The World Comes to Me

The World Comes to Me

vermont, world, UN Women

Twenty-three years ago, I took a big pay cut and moved to Vermont. Another year later, I surrendered that income to invest myself in motherhood–because unlike work and success and travel, motherhood hadn’t come easy to me.

As a stay at home mom, I couldn’t afford to go out for coffee. I’m not exaggerating. My husband was a new teacher, and we had to pay for insurance out of pocket, and the cost of living in Vermont was surprisingly higher than New Jersey. I had a college degree and 8 years in the classroom; prefaced by a handful of years managing a restaurant; but I felt compelled to give my all to motherhood just as I had to the endeavors that came before it.

More than a decade passed before I let some other interests back in. My sons no longer needed me in the hour to the hour, but I was terrified of awakening passion for something other than them. I played it safe, in part-time roles, and little by little my sense of a separate self began to re-emerge.

More than anything, I longed to travel–to know myself in some foreign place again–but another decade passed before I left the country; unless you count crossing the border of Vermont into Canada; which admittedly was a huge thrill–all three times.

I was approaching 50 when I was offered another safe, part-time position, in a tiny rural office. I almost fell out of the interview chair, however, when I was asked if I had a valid passport. 5 months later, I was in Chile. The following year, Japan.

Surprisingly, it was my stay-at-home grandmothers who planted the seed of travel in me. As a girl, I sat at my great-grandmother Mildred’s knee, and watched as she brushed her hand across the cover of her huge atlas, turning page after page, as she pointed–to all the places she had traveled with her husband after his retirement as a Merchant Marine.

Her daughter, my grandmother Lila, dreamed of leaving home and working internationally. She confided this while helping me with my French, after I told her about the thrill of a school field trip to the United Nations.

“I wanted to be a translator,” she said.

Work. Motherhood. Travel.
Passion. Devotion. Choices.
Losses. Realizations.

I’m 52 now, and I’ve given up that traveling job for something else.

During my years at home, I discovered what a wise woman once said:

Our true passion brings us balance.

Even though I did it so well, and gave it my all–managing a restaurant and a classroom and a home and a non-profit, none of these were my passion.

I was the last to realize my own.

Others called me a writer first.

For the past few years, I’ve dedicated myself to the page. I can afford a cup of coffee now, even lattes, lots of them, but not much else. My husband is still a teacher and we still have one son at home. The other is abroad, living the life I once knew.

I’ve begun to miss the world.

Once a year it comes to me.

(The 60th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations; click here)

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Everything I Aspire Toward…

Everything I Aspire Toward…

When I first moved to Vermont in 1993, I saw this “poem” posted on the board at Klara Simpla–Wilmington’s health food store (aka. Southern Vermont’s well-being Mecca.)

I took my first yoga class at Klara Simpla, bought my first herbs, tinctures and supplements there; and found some books that spoke to my soul.

Of the many ways I was inspired at Klara Simpla, this poem planted a seed that has been watered and nurtured by my life in Vermont.  It’s as true of what I want today as it was when I first set foot into this state.

Beware Signs of Inner Peace

A tendency to think and act  spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

A loss of interest in judging other people

A loss of interest in judging self

A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of   others

A loss of interest in conflict

A loss of  ability to worry

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others  & nature

Frequent attacks of smiling

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather  than  make them happen

An increased susceptibility to love extended  by others  and  the uncontrollable urge to  extend it

(by Saskia Davis, RN)

Rolling Stone No More

Rolling Stone No More

While snuggling in bed beside my husband, I spring up with a realization.

“I think this is our 7th Christmas.”

“Not yet,” my husband says, counting on his fingers.  It’s easy for him to know from when to begin: 2004, and the 48 hour Christmas.

“You’re right,” he says, “It is 7.”

“You know how significant this is,” I say.

“Yes–And it’s the house ‘I’ built.”

7 years ago this December, Casey and I lived apart for the first time in 20 years. That November the boys and I moved to my sister’s in Florida so that he could devote every waking (and barely-waking) hour to finishing this house in time for Christmas (since he already missed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving.)

At midnight on December 22, he picked us up at the airport and we moved into our home–the first home that we have ever owned.

“This will be the house that I’ve lived in the longest,” I say, as I roll over to turn off the lamp at my bedside.

“And it’s the house ‘I’ built,” he says again, rolling to turn off his own lap.

We almost didn’t make it to 7 years. Back in 2008 when Casey was unemployed, he looked at some international teaching jobs–a prospect which was thrilling to me–but meant that I’d  have to start over from scratch on the 7 year thing.

