When we first moved to Vermont, my husband noticed something unusual about the news coverage on our local NPR affiliate: there was never any traffic report. To compensate, the weather forecast often ran as long as ten minutes.
Living in California, it had been just the opposite, and with good reason: detailed updates were necessary to help guide us through traffic that often felt like an elaborate video game. In most of California, there’s only about one hour -- between 10 and 11 AM -- when traffic isn’t in “rush hour.” On the other hand, with a climate stuck at 72 degrees and sunny most days, the weather forecast is fairly repetitive.
We soon figured out that the reason Vermont radio stations never covered traffic was because there wasn’t any traffic in Vermont. The weather, however, seemed to change every five minutes. In a state that still maintains a large agricultural industry, it’s important for farmers to know that it’ll be sunny at 9:00, rain at 9:15, and snow by 10:00.
The “Faith in Vermont” column is now one year old. It began as a fond look at Vermont through the eyes of a mother of three young children who’d recently moved from California. A few things have changed one year later: I’m now a mother of four young children (and a dog), and I’m a less recent transplant as I prepare for our third Vermont autumn.
So, things like that comparison between Vermont and California traffic reports are getting harder for me to write. Though technically true, I’m increasingly able to see the subtleties of Vermont life. There is traffic here, mostly around Burlington but also around the major tourist destinations and ski resorts, and even in our own small town during school drop-off and pick-up times (by some logic of small-town planning, our town’s elementary, middle, and high schools are all along the same road).
I’ve also seen more of Vermont. While a year ago I could idealize Vermont’s unspoiled, down-to-earth, anti-commercial landscape, I’ve now been to Stowe. Stowe features slow-moving tourist traffic, gift shops that market chocolate-covered raisins as “Moose Poo,” and when we visited, an outdoor art installation that included a work called “Cut.” “Cut” was a narrow path of red bark mulch extending a few yards into some trees. For $650, you could purchase an official photograph of “Cut.” Made me wish I’d thought to charge our neighbors when I blazed a path through our woods to their yard.
Things are changing in Vermont, too. I used to boast that the only time I had to wait in line was to register my daughters for gymnastics classes through Middlebury’s Parks & Rec Department. Gymnastics registration was on a first-come, in-person, one-night-only system, which required queuing up about 30 minutes early. Guess what? Effective this fall, all of Middlebury’s Parks & Rec programs are offering online registration. I’m a little sad; those lines were great places to catch up with everyone you knew. And what’ll I do with the extra two hours that have just been added to my year?
All of which is to say: expect to see some changes in this column over the coming year: Less comparison of Vermont to non-Vermont, more straightforward observation from a mother of four young children (and a dog) who has mixed feelings about “Moose Poo” and avant-garde art installations.
Heck, for $650, I’ll blaze a trail through your woods and throw in one of my children!
Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone puppy — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.