High Lake, Vermont. The stone whisperer is what Vermonters call Hiram. A Vermonter descended from the Abenaki, an Algonquin tribe, he taught himself to build the stonewalls that make him so respected in this community. “The hardest part is letting the rocks be what they are, because they’re not going to fit the way we want them, they’re going to fit the way they want. It took me a long time to learn that.”
If the stonewalls are the iconic image of old Vermont, Wi-Fi is still in its future. There is definitely no wifi in my cabin at High Lake (and no phone and no cell phone reception). However, the beautiful, historic Morrill Memorial Library is in Strafford, a few miles away, through forests of oak, maple and birch and past open meadows with grazing horses, and all Vermont libraries have Wi-Fi.
With no Vermont address, no Vermont phone number and no one to vouch for me, the librarian loaned me the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. It was a perfect book to read on the screen porch overlooking High Lake.
On the way to the library is Rose’s farm stand. I’d want to go in, but no one would be there. One day I saw people inside, went in, introduced myself, and said how glad I was they were open.
“Open, what do you mean?” asked Rose. She then told me the door to the screen porch was always open. I should help myself to whatever fruits, veggies, home made pies and whatever else I wanted and leave my money on the table. Are you in shock yet?
When I returned to the library to check email again and to return the book, there was a small group of people sitting around the fireplace. Looking at the gray and white haired men and women I thought, at first, they were all elderly. They were discussing “The Reader”, a book I had read, and I shamelessly eavesdropped. There was a white haired man who well remembered WWII and there were people many years younger with gray and white hair. Vermonters, at least in this part of Vermont, don’t color their hair no matter what age they are when they go gray. I stopped thinking about hair and dual-tasked, answering email and paying attention to their comments on the book. When they were leaving I confessed my eavesdropping and told them I had learned a lot from listening to them. They protested that I should have joined them and invited me to their next meeting.
I miss Santa Monica, my friends, my neighbors, the beach, everything that’s fun and interesting and great about Santa Monica. But it wasn’t that long ago that Santa Monica was so much easier to navigate than it is now. We had fewer rules and, even though it’s hard to believe, we had more people, yet we had less traffic.
I know we can’t make Santa Monica into rural Vermont. Nor do I want that. But I wonder if we couldn’t reclaim some of the personal, some of the helpfulness that we seem to have discarded when we made the hyperspace leap to hip and cool. Those are the kind of thoughts you have when you spend two weeks in the quiet of the forest on a lake with water clean enough to drink.
It’s early morning. The mist is clearing. The ducks are still here, and the herons, and the hawks. For any of you who wonder whether this is time travelling or vacationing, the next ‘What Say You’ will have a Santa Monica byline.