“I haven’t made it yet,” I say, settling back down into Casey’s arms. “It’s not Christmas yet, and I could die or the house could burn down or something.”

“Don’t say that kind of stuff,” Casey says, pushing me away.

The truth is that this is such an important milestone to me that I’m anxious about it. I felt this same fearful uncertainty before I left for England in my junior year, and then again before our first baby was born.

Sometimes the things we really want seem that impossible, especially when they’re so close to coming true.

I remember when Casey reached the 7 year mark with me. It was an important finish line for him–it meant he surpassed my first love. Though he’s now more than tripled that number, he still reminds me of his longevity–“Almost 4 times as long,” he says.

First love, first son, first house. They’re all so significant.

I don’t know what number home this is for me. I’d rather not count. As an Army brat who was born while her dad was still in college, I’ve had my share of moves and homes and schools

My own boys were born and raised in this same small town, attended the same small school, and grew up with the same kids that they played with at preschool. I was 14 when my parents finally settled down in one place.

That home had been the one that belonged to my grandparents, my beloved “6012.” But our time there was short. My parents divorced, and not only did we lose our family, but our home.

After that, I went to Europe three times, lived out West, moved back home, and then took off for these Green Mountains.

Our first place in Vermont was a tiny farm-house nestled beside a “babbling” brook, and seated at the foot of a mountain beside the National Forest. Both my boys were conceived there, and for seven years, it was our “home sweet home.”

When we left that rental, it was heartbreaking, but the time had come for us to set out on our own, and a few moves later, we were here–in the house that Casey built–with the help of his boys and all of our friends.

7 years ago this Christmas.

(Did I count right?)

Kelly Salasin, December 2011

Until I moved to Vermont…

Until I moved to Vermont…

Kelly Salasin

Until I moved to Vermont, I didn’t truly appreciate “summer.”

I didn’t understand the Equinox or the Solstice.

I didn’t know the meaning of “southern exposure.”

I took the sun for granted.

I’d never felt spring in my bones.

I resisted heat.

I didn’t get dirty.

I wore white.

I shaved.

Living here now, I steep in each season down to my core.

I EMBRACE summer like a lover.

I relish his kisses on my skin.

I delight in my feet upon the earth.

I sink my hands into the soft soil,

and slip my body into the welcoming waters.

To live in Vermont is to know your connection to all things.

With that gift,

comes

both pleasure

and grief.

To Be of the Earth

To be of the Earth is to know

the restlessness of being a seed

the darkness of being planted

the struggle toward the light

the pain of growth into the light

the joy of bursting and bearing fruit

the love of being food for someone

the scattering of your seeds

the decay of the seasons

the mystery of death

and the miracle of birth.

~John Soos

A Conversation with Mrs. Janet “Barber” Pool of Wilmington, Vermont

A Conversation with Mrs. Janet “Barber” Pool of Wilmington, Vermont

(This interview with Mrs. Pool took place in her home in Wilmington in 2001 just after 9/11 and was published in the Cracker Barrel Magazine that year.)

Janet Pool is eighty-eight years old and full of grace.  She’s a native of Wilmington and has spent pretty much her entire life here as have generations before her.    Born Janet Robinson Barber on July 6, 1913 (“the same month as President Gerald Ford”), Janet is a descendant of James Flagg who came to Wilmington in 1783, and of Issac Hubbard who arrived here in the spring of 1800.


In 1934, Janet wed William A. Pool , Jr. from Marlboro, Vermont.  Nicknamed “Mr. Somerset,” Mr. Pool was a  well-loved naturalist, deeply regarded for his work as a wildlife photographer.  Bill passed away in 1981 after conserving two-hundred acres of forest land around the Pool Family Farm in Marlboro, Vermont.


Both Mr. and Mrs. Pool served the town and county in many offices over a long period of time.  In 1993, Janet was the recipient of the American Legion Citizenship Award, citing her
extensive work throughout the community, including her involvement with senior groups, which she continues to this day.

Mrs. Pool is the familiar and welcoming face you see each week when you arrive at the Deerfield Valley Seniors meal site in Jacksonville.  It is no wonder that she is so well loved–renown as she is for her warm and gracious spirit.  Mrs. Pool astonishes those much younger with her amazing recollection of names and faces–as well as  life events and little details.  Janet leaves each person she encounters (whether an old friend or a new) feeling very, very cherished.


It is my honor and a great pleasure to offer you a glimpse of this special lady in her own “voice.”

Kelly Salasin

Family  Ties

My parents were Merton and Minnie Barber.  I remember somebody had a couple chickens that were called by those names!

