a love letter to a town

a love letter to a town

In 1993, my new husband and I relocated from the Jersey shore to Vermont after I was hired to teach third & fourth grade in Wilmington. We lived in a little cape beside Green Mountain National Forest for 7 years–the longest I’d ever lived in any one place. That property just went on the market, and although we left it seventeen years ago for a home we built for ourselves, the little house and it’s neighbors still hold a tender space in our hearts.

Tonight, I came across this letter that I wrote to the newspaper just after we left the Deerfield Valley for a mountaintop town, 12 miles east. It’s nice to be reminded of how welcomed we were once upon a time.

To the Editor

Although our family has simply relocated to neighboring Marlboro, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of the day to day people who touched our lives in Wilmington:

to Fire Chief Brian Johnson, who was not only our first neighbor for a short while, but also responded with his crew to more than one call to our home over the years;

to retired Police Chief Tom Donnelly whose involvement in the community, especially in the schools, was beautiful;

to Deerfield Valley Elementary School (where I taught for a year), its staff, students and parents who served as my first community in the Valley;

to Harriet and Vivian at Pettee Memorial, who always made coming to the library a joyful experience for myself and my son Lloyd (we are forever grateful!);

to the checkers at Grand Union who never failed to marvel at my children (special mention to Joanne for the video tips);

to Michel (from Berkely and Veller) and Lynne Matthews who were much more than realtors to us when we arrived as strangers to this area;

to Mr. Gerdes, who I have never actually met or even seen from out behind the steering wheel of the school bus he drives–thank you so much for the daily waves, it’s hard to convey the significance they hold for me;

to Deborah and Wendy at the post office, simply for being there every day;

to the guys (and gals?) who do such a good job on the snowy roads;

to the Valley News for letting us know what was “happening” each week;

to the people who create and organize the annual events which help define and enrich the seasons of our lives;

to Len Chapman, aka “Uncle Lenny”, our landlord, and Diane Classon, and to their families (and to all our neighbors in Medburyville), who became our “family” in Vermont and provided a beautiful place for us to grow;

and lastly, to the many others who I have not mentioned- on behalf of myself, my husband Casey Deane, and our sons Lloyd and Aidan–thank you for being such an important part of our lives in the Valley.

Sincerely,
Kelly Salasin
Marlboro, VT
2000

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For Sale

For Sale

Our first home in Vermont.

The sweet little cape in the back of this photo–at the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest–with a brook & a tire swing & a treehouse in the backyard.

Chickens & horses & mice & bears.

Antiquing, weddings, cookouts, cocktails & neighborhood town meetings in the barn.

Landlords, like family.

Communal gardens & holidays & heartache.

The longest place I’d ever lived (1993-2000.)

Taught 3rd & 4th grade.
Left teaching.
Ran a few non-profits.
Worked at a pizza parlor & a video store.
Became a mother.
Lost my mother.

Babies conceived, miscarried, delivered & breastfed.

Lloyd turned one, two, three, four, five.

Aidan born upstairs.

Casey became a teacher.
Both of us turned 30.

Published my first piece of writing.

Found yoga.

Claimed home.

Listing: https://hermitagedvre.com/listing/4639628/38-new-england-power-company-road-wilmington-vt-05363/

Home in Vermont

Home in Vermont

Almost as soon as I began to set my roots down in Vermont, a quarter-century ago, it began to change me. It wasn’t always pretty, and it was frequently painful, particularly given my level of resistance, and yet, I also gave myself to it–surrendered to these Green Mountains & brooks & black flies & breasts & babies and found myself inspired by the older sisters I never had–first the homesteaders and the healers, then the advocates and the activists, the mystics and the artists--sometimes younger than me, sometimes male, and always among them–fertile permission to live my life as art–which for me means moving forward in the dark of not knowing for sure.

“Eccentric,” a college classmate once accused me, “If not for that, you’d be successful.”

She may have been right, but I wouldn’t have been  “home” in that kind of success.

heat wave

heat wave

Bird Egg Feather Nest, Maryjo Koch

Tiny chirps let us know that the eggs in the nest above our light fixture have hatched,
and so this year, having failed yet again to prevent her nesting there,
we re-arrange our tiny porch to better accommodate feeding & flight,
which is to say: poop;
while eagerly awaiting the sight of little heads popping up from her moss wrapped nest.

She comes every year.
Last June Casey saw each one of her chicks take flight.
She’s been my steady companion this cold spring–flying out each time I arrive home or depart,
and then as the weather warmed, flying back and forth to the nest as I watched from the kitchen, fixing meals for my family, while she fed hers.

Last week I introduced her to a friend.
We’re all Mamas after all.

But then a day went by, and I realized I hadn’t seen her, and then another, and I was almost certain I hadn’t, so this morning, I asked Casey to check.

And all the little chicks are dead.

