Sunday, November 02, 2008

If this project does nothing else it has certainly changed my relationship with the state of Vermont and - for the moment - my relationship with everyone in it. Suddenly everyone looks like material, everyone potentially has something to tell me about Vermont, something that might clarify my thinking and help me with this project. I remember that in my book group I have a friend who used to work for the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences (at least that is what I think VINS stands for); I'm thinking I should take her to lunch - find out what she thinks about the future of our forests. I remember that the guy who delivers our firewood has a degree in forestry; I'm betting his perspective is different from that of my VINS friend - better call him too. Come to think of it, our State rep. lives in our town, has been a farmer all his life and is the gentleman friend of another book group buddy...this is starting to look like a dinner party. I send an e-mail to a friend and student, a watercolorist: she and her husband live on a 400 acre dairy farm that has been in her husband's family for generations; she grew up on a farm nearby. I remember she once told me that when she and Bob took over the farm, 25 (or was it 30?), years ago it was a "disaster farm". Now it is stunning, a treasure. We have always talked about art, now I want to talk about Vermont. I want to know what it was like to turn a farm around, what they think will happen to it and what they think will happen to Vermont - what they think should happen. They have two beautiful, talented daughters. One plays the cello, the other the violin. The violinist is in her second year at McGill where she is an academic star; she is passionate about anthropology. The younger one is graduating from high school this year. She is imaginative and artistic like her mother. Do either of them want to take over the farm, I wonder. Do their parents want that for them? I don't know Bob well; he seems like an incredibly kind man. Once I remarked that the farm was so beautiful; how amazing that it was his and had been in his family so long. "Yes", he said, "the land" then added "it's a burden". And as I looked at his beautiful valley and felt a pang at the thought of my immigrant, landless, family history I knew that he looked at me and felt a reciprocal pang for my freedom.

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