My father was the son of HF Barber (Hardy Barber),  who owned HF Barber and Son, a store that was where the town office is now.  There’s pictures in there of my grandfather in the store.

(In the 1980 Wilmington Old Home Week book,  Janet wrote this about it,  “Many have memories of this store as a genial meeting place for card players or those who just wanted to sit around the stove and reminisce.”)

My father, Merton Barber, later sold the business and acquired a general insurance agency where I was employed until 1955 after which I purchased the company from him.  Though I have since sold the agency, it still bears the family name, BARBER and JARVIS.

My grandparents and my great-grandparents pictures are in Memorial Hall.  A while back, I  found my grandfather’s civil war papers and his discharge order.    My grandfather’s mother was a Flagg; and that’s why I’m so patriotic!

War and Patriotism

I have a picture here of (my husband) Bill (William Pool Jr.) when he was in uniform.  He was in the thick of it.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge.

Here’s a photo of VJ Day, 1945, August 14th in Wilmington.  That’s the day of the surrender, of Japan.  We built a fire right there in the town square and had a little parade; I played the accordion, and we all had a good time.

I don’t like the idea (of another war), no.   But I feel we got to do something.  In fact the other day at the Seniors, Tuesday group, I wrote a little prayer.  Peg Morgan had us join hands and repeat the Lord’s Prayer like we do, and of course we always repeat the pledge of allegiance first; then I read my prayer:

Dear Lord, Listen to this tiny prayer from a tiny group. Let it mingle with the thousands of prayers being issued today throughout the country.  America has been in mourning for a week over a senseless, horrible act… Bless those who have lost loved ones, also the leaders of our nation, the rescuers, and many others… Above all, God Bless America, the Land of the Brave and the Free.  Amen’

Sisters and Children

This is Beaver Street that I live on;  Beaver Brook is just over there.  I’ve been here since ‘47.   I was married then, I must have been thirty-four.  That was right after the war.  We moved here after Bill was discharged from the service.  My father originally owned the house and when he passed away in ‘65 he left it to me.

The house up on Lisle Hill where I was born belongs to my sister, Muriel Barber Manning .  She was born thirteen months after me.  My mother always dressed us just alike. Muriel lives up in Hinesburg, Vermont.  She went up there to teach and found a husband.   She wasn’t married ’til she was over 50.
Neither of us have any children,  but I always loved children.   I always had some around.    My husband, you see, had four sisters, and one brother; the brother didn’t have any children, but the girls had plenty, so some of them were with us lot of the time.

In fact, (my niece) Bertha (Pool) spent most of her highschool days living with us while going to the highschool here.   Her sisters stayed with us some of the time too as their family lived in Marlboro.
I went to that school (Wilmington Middle High School) all twelve years–and my father was one of its earliest graduates.
Yes, as I say, I’ve always had kids around; the people across the street, their children call me ‘Nana’.  Here’s a photo of me with the neighbors and here’s one taken a couple of years ago with the ‘Halloween kids’  I always like to dress up with them.

Romance and Floods

I met my husband, William Pool, at the (Deerfield Valley Farmers Day) Fair in ‘33.   A funny thing is, another fellow invited me to go the fair that day, but he called and said he couldn’t go.   So I went alone,  and that’s when Bill spotted me.

He’d come from Marlboro to go to the fair.  He used to walk seven miles to take me to the movies;  that’s when they had them in Memorial Hall.  His father would wait up for him to get home.  It was something!
I remember the fair of 1938;  that was the time of the flood.  Bill had a huge collection of deer antlers on the table there (on exhibit) and they floated around, but he found most of them.   That was quite the fair!

Hunting and Wedding Plans

I was married at home, just a quiet wedding, up at Lisle Hill.  I don’t remember much of a party after, but I remember we left on a honeymoon… went as far as Greenfield!

That was December 1st, 1934, and that makes me think of something that one fellow thinks is funny.   Bill was a great hunter you know, and in those days deer hunting was the last two weeks in November,  so he had to wait to December 1st to get married!

Girlfriends and School Days

I don’t have too much company anymore,  but one of my school friends was here last week,  and stayed a couple days, and we talked.  Her name is Meredith Wood.   She was born here.   She comes up every year to get maple syrup up at Carl Boyd’s.  She’s eighty-eight too.  She’s pretty spry!
Meredith and I graduated highschool together.  We had white dresses, white stockings, white shoes;  no caps and gowns then!  We graduated down at Memorial Hall, and I remember they would present us with a  bouquet of flowers after.
I was Salutatorian… that doesn’t mean much for eleven graduates!  (There’s just three of us left now.)  I had to speak and greet the people.   I remember the last part of (my speech):   I said, ‘Go forth, attain, attain!’ I’ve got a copy of it somewhere.
We used to have what they called public speaking (in school).   I started out when I was in the first grade.  I spoke a piece;  It was at Christmas time:

You know what the Christmas mousey did
before he went to his trundle bed?
‘Dear Mr.  Santa if you please,
put in my stocking some Christmas cheese.’

