About 50 years ago, before I became a property owner and resident in Vermont, my family and I, on a ski trip, got lost on a back road in one of those whiteout Vermont snowstorms. With the car skidding, snow swirling, maps spread out, I had no idea where we were.
A local Vermonter in a car better suited for this kind of snow, stopped to help us find our way.
“Too far to go back in this snow to the ski area,” he advised. “safer to hole up nearby.”
He described a place up the road and gave us explicit directions about how to go, what signs to look for and how best to navigate the snow drifts. As he was about to leave, I asked how far was this place he was sending us to?
“Oh, about a stone’s throw down the road,” he said, and disappeared.
After what seemed like hours of driving through the snow, we were not yet at our destination. I stopped the car and mused that a Howitzer couldn’t fire a shell this far, let alone someone throwing a stone. Minutes later, up the road we could see the last sign and our destination.
Once tucked in, warm and fed, we were safe and content. The ‘stone’ had landed thanks to a Vermonter with a ‘strong arm’ and a sincere desire to help.
A few years later, I bought my house in Chittenden, forgot the stone story, and we came practically every weekend to do what families who visit in Vermont do — we skied, snowmobiled, dirt biked, hiked, climbed, fished, grouse hunted, tubed, kayaked and sailed. When my friends from New Jersey asked me how could I tolerate going every weekend, I would answer, “it’s the vacation you take once a year that I take every weekend.”
In 2000, I moved permanently to Chittenden. Today, when people ask me why I live in Vermont, I tell them a variation of the stone story because it’s an apt metaphor to help explain the reasons I live in Vermont.
It goes like this: I live in Vermont because everything worthwhile in life is just a stone’s throw down the road.
In these tumultuous times wherein technology often confuses rather than advances; when insecurity prevails and traditions fail; when it seems all social norms give way to unknown comforts and difficult apps; where problems such as global warming, pollution and human survival overwhelm and color the simplest of decisions — I feel lucky to live in Vermont. Because I am confident that life help and support from fellow Vermonters and governance is easily accessible, no matter my social or economic status, I always feel confident solutions are readily available.
Vermont is 80% wooded. Wherever I go, and always all around me, without special permission or traffic or payment, are forests, lakes, fields and rivers that add joy and satisfaction to my life. I am keenly aware of the science and spirit of the forest’s ability to contribute to my health and feeling of contentment.
Then there are the people. Vermonters possess a sustaining belief they are social sharers who act and govern themselves accordingly. No one goes hungry, everyone deserves shelter; physical and mental needs are satisfied by numerous private and government organizations no matter where one lands on the social, economic or ethnic scale.
Some outsiders call Vermont liberal or leftist or socialistic or a welfare state. It is none of these. Vermont is a compassionate place; and everybody works to make it work.
Long before the environment was considered threatened by humans, Vermonters were protecting what they instinctively knew was a scarce resource — sustaining life while protecting all that supports it. I am served by a health care facility, a regional medical center that treats me as a customer, always exceeding my expectations. Our schools excel because our teachers possess the fundamental belief in supporting the success of students no matter the degree of academic ability. Our arts and entertainment venues are admired because creativity is a natural byproduct of living side by side in nature with its unmatched ability to inspire. Growing and distributing fresh food from our own land is a daily gift from whichever God you worship.
And enriching what’s local is easy. Trains and planes to nearby cities and countries are readily accessible. Finally, there is so much personal opportunity here. Vermonters know things must change in a transformative way. Yankee ingenuity is quickly ramped up into innovation. Business incubators throughout the state freely support entrepreneurs with manufacturing and marketing expertise plus financial backing. And it’s done with the barest of restrictions.
Vermont is small enough for you to make a difference and big enough to make it worthwhile. Live, work and play here because everything you want your life to be ... is just a stone’s throw down the road.
Louis Scotellaro lives in Chittenden.