New England

Matt’s not working as much so we decide to go visit some friends in New England. We load up into the trailer one morning and go. It feels strange yet familiar to be back in our bubble once again. The first night we camp by a pond at an RV park somewhere in western New York. Most of the people have left for the season except a few permanent residents. The boys explore the woods, try to catch fish with a little net, and ride their bikes. After dinner we make a campfire and roast marshmallows. It is so peaceful to be out of the city and I really actually love being back in the r-pod.

On day two we veer off the freeway and wind our way through the Adirondacks. Red and gold leaves frame views of the low mountains, rocky streams, and picture-perfect towns. Even run down barns seem staged in this setting. Making our way east, we burst through the woods into the farms and fields bordering Lake Champlain.

It is here that our friends Ben, Maeve, and their son Finn are making the foray into dairy farming. This is a bold move when dairy farms around the land are struggling, but despite the long hours and barnyard aromas, the lifestyle is intoxicating. They live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country, surrounded by nature and small farms. They have abundant free range, organic meat, raw milk, and organic vegetables, which are some of the most difficult things to find when you are traveling. Instead of big box stores, they shop at the local bakery and quaint general stores with amazing deli sandwiches.

Graysen becomes instant friends with Finn, who is the same age as him. They chase chickens and turkeys and make friends with the barn cats and calves. Finn is lucky to be growing up with his parents close at hand, experiencing the cycles of the seasons, birth and death. He knows firsthand where his food comes from and even participates in growing and harvesting it.

I take Graysen and Rylan to Finn’s school where Maeve also works. It is on a huge farm set up on a hill overlooking a valley. Golden leaves cascade down as the children knead and shape their bread in the play yard. Then the kids are off, running and laughing and playing in the fallen leaves, shedding layers as the autumn sun warms the land. After a time the teacher calls the children with a flute and they circle up, singing songs and making motions. Graysen and Rylan and I do our best to follow along.

The teacher pairs the students up and leads us out of the gate, across the road, by the barn, and through a field. We pause and the teacher hands out snacks while saying another poem. When everyone seems finished, they all get up and continue down the hill into an open forest. The kids are free to play, making forts, bridges, and fairy houses, catching frogs, and building each other into stick towers.

It strikes me that the teacher never yells or directs the children around. Instead he guides the children like the pied piper, through music and movement. He sings their names gently when he wants to get their attention, and gets down on their level when he needs to gently correct his behavior. It bears no resemblance to most modern preschools with kids hurried from one activity to the next.

We leave them in the forest and make our way back to the car. As we pull away I am filled with a sense of peacefulness and joy. What a magical place for a child to grow up. Back at the farm the kids take long naps, exhausted from their big morning. Later we share a big dinner of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables. The adults linger at the table while the kids play games in the other room until finally I can’t put bedtime off any longer and I go in and read them some books.

The next day after a relaxed morning of play and a hike, we head off to Vermont to visit another friend. Google maps takes us the “scenic” way to the top of a hill in central Vermont, where our friends Erin and Jeff live with their children Talia and Fletcher. They looked all over New England to find this beautiful spot just two months ago, and are busily making it their “forever” home. They talk excitedly about their plans for a garden, a barn, and a fire pit. I realize how much I miss having that space to call my own.

We go to a party at a new small brewery with a live band and a taco truck. The narrow country road is packed with cars and the line to get beer or food is super long, but there is such an air of community. Everyone seems to know each other. The people seem familiar and I keep thinking I know them. We make a meal out of the snacks I have in my bag and chat with people until the boys drag us onto the dance floor. When we get home, Matt puts the kids to bed while I stay up late talking to Erin, full of energy.

We push on again, this time to Connecticut to see Scott, Amy, and their kids, Finn and Maeve (I know, weird coincidence, but they do not know each other!) They live in a beautiful old house that backs up to a big forest in a quaint little town. These hard-working parents are juggling two professional jobs on different schedules, oftentimes barely seeing each other during the week. Although this is the norm in our country, it contrasts sharply with the other families we have just come from, where Ben is a stay-at-home farmer and Jeff is a stay-at-home dad.

The boys are delighted to make another friend, and we take a lovely walk along a river and through town. We share great food, wine and conversation, sharing stories, challenges, and support.  Once again I am reminded how wonderful it is to catch up with good friends.

As we head back towards our temporary home in Ohio among the glittering leaves and beams of sunshine I am filled with happiness. It is so beautiful here in New England. I think about how people end up where they live. Whether by job, family, school, circumstance, or because they love it. I wonder if with more remote job opportunities there will be a revival in rural areas that offer affordable atmosphere and a simpler way of life.

Do you love where you live? Did you choose it or did it choose you? Does it fill you up with delight?

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