There won’t be poop all over our porch after all.

june 2017, marlboro, vt

Sign of Spring remembered

Sign of Spring remembered

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

I miss the Reading Lady on Williston–that tiny road on the back side of town.
She was my favorite sign of spring.
Appearing there on the porch of her aging Victorian.
Layers shed beneath gingerbread lattice
While the season unfolded into summer.
First a cup of tea and a blanket.
Then a glass of lemonade and a sun hat.
And always a book (and reading glasses.)
Well into autumn.
Right there on the corner as I drove by.
Did she move away or worse–pass away?
I like to imagine her on the coast of Maine.
Overlooking the ocean or perhaps beside a quiet bay.
Waves lapping at the dock
Where she reads
And reads
And reads
While the world
Spins
A bit slower
Around her.

~

more on the gift of a woman’s presence in Vermont:
The Flower Lady

Orange, Chocolate-Chip Scones~the preservation of democracy

Orange, Chocolate-Chip Scones~the preservation of democracy

Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market
Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market

A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.

This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day

Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.

“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”

Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting  in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.

“Forced, short-sighted, rushed through legislation,” is how one woman described it.

Marlboro Pre-Town Meeting, Kelly Salasin, 2017
Marlboro Pre-Town Meeting, Kelly Salasin, 2017

A discussion of the unintended consequences of Act 46 ensues; and I’m surprised by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me until then, and how deeply it shakes me–not the loss of our precious Junior High, or the loss of our vibrant voice; or how these losses will reshape our school, and our town; but something that strikes at the center of self-governance:

Town Meeting.

I know not everyone can make it on the first Tuesday in March, and I know that efforts in other towns to shift the meeting to an evening or a weekend haven’t produced the desired results; But our old Town House fills up with body heat and breath and voice and community, and that’s something.

And even in the years when you’re not in a chair or on a bench or at that front table or up at the podium, the gathering holds space for who we are and how we live and what happens here, not just in Marlboro, but all over the Green Mountain state, and even across our nation, as Bernie proved to be true.

Sure Town Meeting would continue for awhile; the old timers here are hearty like that; but the absence of the school budget–ie. the absence of children at the heart of decision making–would hollow out the gathering, until it became a dusty relic of itself.

16998821_10155188169798746_4073628770178210955_n
“New Stairs,” Marlboro Town Hall, Kelly Salasin, 2017

Just before our Pre-Town Meeting closes, a follow up question about our “Geographically Isolated” and “Structurally Isolated” school comes from the floor:

“If we find that it doesn’t work for our town, can we go back to what we had?”

The response sends a chill through my body, particularly this year:

“Once you take it apart, you can’t build it again.”

The Month of May

The Month of May

The Green Man arrives. May Day. 2016
The Green Man arrives. May Day. 2016

May 29
The world conspired to keep me awake. The warm air. The intoxicating sounds. The sky. Especially the sky! First Mars. Then all those constellations whose shapes & names I never bothered to learn. Then something else. A first for the season! So soon? Maybe it was a plane. A falling star. A UFO. I got up three times. After midnight. To be sure.

Fireflies!

~
My guys strut around in the Rockin Rose towels I bought for spring, Makes my feminist heart sing.

May 27
Here’s to black fly bites & ant infestations.
Without which we’d drown in the intoxication of May.

~

I suppose I was 17 and she was not quite 2. We dove under the sea together and the salt water soaked her long lashes and made the gift of her in my arms under the warm sun almost unbearable.

“You have such pretty eyes, Bon Bon,” I said.

After which, she looked at me, just as earnestly, with the sand kissing the fine hairs of my face, and said,

“You have two eyes too, Kel Kel!”

~

One year ago today. Bernie announced his campaign. On the waterfront. In Burlington, Vermont.

 

May 26
both boys back in the house

~

At 52, I’ve become such a risk taker. In relationship. First with a friend. Then a sister.
Exposing where I’ve been hurt instead of tucking it inside. To fester.

After I share,  I listen and respond to the ways I’ve presented a similar challenge. To them.

I am so brave. And vulnerable.

We all are.

~

May 24

after 10 days away, i love re-integrating back home
under the cover
of rain…

May 22
Another day, another graduate!

Cousins

May 21, 2016
Am I pretty?
52, and I still want
to know. Daddy,
do you think so?

May 20

Medicine enters the next generation…
Nephew Corey (my sister Robin’s oldest and the first of our next gen) JUST graduated from Medical School.
Continuing on the path of his father (ER doc), grandfather (Surgeon) & grandmother (Nurse), great-grandfather (Surgeon), great-great grandfather (Physician) & great-great grandmother (Nurse), and his great-great-great grandfather (Health Officer.)

May 19
The island in May. Empty of commerce. Pulsing in preparation. Landscapers. Dune-shapers. Painters. Stockers. Deliverers. A shoulder season like September, but intemperate & gusty with an unwelcome chill. A desire for baring, not covering. Skin. Aching for swimsuits, not sweatshirts. The anxious cheer of Open for Business. Eager staff training & being trained. Busboys seeking anything upon which to apply clean rags. Everyone practicing on pretend customers, like me, before the real ones arrive, in throngs, in season, with the height of the summer sun…

~
Happy 26th Anniversary of our Marriage, Casey
the “backdrop to women’s oppression for centuries”
(I wouldn’t want to live inside this institution with anyone else.)

