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.
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:
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.
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.”
There comes a day when summer’s end is whispered almost everywhere.
Is it always a Sunday? Or does it just feel that way because it’s August.
Three weeks deep into the month that steals the sun, we gather for a potluck brunch at the pond for a second time this season.
We do the same every Friday evening, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the Sunday brunch is something special, arranged spontaneously by a string of unusually fair days, or in this case, by the approaching end of our time together at South Pond.
Some years we arrive for breakfast in sweatshirts, and other years in swimsuits, but always with thermoses of coffee and pitchers of orange juice and pints of just picked berries.
Either Carol or Joan (both if we’re lucky) will have a basket with something warm and cinnamon-y inside, and then there’s Don with his dish of richly crusted quiche; and Susan’s homemade goat cheese; and Andy, with eggs and meat, which he’ll fry on the grill under the bright morning sun until we are all well fed and his head is dripping with sweat.
Friends, and friends of friends, fill plates and gather around picnic tables or on blankets or in beach chairs in the sand, while young ones scurry off with bowls of fruit to nibble beside the swing set or atop of overturned boats.
Some arrive late, and heads will rise to see what new dish is added; and if empty handed, these latecomers will be encouraged to join the feast, “There’s plenty left,” we’ll say (whether there is or isn’t), and odd forks and pot lids for plates will be produced to accommodate.
No one should think on summer’s end at a time like this, and if one finds herself doing so, she should keep it private and try to talk herself out of it by thinking things like: those shadows are always just as deep beside the shade tree at this time of day; that patch of red on the distant hill is surely a decaying branch of leaves; the sudden, crisp current of the water is a relief on such a humid day.
After breakfast, we turn toward crossword puzzles or card games or conversation about the weather or politics or bovine lactation– with Coral who is off to get her doctorate in Alberta in a field that is apparently filled with possibilities.
Other young adults, once children, are asked about their college or travel plans; while other children, once babies, swim out to the dock or paddle off in kayaks, as mothers swim across the pond to the sandbar, no longer needing to look after anyone but themselves.
Someone picks up a ukulele and suddenly music makes more magic of this day. Time slows, and although we’ve all grown older together, it seems as if this morning, this pond, this community… will never end.
Thus I force my surrender into late summer’s embrace, pretending it’s not ending, as I open my novel and sink down into my chair.
The illusion is almost perfect until someone says she has to go, and calls after her kids to find a ride home if they want to stay longer.
I look around and realize that most everyone here can drive already.
By the time I finish the chapter, I see that same family, all four of them, walking in single file up the pond path.
Each of our families has distinct “pond” personalities–some arriving every afternoon and staying for dinner, others preferring quiet mornings, and yet others stopping in for a dip here and there in an otherwise full day.
As one who stays into the night, I’ve watched this particular family depart many times up the same worn path under the same trees–only now the children are taller and stronger than the parents.
Like a doorway out of the present, and away from our shared past, this family departs under a dappled light that most certainly is not summer’s.
Close to a hundred Marlborians gathered last night for Part II of the Community Meeting Process with Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD). Below you can find the Live Twitter coverage of the event (in a 140 characters or less)–including a link to the results of the town vote for the top two community priorities.
Don’t forget to mark your calenders for the last gathering of this three-part series slated for Monday, May 24. VCRD will return with a resource team specifically organized to support the goals set by our town.
“There is no power greater than a community
discovering what it cares about.”
Now that we know what matters to us as a community, it’s time to come together to make it happen. Let’s have some fun! (PS. Don’t tell the little one, but a town pub was high on the priority list for most community members.)
Paul Bruhn, Executive Director, Preservation Trust of Vermont
Patricia Coates, State Director, Congressman Peter Welch Office
Paul Costello, Executive Director, Vermont Council on Rural Development
Steve Gold, Deputy Secretary, Agency of Administration (Retired)
Julie Jacques, County Director, Farm Service Agency
Jeff Lewis, Executive Director, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation
Larry Mandell, Founder, Woodbury College
James Matteau, Executive Director, Windham Regional Commission
Johanna Miller, Co‐Chair, Vermont Climate Action Network
Max Muise, USDA Rural Development
Tom Murray, Executive Director, Vermont Telecom Authority
Jenny Nelson, Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Bernie Sanders
Nancy Owens, Executive Director, Housing Vermont
Bob Paquin, State Director, Farm Service Agency
Julian Portilla, Program Director, Mediation & Applied Conflict Studies, Champlain College
Chuck Ross, State Director, Senator Patrick Leahy Office
Will Sawyer, Program Manager, UVM Center for Rural Studies
Ryan Torres, Philanthropic Advisor, Vermont Community Foundation
For more information, contact Margaret at 802‐223‐6091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the three month process, towns create local goals and action plans and are assisted by a Visiting Team who brings state and regional expertise and resources to the table. These state and regional experts will be on hand as active listeners as community members from Marlboro share their challenges, inspirations and current work ongoing in town.