So, after 20 years of living in virtual isolation in the very south of Arizona, I have moved to Bennington, Vermont. Everyone I left in Patagonia said, “Why would you go there?” Give up warm sunsets, the Sonoran Desert, ideal home of the retired? Similarly, as I am learning to navigate Bennington and the surrounding area, I get virtually the same response: “Why would you come here?”
I secretly enjoy this reaction in between blowing my nose and drowning in Purell.
I arrived just before Thanksgiving and moved into a house originally built about 1910, which is new for New England. If the world were a perfect place, I would have arrived in the middle of a glorious splash of fall colors. But the world always falls short of perfect, so hello cold and snow!
Why did I leave great friends, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, foot-long fire red centipedes, jack rabbits, mule deer and strange pig-like creatures called javelina, all of them spending time on my little mountain about ten miles north of the Mexican border? I was in the land of Geronimo and Cochise and a stone’s throw from Tombstone, home of the shootout at the OK Corral.
So, why? Sometimes I wonder. Rather than finding rattlesnakes and scorpions in the house, there is a horde of mice living in my kitchen. I have spotted cold, grey squirrels and the occasional cottontail. Come spring, if I survive, I am promised a glorious rebirth.
Here’s why: Seasons. I grew up in New Jersey with fond memories of oak and birch trees, my flexible flyer, hoping that school would be called off due to snow, walking in the woods, turning over rocks etc. I have, sort of, come full circle. No, I didn’t spend my Arizona years knocking around the house waiting for Jeopardy to come on the TV.
I am a travel photographer, among other things. I have touched down in every continent except Antarctica. My Nikons are getting unpacked. And, this place is so photogenic! I drove around N. Bennington the other day and marveled at the creeks, stone buildings, an old, picturesque rail station. I have seen the Old World. But I was always on the move. Now, I am enthralled with the promises of the oldest of the New World.
My hopes include finally having a large garden, trying these new-fangled snow mobiles, fishing, including this business of standing on frozen lakes over a hole. I want to swipe the snow off the grave of Robert Frost, learn about the Green Mountain Boys and enjoy the closeness of everything. I hope to see and become part of an enticing subculture. Did I say fishing? I have already paid my respects to Orvis, the mecca of fly fishing.
Another reason is proximity. In the Wild West it can take hours to go see a movie or concert. Here? Minutes. Now that I have studded tires, of course. Short drives have taken me as far as Albany, NY, into Massachusetts, and soon, to the Big Apple, where, in my day, a 12-year old could take a bus alone and explore this megalopolis.
I am no fool. You can’t go home. But why not give it a try anyway?
I find Benningtonians (Is that proper?) very welcoming. Especially after I deliver the short form about my arrival and origins. Maybe it is empathy or people hoping I would leave the short conversation because surely, I should be committed to an institution before I can harm myself further. But I doubt this.
I will wander the woods again with my dog, and camera in hand. I will turn over rocks. I will skip belly whopping on the flexible flyer, mostly because I am not as flexible. Bennington still awaits. And while everyone is busy with Christmas and getting ready to great 2020, I will dream, antique, send little bottles of maple syrup to friends back “home,” engage an army of contractors, etc.
In Patagonia I had my coffee place, aptly named “The Gathering Grounds.” The search for a new “Cheers” (Remember that show where everyone knows your name?) continues, but a place called “The Loose Cannon” seems to be first choice for my kind of person. Love the name.
So, hello Bennington! Goodbye Geronimo. Life is now cold, but I am enjoying the pleasant anticipation of good people, rebirth in the spring, sultry summer days and glorious fall colors.
I will return to visit the old hometown next winter, full of even taller tales about this new, but very old part of the country.