Friday, January 10, 2014

Northern light

It's our last full day in Vermont. We've packed our suitcases, and the packing cases have gone.
This girls have walked to the school bus through the snow for the very last time. "I'm not going to cry all day," said Emily, as she wiped one gloved hand across her eyes. "Perhaps your tears will freeze!" said Lizzy, helpfully, "Cool!!"

I'm sitting at my desk, watching gentle snow fall on the trees, and it feels as if the whole world is white. Bruce is feeding the birds (and/or, consequently, the squirrels) and hiding corn for the little chipmunk we spotted out in the snow yesterday.

Last night we had a wonderful Italian meal with Jim and Peggy, and Gail and Bill. As we drove home in the dark and down by the lake to see if we could see the northern lights, I was listing in my head all the reasons why we have to come back to Vermont.
  • We haven't learned to ski to a level of competence (well, when I say 'we' I mean Bruce and the girls. Obviously. I haven't learned at all)
  • We haven't seen the maple sugaring
  • We haven't seen the ice fishing or the car races on the lake or the ice sculptures or the polar bear swim
  • We haven't been sledding at Shelburne Farms
  • We haven't drunk enough apple cider
  • We haven't been to Montreal
  • I haven't written the Robert Frost post I always planned for this blog
  • We haven't been to Shelburne Museum
  • We haven't been to Bennington to see the Grandma Moses paintings
  • We haven't seen a moose or a raccoon or a beaver
  • We haven't spotted a white owl or a bald eagle
  • I haven't finished the book
I could go on for a long time like that. I remember, before we came, Bruce was reading a book about New England and planning all the things we were going to do in neighbouring states. I suggested that we should just explore Vermont and he said "but it's just a small state - there's not enough to do there to take up a whole 5 months."

I quietly doubted that. But would I be so uncharitable now as to say "I told you so?" Of course I would!

We have to come back to Vermont because I can't bear to think, even for a moment, that we'll never see this again:

Or this:

In every way, Vermont has enriched our lives: in all that we've done, all that we've seen and lived among. But - it's a cliche, I know, but perhaps some cliches are repeated and repeated just because they're true - the real reason we have to come back to Vermont is because of the people, unknown to us just a few months ago, but now part of our friends and whanau.

We now count work colleagues as friends:

Susanmarie, Sue and Kristen - my wonderful hosts from UVM

With Susanmaire, Ellen and Sofia

Kathy, my fellow Fulbrighter, whose family dreams of returning to NZ
The sledding party - Sharon, Sonya, Karen and their families

Karen, our lovely neighbour at Long Point

We've been part of the Long Point winter community:

This sight has been a daily delight: Rolf walking the two spinones in all weathers

Bruce would choose to go home with one of these in the suitcase
The girls and I would also like to take one of these home (Peggy's perfect parting gift for the girls!)

And the girls would like to take one of these home, too. We spotted this brave little fella out in the garden today

We've already mentioned our wonderful church community:

Church family
And the school - Ferrisburgh Central - where the girls have thrived and enjoyed themselves so much that when we suggested taking them out of school for a day of skiing recently, they acted as if they would be taking themselves to the nearest consul and requesting asylum in the United States.

Lizzy's class, Ferrisburgh Central School

We will all miss darling, zany Tori
Emily says goodbye

Our stay in Vermont has been funded by the Fulbright Foundation. The aim of this Foundation is to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” and in so doing to promote peace. The idea is to fund people to spend time living in other countries, so that they are able to see that country in some way from the inside.

We can never claim to be Vermonters: you have to be born here for that. Heavens, if you live in the Northeast Kingdom you probably need to be able to claim residence across several generations.  But we have, in some small way, seen Vermont from the inside, in the way we have been welcomed into life here. We will take home new stories, and we hope that our stories will also remain here, that we will be part of the story of this beautiful place.

So, here's the thing: if you've been to Vermont, you have to come back. E noho ra, Green Mountain State. Ka kite ano. We will be back!


  1. I hope your return goes as comfortably as possible (which is admittedly a big ask for such a huge journey). Thinking of the godwits' journey might make yours seem a little easier!

    That photograph of Lizzy and Em with the opossums cracked me up. :^D

  2. Hi Pete: well, we didn't quite manage to leave as expected - fog meant the planes were cancelled. So, we're still at Long Point, but the sun is shining and we're confident we will be heading off today. Home by Friday - looking forward to seeing you soon :-)

  3. Lisa:

    I hope that you realize that the reason you have people mourning your departure is that the four (sometimes five, and sometimes six) of you touch peoples' lives in a very profound way. It is a testament as to how wonderful you are. You all will be missed in Vermont like you are missed in Ann Arbor and missed in New Zealand.


    Joyce and Barry