Joan in Vermont, age 17
With spring bursting wide open here in New England, I am overwhelmed by the aliveness in the woods, the meadows and in my garden. It brings back memories of a time in my youth that played a key role in developing my identity. I am sharing it in hopes that it will spark a memory of a your own.
At age sixteen I spent the first of four subsequent summers on a farm in central Vermont. There were 20 of us ranging in age from 14 to 30. We had no electricity or indoor plumbing. We milked our cow, grew our food, used a springhouse for cold storage and built whatever we needed: Tables, benches, shelters, etc.. Each day was spent preparing for the next – chores were sometimes tedious, and some of them magical. One particular afternoon we shelled baskets upon baskets of freshly picked peas by the pond. With the sun beating onto our backs, one by one we jumped into the freezing spring water to cool off. By the end of the day we were sunburned, had dirt under our fingernails and were happy as clams to have picked, shelled, blanched, bagged and frozen enough peas to feed an army through the winter.
This was no small feat for a girl from Long Island whose parents worked hard to provide all of the creature comforts, and some. They would have preferred I return to summer camp like the other children in my community, but my determination to be in Vermont was unrelenting. It was the closest I could describe as a calling, and no voice of reason was going to stop me. It was also one of the most important decisions I would make in my life – influencing the very core of my identity.
One particular sunny day while walking through a meadow – grass up to my elbows on either side of the warm dirt path, I ran my hands along the top, creating a wave of sorts in my wake. What I distinctly remember thinking at that very moment was: “It can’t get any better than this.”
I’ve gone back to that moment throughout my life, as it’s a memory that used all of my senses: visual, tactile and olfactory. It was also one that was privately my own. It has informed who I was then and who I’ve grown to be; my love of being in natural surroundings, of quiet and solitude, and the peace I know I can create from a very simple life.
Is there a moment in time that stands out as remarkable, or a calling that informed your growth? If so, are you willing to share? I would love to learn more about you.