Whenever I’m on the road and cross back into Vermont, usually on Rte. 4 near Fair Haven or on I-89 by White River Junction, I have to honk the horn. I got this years ago, from a friend who reached over to sound the horn as we crossed the Connecticut River on the interstate. I said, "What'd you do that for?”
“I always do it,” she said. “We’re home now.” And I think I just nodded. Because that's how it feels.
When I’d first moved to Vermont in the early 80s, and was writing about it for the Boston Globe, I was really struck by how much this felt like a home that on some level I recognized, even though I’d never lived here before. There was a phase — I remember I'd been writing an article on Calvin Coolidge’s austere home village, Plymouth Notch, which is nothing at all like the suburban town where I grew up — when I was trying to express this feeling, to put it into words and understand it. Maybe, I thought, it wasn’t just me. Maybe the reason why a lot of people had found their way to Vermont in recent years was because, to them too, this felt like not their biographical but their actual home. Maybe they couldn’t explain that either.
The topic “Vermont: A Love Story,” makes me wonder about this again. Why do we recognize some quality of belonging, acceptance or, I don’t know, reality here that we don’t see in other places? Vermont is not an easy place to make a living. It has no ocean view, the winters get draining, and to be honest there are other parts of the country where people are outwardly more friendly. Hurricane Irene showed us, though, that there may be no place where you’ll find a more resilient sense of community.
Is that what it is? Maybe you know; I’ve never been sure. All I can say is that I honk when I come back, because it always just feels like coming home.