Once Upon an Earth Day Fair

Once Upon an Earth Day Fair

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Way back in 1993, my new husband and I volunteered to help create the very first Earth Day Celebration in Cape May County. As a social studies teacher, I’d been incorporating environmental studies into my curriculum for a handful of years, and had recently shaped a collaborative unit with the new science teacher; and as such was poised (and eager!) to expand that consciousness at a larger level.

Just before the event, however, I went into labor, and birthed a miniature baby girl, at the end of the first trimester. I was still able to attend the fair, but was forced to do so from the sterile perch of a beach chair. An early lesson in surrender.

The following weekend was the annual Beach Sweep which I had coordinated on the island since its inception. The turnout was better than ever, and the celebration at Sam’s Pizza afterward a huge success, but photos of me that day reveal a pale and somber young woman.

Sensing the depth of my despair, my husband gave wings to a dream we had long shared. Thus three months later, we left behind the Beach Sweep leadership, the Earth Day committee, our precious students and friends, and our beloved family–including three sets of parents, nine siblings, a dozen aunts and uncles, and countless cousins.

Two sons and a timber-framed home in Vermont followed in the years to come.

Earth Day festivities abound in these Green Mountains, but we quickly learned that our neighbors here had a day to day relationship with the natural world. While recycling and water conservation put us ahead of the curve at the Jersey shore, we had much to learn about the nuances of living in harmony with the earth around us, and we are still learning.

Our sons grew up “on the land,” visiting neighboring farms, and living out their relationship with the earth within our community and beyond–bringing consciousness to state, national and international levels under the guidance of committed educators.

A quarter of a century ago, the Earth Day Fair in New Jersey was, for many, an introduction into simply considering the environment in day to day decisions. Now, it’s more of a punctuation of an evolving relationship with the life-giving force we all call home. What was once Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has matured to include Restore, Replenish and Respect.

This year, it slipped our minds to go to the Earth Day Festivities in town; but we were in our gardens, uncovering signs of spring and looking up to see the geese return to the pond.

The preciousness & fragility of life–human & planet–continue to pulse–inside me–forever shaped by this week in 1993, and by the lives that later grew inside and around me.

May we each find our own way to deepen our relationship with the earth around us, and may this remind us of our response-ability to the life-giving planet with which we have been entrusted.

Happy Earth Day!
Kelly Salasin, April 22, 2013

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Once Upon a Time…

Once Upon a Time…

welcometovermontThere was a single lucid moment in the month of May, 1993, when desperation fused with destiny and our dream to move to the mountains was winged.

Two weeks earlier, I lost our first baby at the end of the first trimester. Suddenly the good jobs, the benefits, the proximity to family, even the sea, lost its hold on us.

In one feverish week, we blanketed the Green Mountain State with our resumes, asking: Will you have us?

A lone school in a small town answered back.

Although its name lacked the kind of charm we’d hoped for (bringing to mind the huge metropolis in Delaware), we were relieved find Wilmington in our atlas in the southern most part of the state; which to our minds meant less winter. (We had yet to realize that Mount Snow was its closest neighbor.)

We spent the weekend before my interview at my husband grandmother’s place in Adams, Massachusetts. Over the years, we’d looked forward to our long weekends in the Berkshires, soaking up the view of Mount Greylock from Anna’s kitchen at the top of Anthony Street; and the occasional, flirtatious jaunts into nearby Vermont. While we never spent very long in the Green Mountain State, it stirred something inside us. Vermont was planting a seed.

That seed sat dormant until a handful of years later when my sister-in-law suggested we check out the hip town of Brattleboro. Though it wasn’t love at first sight, we did decide to drive across the state, on its southern most route, and came across  a quaint, snowy village with beautiful little shops.

“This is the kind of place we could live!” we both agreed, though we never looked any further into it, because when we returned home to the shore, another dream had been realized.

A simple two lines and our attention immediately shifted from adventure to nesting. We even began to look for a house at the beach, something we had long avoided for fear we’d never leave for the mountains. We put on our name on the home daycare waiting list. We found something called a midwife. I bought lots of books. My bought a stuffed bunny. My  mother in law a tiny pair of moccasins.

Thus I return to the beginning of this tale when one of the most excruciating losses of lives gave wings to a dream that keeps on giving.

The day that we pulled into town for my interview at Deerfield Valley Elementary, we had no recollection of ever seeing Wilmington before. Perhaps our minds were preoccupied with how much depended on this day. Perhaps the seasons here transformed everything. It was  a lush early June now, and it had been snowy February then. More than likely, it was also that our entire beings had been transformed in the sixth months since we’d passed through this place–at once thrust into the prospect of parenthood and all the space that this shapes, then abruptly regurgitated… back to the beginning, to start our lives anew.

We returned to Vermont with clear eyes.

Approaching Wilmington, this time from the west, our awareness moved from the village to the valley itself–greeted first by the Deerfield River whose strength is harnessed to provide energy for Vermont, and then by the great Harriman Reservoir where once the town of Medburyville thrived.

We felt the embrace of this narrow valley, cradled within its hillsides, its fields and woodlands. The welcome continued as we traveled up Route 100 to a greater expanse of sky and view, past the North Branch of the river in its quiet repose alongside the handsome Wheeler Farm.

Our broken hearts began to stir…

As we pulled into the parking lot at the school, we realized that we had seen it once before, many, many years earlier. We had even stopped to say how “right” it looked and how nice it would be to work a place like this, nestled in the woods as it was. My younger sister was at New England college at the time, and on one of trips up to the Berkshires, suggested we meet somewhere in between–to ski–at a place called Mount Snow.

There in the school parking lot among the trees and mountains and streams of Vermont, we broke into wondrous laughter. Fate’s hand played.

Despite 199 other applicants, I was hired. Soon after my husband and I settled into in a little farm house by the woods (an answer to another dream, long forgotten inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

A year later we conceived a child who became our first son.

We lived happily ever after…

Well, it wasn’t that simple.

There were realtors and bears and woodstoves, and lots and lots of snow.

And of course, there is always more dreams to dream and losses to bear.

But once upon a time, we asked Vermont if she would have us, and she resoundingly replied, “Yes!”