 May 18

Though I was born here, and lived here from time to time throughout my life, it is the returning that I most appreciate. And in this, I have been well received, both by the sea, and by those who have welcomed me and my family over a lifetime. First grandparents, then parents and in-laws, aunts & uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, friends of siblings, parents of friends–each providing spare bedrooms, empty apartments, entire homes–so that I might know, and always remember, that I belong.

May 16

The pre-patriarchal goddess, Hera, returned for a ritual bath to the Spring of Kanathus every year to renew her Virginity–the quality of belonging to herself.

~Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

~

In my bag, I have packed, just about 700 pages
My own
Ready for gentle eyes

 May 14

If ever cease I to call Vermont my home, this may be what I’ll miss most…

~

May 13

To her home state. The great state of North Carolina.

“Let us learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past… Let us write a different story this time.”

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch

May 12

How often have I lived my life in compensation…
for another’s lived or unlived life…
Or my own…
How might I live without it…

Where does the balance of self reside?

 

 May 11
Healers, artists, builders, coaches, counselors, teachers.This rich village in which we raise children.With special gratitude for Beverly Current at the Colonial Pool & Spa, who retires this summer, but not before coaxing a reluctant swimmer into proficiency & delight. True mastery.

May 10

the communing season

~

 Christened the new picnic basket.

Life is good.

~

I don’t read a lot of fiction. Because I feel manipulated and all. But my favorite fiction is once read. Sent by a friend. Who just had to share. Post office and all. Hoping I’d love it too.

May 10
I guess there’s some alchemy to an old white guy reminding us who we are as a country (and who we are not.)

#Bernie

~

30 years ago. The phone rang. It was Casey Deane.
Calling for a job.

~

 what if i didn’t try to change how i was feeling.

what if i felt tired or depressed or heavy or all three and i just let that be. as if there was nothing wrong with me. as if how i am feeling is an invitation. as is. to really know. me. nothing to change. nothing to fix. nothing to flee.

next time, i’ll try this.
today i had chocolate. (lots of it.)

~

~EARTHSHINE: Sunlight reflects off the earth and lights up the moon; most intensely just before & after the New Moon of April & May.

ECOlogical Calendar

 May 9

Mothers Day sightings:
Racoon. Porcupine. (both dead)
Fox with two kits. Crossing road.
Turkey. Crossing highway.
Mouse. Crossing Rte 9.

(honorable mention: Golden Eagle, seated, on Rte 9, the week prior.)

~

Mothers day. Every day.
Feel the love. The sacrifice. THE POWER.
Every country.
Every home.
Every womb.

May 8

Weekend witnessing:

~A middle-aged man & woman, searching for trash along the side of the road, pause to exchange a touch & a kiss. ‪#‎GreenUpDay‬

~A silver-haired man wipes tears from his cheek as the chorus sings, “Every week, I visit my mother. She lives in a place where they can take care of her. She’s not sure that I’m her daughter, but that no longer makes me cry.” ‪#‎BrattleboroWomensChorus‬

~HEROINES with young children at performances throughout time, braving the gauntlet of breakdowns, while the rest of us get to focus so intently that we bristle at each squeak. ‪#‎Motherhood‬

~

Celebrating all the ways we’ve been mothered well, and all the ways we can mother ourselves…

May 7

I can look out the window and see another dreary day or I can see the carpet of white blossoms on the greening earth.
I can look toward my kitchen and see the crumbs and disarray, or I can sense into the years of feeding a family and celebrating home.
I can look into the past and remember a mother who abandoned her children or I can see a woman who looked her demons in the eye and invited to them to the table where she nourished my soul.

May 6

Even the cd shuffler knows that stealing the sun after a few hours flirtation is crueler than another day without it.

~

Daffodils on a string of cold, dreary days; like sunny people at funerals.
~
You know that moment just before you transition into deep sleep? It’s there that He appears. Waking me. With a startle. Each night since Cruz dropped out. (Thank the Lord.) But now there’s no more pretending. He’s their guy. #Trump

~

Yesterday I finally tracked down a beloved. I can’t believe how hard she’s been to find. Made simpler by one fact: the smile that greeted me every morning in 7th, 8th & 9th grade was the same one she beamed at 51.

From her obituary.

~

That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.

Pope Francis – May 2016

May 3

After a 6 month hiatus, I’m struck by a tidal wave of sensation. Fear. Constriction. Resistance. A
nd something even more immobilizing:
Shame.
Who do I think I am?!
The stakes are this high.
9 years of experience washed away.
Forced back to the beginning.
The initiation.
Ishvara Pranidhana.
Let my successes and my failures be an offering.
#‎TeacherAppreciationDay‬‪#‎Unmasked‬

May 1st

I asked Father Hodges–the one who wore a hair shirt and had us sing Irish drinking tunes in our senior theology class at Wildwood Catholic High–if I might be excused from getting on my knees and saying the rosary.

“I’m not Catholic,” I said.

The next day he volunteered me to crown Mary in the May pageant.

#‎PatriarchalGoddessInitiation‬