The Cracker Barrel and Old Times

Oh yes, I’ve been a fan  ever since it started.   I like it, it’s a homey paper.  It tells about people as they are, you know.   And there are so many things that I recognize in there.

I’ve been mentioned (in The Cracker Barrel) before, (but this is the first article just about me).  Nice of you to think of it.

Not much has stayed the same here (in the valley), not much.  Of course the buildings, the old buildings, they’ve tried to keep the outside as they were, but they’re different inside.   This house hasn’t changed though;  it was built in 1895.

There aren’t many folks left that I can talk old times with.  Evelyn Keefe, remember her?   She and I used to visit a lot.  Now there’s Dot Turner.   She lives on Dix Road, I think they call it.   Her house is the oldest house in town.

Women and Careers

I wonder if there are other things that I ought to tell you… I’m trying to think.  It was funny you know when my mother came to town;  she came to teach, and they told her there weren’t any eligible men left, but she found one!    My mother was a Robinson: Minnie Swazee Robinson.  My middle name is Robinson.   She was the oldest of six girls.

She taught up here at the school in 1909.  She quit teaching when she was married.  My mother was a very talented person, a good sewer, seamstress; also an artist, she could paint things.  Neither my sister or I took after her in that respect;  we were more career people I guess.

Muriel was a school teacher and I was in the (insurance) office; did that most of the time.  My mother stayed home; and she’d make our dresses and this and that.  I used to like her  Red Flannel Hash.  Do you know that?  It’s after a boiled dinner.

Aging and Some Advice…

Well, I’d like to be back, maybe not quite so young, but maybe in my twenties and thirties; that’s some of the prime of life, I think.

My maternal grandmother lived to be 95.  (And I plan) to go right along the way I am.  Course you have to look to the future.  Right now I’m pretty well set.  Bertha (my niece) nextdoor, runs errands for me, and Sam Hall, upstairs, does the outside work.  So it works out pretty good.  I do my own housework myself; I tell the doctor, ‘That’s my exercise!’

My advice on aging?  It’s all attitude! If you feel, ‘Oh , I can’t go today, I can’t do this,’  it’s good to push yourself a little and have a good time.   As a eighty-nine year old told me the other day,  ‘We got to keep going!’

I agree.  You got to be positive about things. I imagine I’ve always (felt this way).  That song, Young at Heart, is a good one to go by.

Fairytales can come true
it can happen to you
if you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find,
to be narrow of mind,
if you’re young at heart…
And life gets more exciting
with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart
or on it’s way…
Don’t you know  that it’s worth,
every treasure on earth,
to be young at heart…
And if you should survive
to a hundred and five
Look at all you’ll derive
out of being alive!
And here is the best part
You’ll have a head start
If you are among the very young at hear
t!

(written by Carolyn Leigh and Johnnie Richards.)

Halloween Vermont Style

Halloween Vermont Style

A family of pumpkins on the back porch, photo: Will DeBock

“I really like the houses where we sit down and talk to people.”
Aidan, age 14 (last trick or treat?)

Halloween is a unique experience of community in rural Vermont. Unlike the warp speed of suburban trick-or-treating, there’s lots of downtime (aka. distance) between houses here–either by foot or by car. This took getting used to at first, but my kids were born here so they never knew the difference.

Over the years, I’ve come to treasure this slowed experience, taking cues from my kids, who seemed unfazed by the pace, stopping in at homes to sit and visit, munching on the baked goodies while we talk, and getting acquainted with members of the community we may know only from sight.

Each family has their own highlights for sure. I know that mine loves the bit of walking we do from house to house on our mile-long dirt road, bumping into others in the dark and banding together as we arrive to spend time with neighbors.

Margaret and John’s has been a favorite over the years, and we feel the sting of her loss now.  Jean at the Inn is another highlight–with hot cider for all, and amazing cookies for the kids (they always share …after I beg.)

Rachel and Pieter live way out from the center of town, but their homemade donuts are worth the  drive. Then there’s Gail’s fudge up on the hill, and Megan’s pumpkin seeds and blonde brownies. (We miss her old dog Millie.)

When Kirsten was teaching at the school, she made homemade taffy in her kitchen on her back road; now Liz and Craig share homemade treats there.

