Least and Most Favoritest Things about Living in Vermont! (Part of the Ramble Thing)
independence1776 asked what are my least and most favorite things about living in Vermont. I was not allowed to count distance from family and friends as my least favorite thing. (She knows me and wasn't letting me off that easily! :)
I've been living in Vermont for eleven months now, and the Green Mountain State and I are very much still in the honeymoon phase. Most of the things I miss living here are pretty petty. Tops would have been that there is nowhere to get Indian food short of going to Burlington ... but then one of my colleagues connected with a local caterer who does Pakistani cuisine--very similar to northern Indian cuisine--and we had our first lunch day at work yesterday, and I had a most delicious cauliflower in butter sauce. We're hoping the caterer will have been as happy with business from our school as we were with her food and will be willing to deliver to us on Fridays going forward.
So I can hopefully no longer complain about the lack of Indian food.
We don't have--or at least we haven't found--what I consider a truly good Mexican restaurant in the area. Not on par with some of the places we had in Maryland. America's Taco Shop is good for lunch, and Aguilera's in St. J's is decent, but I miss Cinco de Mayo and El Rodeo from Maryland.
(However, we have the best Thai food I've ever had right in Newport, and good sushi as well.)
Also, very few people know how to make good iced tea up here. Most places--if they even have it--get it from a soda machine. Blech. Very few places brew it fresh, and fresh-brewed iced tea is my absolute favorite drink, and I do miss that being an assumed beverage at any restaurant. We went to dinner at Cajun's on Wednesday, and they did have fresh-brewed iced tea, and ohmymy was it a treat.
(However, Vermont has amazing hard cider. I'm not sure that drinking hard cider instead of tea is a step in the right direction, but it is something that Maryland doesn't have the same quality of.)
Most of the things that people complain about here don't really bother me. When we first moved up here, people warned us, "There's no place to go shopping!" Since I don't like shopping, I don't care. People complain about the snow--there is still snow visible of Jay Peak!--but having lived all but this year in a place that was cold with little snow, I'd rather have the deeper cold and snow: just-above-freezing and damp weather is far worse, in my opinion! It's more miserably, and all winter is the stick season that Vermonter's lament between the melting of the snow and the sudden burst of spring. Then we were warned about mud season, but the Coventry road guy is exemplary, and we're not clean-car people anyway, so we don't mind that our car is brown either from mud or dust for most of the year. (It's cleanest in the winter because of the snow!)
Now the easier list: the things I love about living here! First of all, I love living in a place where the ratio of trees to people is pretty high. I don't think that people living packed together is an emotionally or socially healthy state of existence. What I observed often in Maryland was that people tended to regard other people as obstacles or obstructions, and they behaved toward each other accordingly. And why shouldn't they? If you come into glancing contact with thousands of people each day--whether driving, walking, or shopping--then why should you see them as people when their needs get in the way of your needs? And what incentive is there to behave civilly? You're likely never going to see them again. I observed over and over again people making choices that were, at best, uncivil, unkind, and disrespectful and, at worst, dangerous or even life-threatening (like some of the shenanigans that are commonplace on the highways of the mid-Atlantic). I marvel that I wasn't killed driving to and from my school in Maryland. There were a lot of close calls, and I think: Do I want to live in a place where my life is worth less than some douchebag in a BMW getting home to his McMansion thirty seconds faster?
What was worse was that I found myself falling into the kinds of thoughts that made such behavior possible: not the outright dangerous stuff but the uncivil, misanthropic variety. I would find myself loathing the person who took what I deemed to be "too long" in the line in front of me--actively seeking something to hate about them, even if it was as petty as how they looked or dressed--because they were in my way or wishing harm on someone who cut me off in traffic. I was becoming hateful and I'm not that kind of person. But when you're elbow to elbow with other people--mostly strangers--day in and day out, how can you not become, to some degree, that kind of person? (I realize that some of it is my driven personality--the lion personality that I was angsting over the other week! It's also worth mentioning that I lived in what was considered a rural county in Maryland, so I did get a reprieve, but not enough it seems.)
Anyway, here it's different. People treat each other differently, with more consideration and kindness. I don't think I've once, since living here, been standing in line and thought, "What the fuck is taking this person so long?!" whereas that was a pretty common refrain in my head in Maryland. Life moves slower here because you can afford for it to. There's no traffic, and the vast majority of aggressive driving is limited to the tourists. (Bobby and I play the license plate game where we see a person driving like an ass and try to guess where they're from. 90% of the time it is either Massachusetts or Quebec--places packed with people, where interactions become competitive rather than cooperative and where the ratio of trees to humans is low.)
I love that independence and self-sufficiency is valued here, whether being able to care for oneself or our community, region, and state being able to provide for ourselves. Bobby and I had gotten pretty good at local sourcing in Maryland, but we spent half of our Saturdays some weeks running hither and thither to that market and that farm ... which is also not exactly the most eco-conscious choice when you consider the gas we were using in the process. We were unprepared for how much we could source locally--truly locally, within a short distance of our home. Our supermarkets here all sell local products, not to mention multiple smaller, specialized markets. There are very few chains here. Most businesses are locally or regionally owned. It is illustrative, for example, that one of the few chain restaurants we had--a Pizza Hut in Derby--is closing. No one is surprised. We have several excellent local pizza places here, so the attitude is why would we need a Pizza Hut? From Coventry, we can drive the same distance to go to Parker Pie, one of the top pizza restaurants in Vermont. Why wouldn't we?
Bobby and I have both found that we really fit here. We miss people in Maryland, and I miss the land itself, which is the land of which I was born and will therefore always be deeply connected to, but we do not miss the strip malls and McMansions and chain restaurants and stank attitudes and traffic and aggressive drivers and difficulty sustaining one's household in a way you find ethical because producing your own food is not seen as a basic right but it imposed upon my laws and zoning regulations and HOAs (which we didn't have in our neighborhood Maryland! over my dead body!!) and nosy, meddling people who complain just to complain. (Coventry, on the other hand, has no zoning laws at all and so is highly attractive to homesteaders.) We have both made friends here and feel like we belong. I sometimes think I must be dreaming, that a place like this can't really exist that values self-sufficiency and independence and a rural life and the environment and art and progressive politics--rarely do all of those things mix--but either I've been dreaming for eleven months now or it really is real.
It may well be that, over time, the small-townishness of where we live will get to me like the impersonal press of people once did--tonight at dinner, I saw two people from my school and our server knew of me from being friends with the teacher I replaced--but I actually like people here, and there is such a match with my values, that I have trouble seeing myself unhappy here the way I was rapidly becoming--maybe even was--unhappy in Maryland.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!