I love riding in cars on country roads with windows down, the whoosh of fresh air passing through, high green trees and looming hills. I love cooking on a fire, nestling snug foil packets into glittering wood embers, keeping an eye on dogs with wagging tails, the doggies themselves keeping an eye on whatever’s cooking. I love bright grass, muddy paths, rivers and streams and lakes and seas. So what am I doing in the city?
I go to Vermont for the fourth of July. I have gone almost every year of my life and can count on one hand the times I have missed and list the reasons — they had to be good — why I skipped out on something so precious. I asked Shawn last night, “Does coming back to the city get harder every year, or have I just forgotten how hard it was last year?” He thought the latter. Probably true.
My mom wrote a poem several years ago, a sestina about Vermont where she said that “dozens of us think of the entire state as the converted church Doug owns.” And it is true, really, that there are two Vermonts. There is the state where dear friends of mine have lived and strangers, too, a beautiful state that is accessible all year. And then there is that smaller and more specific place that belongs to the aforementioned dozens, Doug’s Vermont, Vermont of my childhood, Vermont where I see the people I’ve known longest outside my family, where my brother unwinds, where everyone there knows it’s magic. Vermont where campfire banter is legendary and where shared memories — of injuries and car trouble, of games and inner tubes and jokes that never get old — are a balm that soothes the major and minor aggravations of our other, year-round lives.
It is perfect even when it rains all day and tents get soaked through, even when you have a belly ache and maybe a slight hangover and not enough sleep, perfect even when the brook’s so cold it makes your bones ache.
It is perfect, and it sure is hard to leave. It might get harder every year that us kids grow up more and our parents get older, harder now that my papa is a Grandpa, my niece her own blissed out little person in sheer heaven with all of us there around the clock, with countless nooks to explore and dogs to chase down. In some ways, it is harder to leave now just because we’re grown enough to know that many of us feel the same nagging heartache about heading back to our respective day-to-days when it’s time to go.
In other ways, it gets easier to hold onto that state of mind. Before a tough exam the other day, which I had not studied much for and did not much mind, a classmate asked where I’d been over the weekend and commented that I was still up there even though my body was in class. At work, my boss said that she wished she could have my attitude, a potentially laughable compliment for my often wound up self to receive. I’m trying, people. I’m trying to keep my head in those hills, to not engage with the stresses of the city, to move on with my chin up when people invade my space with cell phones and cigarettes and general clamor. I think it just might be working this time around. Vegetables help, and free things to do in parks. Walking by the water helps, as does taking the N train in the morning and waving to Lady Liberty (I can’t pass The Lady without at least a little wave). Friends bearing balcony grown herb poseys help immensely, and so do cooking and brewing and all the homey projects that I seek to document here.
When I started this blog, my lovely boyfriend was good enough to point out that I am not a country girl, having moved to a city at the age of four. It is true that I have spent the majority of my life in cities. It is true, too, that I am head over heels in love with so many pockets of the cities where I’ve lived, that I love theaters and restaurants and bars, live music and events I never could have dreamed up. I love Coney Island and riding bikes in Red Hook and having access to so many different cultures and points of view. But I started this blog, and I named it what I did, because I feel a lot of the time like it’s easiest to tap into my best self, to feel like my feet are planted and the world makes sense when I’m surrounded by grass and trees, when there’s room for flowers and food gardens. I feel most at rest when I am doing crafty things in the kitchen, making cheese or canning jam, taking on projects that feel, in an abstract way, a bit more rural to me.
Most of these activities are things that I took up after moving to NYC, partly in an attempt to simplify things by making stuff myself, partly in an attempt to make contact with the land by supporting farmers with these endeavors. In the years since I have started canning, I have seen the food preservation section just about double in several major bookstores in the city. I have come across more and more people who make beer in the city, and cheese and kraut and all kinds of other goodies, and I’ve heard of more and more awesome events happening around those things. It is wonderful to know that there is so much going on across the country with urban farming, massive canning events, new CSAs, school gardens, and on and on. Knowing that these things are happening here in the city does my little heart so much good, reminds me that there are others around me who live on concrete and crave the same thing I crave, the ease of setting down roots that comes from being on more accessible land. It is good to remember that any number of actions can be taken to bring that rooted feeling into the city.
I missed Vermont the moment I left. I look forward to the next fourth of July, and I will pine away for that place for the next 360 days or so. But on the whole, I just plain feel blessed to have those few precious days up there, out of cell phone range, and I am grateful beyond words that opportunities exist for me to tap into that VT calm year round, here in the city that is my home. It gets a little easier every year.