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:
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.” www.wordhousebrattleboro.com
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,
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.”
I see trees of green…
Bright blessed days…
Climate chaos. Children dying in windowless warehouses. Cruelty against women. Corruption.
This song played at my wedding as I danced with my grandfather as he sang along–out loud. (He died the very next year. On his birthday.)
The song was sung again last night by a preacher man with a guitar in front of the Meetinghouse where the annual community supper is held in Marlboro on the last Tuesday of June, an event which serves as the opener of the summer season of services still held in the sanctuary upstairs, and includes the rest of us as a fundraiser for the old building upon which we have depended for the preschool and the town meeting luncheon and private functions (weddings and funerals and birthday parties) and especially the brand new community center, housed downstairs.
But I didn’t sing along. And why not? Wasn’t the world around me beautiful? Finally green, and not raining as it had been all day and was predicted to be all evening.
Wasn’t the food wonderful? Baked beans and macaroni & cheese and corn pudding and gorgeous salads. Weren’t there two types of berry crumble—blueberry and raspberry, and didn’t Jean make her coveted, cordialed, chocolate cake?
After supper, the youngest children stood in a line on the stairs out front (like mine once did) to pull the winning tickets for the raffle prizes. Over the years my family has returned home with pottery, calendars, art, wooden trucks, boxes of berries, maple syrup, and even a certificate for a half-cord of wood, and these are just the prizes that I can recall off the top of my head.
What a wonderful world. The small blonde child on the stairs flitted from her grandfather to her father and back to the task at hand: delivering donated prizes to elders and middle-aged ones and parents of small children and even to a teenager or two.
All of this took place in the surround of vibrant green and birdsong and the continuity of a community who connects and cares and creates.
What a wonderful world.
The woman on the bench in front of me, decades older, and in compromised health, sang out loud like my grandfather had. He and I had been a funny couple on the dance floor, with more than a foot between us, and his bald, bony head and mine full of curls looking up at him with my whole life ahead.
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
This not being happy, this refusing to sing among all these mostly white people of some means, is the ultimate form of entitlement I suspect–the privilege of choosing to be bitter when everything in my life is practically perfect.
I went to the Community Supper alone because everyone is gone this week from home, and I could have just as easily stayed put, and I wanted to, but then the sun came out just an hour before the event, and I took that as a sign, especially since I had a refrigerator full of food from the graduation party, and I was in the mood for a good dessert and a prize.
It’s been hard this week home alone. I’ve had to lug the trash to the bottom of the road and drag the empty can back up again. I’ve had to take out the compost and wash the pots and pans and carry the watering can to each of the new flowering trees. I’ve had to do all of this along with my own chores, while each day I face my book which flings me into despair for fear I’m not up to the task of completing it, while I could be in a fun-filled city beside a big body of water with my family, and didn’t I bring this on myself, and isn’t it the epitome of privilege to wrestle with that which is of my own choosing.
I wonder if I’d been happier last night if I’d won. For twenty years I’ve been wanting to win breakfast for two at the inn. It occurred to me last June or maybe the one before that I could just call Jean to see if I could come in for breakfast even though I’m not a guest, but I never remember to do that. I just keep waiting on winning. Like I’ve been waiting on happiness and joy. Until everything–for everyone–is just so. What a waste of time.
Like a dog, at my feet, beneath the table, my mind begs, shamelessly, after each & every meal, even breakfast:
After a display of disgust, I pat it on the head, and say:
“Let’s go see what we have.”
To say nothing seems wrong. To say something, just to say something, seems trite.
What I felt as I drove through a snowstorm in the Blue Ridge Mountains was shock.
“Mary Oliver has died,” said the announcer on NPR, without asking if we were all sitting down.
And just like that a window shut, a door slammed, a page turned, a poem…
Her words came at a time when I was finding myself, and like she did for so many, her way of seeing lit the way, and made it softer and sweeter and whole.
“Friday is the Day of Detachment. Today we tell our children: Enjoy the journey.”
Another dreary day of winter weather, blocking my view & my mood. But after two full days of driving, I am waking up in a place I’ve never been before, to the sound of a bird I don’t know, in a stranger’s bed in Knoxville, Tennessee where my youngest and I have journeyed to celebrate the most powerful thing in the world.
The Smokies were covered today and we extended our stay to avoid the weather up ahead.
As the sun set in the west and the full moon rose in the east, we drove through the Tennessee town in which Dolly Parton was born, on this very weekend, 73 years ago.
What struck me most about this time in the “South,” almost immediately, was the pause people take, even when passing by, even when brushing shoulders with strangers, to say something kind or to smile, which we’re happy to reciprocate only we didn’t know and so we kept on going or kept it short or turned away too soon, respecting individuation & time instead of the gentility of connection. (I wonder if the North is more heavily populated by introverts.)
“Southern women are nice to your face and then talk behind your back,” our Airbnb host said.
The anomalies & attributes of another person or place are easier to see than one’s own, and so here’s what else we noticed:
Cheap gas! We filled up for $1.89 today (almost makes us want to stay and drive around some more.)
70 mph speed limit. With signs that tell you to stay in the right lane if you’re going less than 70.
BILLBOARDS. (Thank you for banning those Vermont!)
GOD: in the bathroom, on the coffee table and everywhere else along with GUNS & SEX (aka. “Adult” establishments), the bedfellows of PATRIARCHY & OPPRESSION, partnered with fireworks, bbq, knives, moonshine, distilleries & and a string of extravagant Christmas-lawn ornament light stores.
Other EXCESSES: Pedicures & sundaes–at the same time. (I was tempted.) A hunk of cornbread & 2 huge biscuits with your small order of chicken & dumplings. “You won’t starve here,” the waiter said. Price: $5.95
Loads of Arby’s & Hardy’s & Chick Fill A (as well as Waffle Houses & Krispy Kremes.)
Angular mountain ranges & ridges.
Today my husband, a highschool social studies teacher, spent his half-day in-service learning how to stop the bleeding. Legs & arms mainly because apparently there’s less success with torso wounds in the classroom.
I don’t feel safe to be a part of any community outside my own.
Of all the words spoken at last month’s Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro, these are the ones that most pierced my oblivion.
How affronting my hubris. How careless. How dangerous even. To dismiss another simply because he/she doesn’t look the way I expect she/he to look.
Acceptance is protection, declared one of the rally signs. I nodded my head in sobriety.
I have a responsibility here.
Hate is a choice. Trans is not, expressed another.
I felt that inside.
“Do better,” the speaker offered to those of us who identified as the sex to which we were born. “Talk to each other. Educate yourselves.”
I am and was so grateful to all those who were courageous enough and vulnerable enough to gather with people like me who want to be allies, but who have so much to learn.
I hope there are more and more spaces where people who identify as Trans feel safe and accepted and most of all feel that they—belong.
At one time I felt awkward around “them,” and then confused, and over time curious, and finally accepting, but now my heart is made glad when I see the woman at the register who kinda looks like a man but who is clearly a woman inside.
She’s always been warm and funny with me even when I accidently use the pronoun, He.