher Training/Immersion Program in 2019-20 which was for me (in 2012), a touchstone during a time of radical personal change & opportunity. Scott’s mastery, style, humor & compassion continue to inspire my personal practice & teaching.

We are so fortunate to have the depth & breadth of artistry, creativity & service in our area. When you enroll online or in-person for an ongoing class (or travel for a single-day event), it’s a win-win-win. You support an artist/teacher, they, in turn, support you, while the work that is shaped–on the mat, on the page, on the canvass–nourishes consciousness, connection & community.

Yours in abundance & gratitude,



Jess Weitz, River Gallery Art School
Robin MacArthur, Wordhouse
Scott Willis, Hits the Spot Yoga

and on the coast in Maine, former Vermont neighbor/author/friend:

Jodi Paloni, Maine Coast Writers Retreats
…Sweater-weather writing workshop, (leaning) into moments of nature, exploring the narrative of place, how outer landscape can mirror the inner landscape of our narrators, how setting can be leveraged to evoke an atmospheric tone in our poems and prose. We’ll write about the beauty we see before us and the grief we experience when we remember what’s at stake for our beloved planet. We’ll walk the magical coastal trails for peace of mind, healing ritual, and creative self-care. A hearty harvest menu will shore us for our forays.”



Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Dear Winter Women’s Circle,

I look forward to gathering with you on Thursday November 1st.

If you haven’t already and you’re willing, please add your name here:

Expect an email with directions to my home.

Arrive anytime after 4:30 and before 4:45 pm. Feel free to park and walk on the road alongside the brook/pond if you are early.

When you enter through the mudroom, do so in silence. We’ll remain in meditative silence until everyone arrives and we’ve had a chance to settle into ourselves, which is particularly potent for this first gathering in the first chakra.

With your first chakra comfort in mind, you might like to bring slippers or a shawl, a basket with a jar of water and or a favorite travel mug, a light meal for yourself or a snack (or beverage of any kind) to share. Some among us will be vegetarians, some vegans, some omnivores, some who avoid sugar or alcohol or chocolate, some who are allergic to gluten and some like me allergic to garlic  😦  Which is to say: Bring what you need–for you–and we will each have what we need.

When you arrive in the house you’ll find a bathroom at the bottom and top of the stairs. Feel free to fix yourself some tea or eat a light dinner that you’ve packed in, or write in your journal, or close your eyes. You decide. Make yourself cozy at the table, by the fire, on the stairs, on the couch or in a chair.

We will open in silence, and then delve into the first chakra with reading, response, music, meditation and perhaps some simple movement. You need not know anything. A favorite pen and a notebook or journal will come in handy. We’ll close in connection after 7 pm. (If a firm time is needed for your departure, don’t hesitate to let me know ahead of time.)

For this first chakra gathering, you might like to contemplate the color red, ancestors, rock, stone, root, earth, home, new beginnings.

If you’d like, you can wear something red or bring a photo or other token of an ancestor or some thing that represents a new beginning that you’d like to seed in the magic of women gathering at the turning of the year. Bringing something is optional. Contemplating is plenty. Being completely unprepared is entirely welcome. Come as you are. Meet yourself there.

Have I forgotten anything? Don’t hesitate to ask.

For those who’ve read this far but aren’t enrolled, there is at this posting–one spot open for November 1st and one spot open for the full season.

More here:

Yours in nourishing & uplifting women’s spirits,


Arrival time: between 4:30 and 4:45 pm on Thursday, November 1st. (Address to be sent via email.)

Pack in: slippers? shawl? water? favorite mug? light supper? snack and or beverage to share?

Bring: Notebook of some kind and favorite pen.

Consider: the color red, ancestors, rock, earth, roots, home, beginnings; bring a long a token of some kind to place on altar?

Closing: around 7 pm.

Note: If you are enrolled for a single gathering or the full season, let me know as much in advance as possible if you can’t make so that I can adjust plans accordingly. Following your missed gathering, I will provide an offering for a home chakra practice for you.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to weather, I will create an open gathering space online throughout the month with corresponding chakra explorations and practice in lieu of an in-person gathering.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to something on my end, I will reschedule it on a consecutive Thursday (as available) and also offer online access in the event there are some who can’t make it to the rescheduled date.

Powder light sky

Powder light sky

Our son’s autumn week at home has come to a close, finishing with a trip south for a family wedding in Pennsylvania, completed by the necessary mecca to Wawa–just for gas; but while we’re there–How about a soft pretzel or two?

We skip the hoagies this trip, but what about Tasty Cakes–the communion of Return–the Body of my Childhood (the peanut butter chocolate ones) and of my late mother (Butterscotch Krimpets.)

We arrive home the lesser for it, even while our hearts are full, as the powdery sky above the Green Mountains speaks to the cleansing promise of winter.

Once again we say goodbye.