Sometimes, there’s a bonfire down North Pond Road; and often a moonlit view from atop Cow Path 40.

On a warmer Hallows Eve, we’d eat dinner in the small cemetery on Fox Road.  Our friend Jesse is there now so we’ll at least stop to leave something at his headstone.

The hardest part of a rural Halloween for me is that we never get many trick-or-treaters ourselves. I love that knock on the door, and the sight of costumed child on my porch whose bag I get to help fill with treats.  Now I bring the treats with me so that I can share them with friends along the way.

Popcorn or candy?” I’ll ask.  The kids take the popcorn.  The adults all want candy.

Kelly Salasin, 2009

ps. Click here for “Candy Capitalism.”

Making a “Living” in Vermont

Making a “Living” in Vermont

(note: all photos copyright)

 

 

Watch out or Vermont will change your life.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have some theories…

First of all, it is fantastically beautiful… each day, around some new or familiar corner, is a gift of sight or smell or sound. There is so much raw experience of nature here and it’s offered freely without human ingenuity.

Moose at dusk, Kelly Salasin

I did not search to find a young deer nibbling in the field yesterday, she simply appeared and allowed me to gaze upon her. I did not coax the leaves around my home to burst into colors dazzling my senses. Nor did I ask the apples to give off their sweet smell on this crisp morning. And I did not beckon the mists to hang in the valley shrouding the hillsides.

 

copyright Joanne Esau

 

All of this just IS– in a place where civilization and nature harmonize.

A friend of mine said that one of the strongest reasons she had for living in Vermont was the “tree to people ratio.” And it’s true, there’s always one (or a hundred trees) around when I need them… whether it be for shade or climbing, building or embracing. The woods here take me from season to season– from the lushness of summer to the naked clarity of winter.

copyright: Joanne Esau

 

I have a deep appreciation for the water in Vermont as well… the sound of it mostly, and the stillness it brings. I have the gift of a brook in my back yard, just off my bedroom door, and I fall asleep to its soft lullaby at night and wake in the morning to the sun rising over it… in pinks and purples and golds.

Then there are the people who live here in this place called Vermont. They are as unique and as diverse as the seasons themselves. Most lacking the knack (or need) at pretending to be friendly, but all expressing the ability to relate to one another in ways that matter most. It is their example and courage that help me uncover my own path in this world as we each embrace life here.

As a place and a people, Vermont holds a transformative energy. I feel it as a melting , a slowing down. I’ve begun to notice that there is this whole other world out there where life is moving much too fast; suddenly I’m no longer part of it.

Forest Glen by Marjorie Tudor

May Sarton writes that Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature… is an instrument of grace.’

Life in Vermont is such an instrument. The rhythm of existence here offers more of a choice in how time passes, and that is no truer than in the winter months.

copyright: Marjorie Tudor

Time stands still in a snowfall. Lives are suspended. The world reborn. There’s at least half a year for that kind of renewal here, and this is food for the soul (even if it makes me a bit crazy .)

Then there are those other fickle seasons that don’t stay around as long. I don’t think I ever gave much thought to mud until I moved to Vermont. Now I revere is as the first sign of spring (no matter what it does to my floors.)

Aidans Shoes, credit: Kelly Salasin

And when those buds start to appear on the trees, it’s like Christmas all over again. I decide that I won’t relocate or get divorced and that maybe I will have another child. The months of shoveling and the layers of outerwear suddenly make sense when what has been white and brown for so very, very long is appearing again in color.

Colors are enchanting in Vermont. They lure loads of visitors to our state each fall. I don’t know of anybody, of any age, tourist or Vermonter, who can walk by a tree on fire and not stop to marvel at creation.

photo: Marjorie Tudor

There are days when I unconsciously drive home from work, pull up to my house, walk to the door, and then freeze– as the hillside engages me in worship. All the mundane falls away and my troubles disconnect. The brilliance of nature beckons, and none can resist her call.

Perhaps this explains why Vermont is home to so many artists and artisans, poets and musicians, healers and teachers; who in their practice give back so much of the beauty they find here.

To these children, Vermont offers her deep Winters to tend their work; her vibrant Springs to recharge; her lush Summers to evoke; and her rich Autumns to nourish.

In the short time that I’ve lived in Vermont, I’ve come to know her as a LIVING, breathing being.

photo: Will DeBock

Vermont is Life– so much more than buildings and careers and thoughts.  She is beautiful and powerful. She is cold and she is icy. She calls me forth to look upon her, and to see myself in her reflection. She shows me struggle, hope, beauty and death.

She causes me to draw within and renew my ties to that which I am made.

(Wilmington, VT, 1999)