A Tale of Two Towns


Hot tea this morning instead of coffee.

The windows at my favorite diner are open. On the 24th of October. In Vermont. Most years we’d  be talking about snow. Today there are people sitting outside eating their breakfast. Old sixties music is playing on the stereo.

Rain is coming. It is already in Massachusetts and heading our way. WIth it comes colder weather.

The rain will strip the trees, which have been glorious this year, vibrant and lasting. The inns and restaurants have had a boost in business and the roads have been more crowded than normal for longer than normal as the leaf peepers take advantage of the season of beauty.

Later today I will head south to Massachusetts. It will be raining. My bride, the woman I love who I married almost six months ago, has not found the works she wants here in Vermont, so during the weeks, when I am not traveling elsewhere, I go to stay with her in an apartment she keeps. People keep watch over my house and my cat gets angry when I travel.

It’s about a two and a half hour trip. An easy enough drive. Back when we were dating, I’d do it just to have a meal with her, so making the trip to spend a couple of extra days with her is a no-brainer.  I married her, after all, to be with her.

She lives in a town called Athol. It is an old mill town, one of many here in New England. They are fortunate in that a couple of their factories remain. There are jobs still and while Athol is not flourishing, neither is it a ghost town.

I have a diner there too. A place called Nicks. It, like the town, is notably different than my favorite diner in Pawlet. More working class. Bustling all morning. Less music, more to the business of cooking and eating and getting on with life. There’s more energy there than here.

Between my work, which has often had me traveling, and my nature, I have often found myself in new places. I enjoy it. I like seeing the differences and the similarities. In the few years that I have been with the woman I love, I have spent a lot of time down there. My work is often flexible, so at times I choose to work odd hours and poke around Athol and the towns around there. I have visited museums and shops. I have photographed factories. Sat on the streets and talked to people.

I like it. I still look forward to the day when my love comes to live full time in Vermont, but I have come to appreciate the life and culture in the mill towns, the energy of them, the history and sadness of them. I enjoy hearing the interrelations of people and politics and faiths.

Most people might resent the travel. It chews up a couple of afternoons or nights a week. It cuts into things I might do during the week were I here all the time. And I do look forward to the time we live and work in the same place.

But I am grateful for it. I have experienced another culture. I have learned about the place that formed much of the woman I love’s life, history, and worldview. I have met interesting people. I have made friends with her friends, who have been unfailingly gracious and accepting. It has allowed her to ease into life here in Vermont at her own pace. It has given me new insights into her and into my adoptive New England.

Yes, I am grateful.  I like both of my homes. I am reminded once again of one of my strengths – that I adapt well to change. And that, if we let it, change can work for us. It’s good to be reminded of our strengths. Mostly the world doesn’t, and often, we don’t do enough of it ourselves.

Tomorrow morning I will be writing from Nicks. Instead of the slow coming and going of the early morning crowd at Pawlet Station, it will be high energy, a buzzing preparation for the day. A different day.

Home, I have learned, is not a place. It is where your heart is. And my heart, I have learned, cares less for geography than relationships. It has expanded as my love has expanded. Home is where my love is, corny as that sounds. And so, for now, I have two homes.

And yes, to say it again, I am grateful. When we settle together here in Vermont, a part of me will still be in Athol, just as a part of me always will carry Virginia. That’s a sign of a healthy heart, that it can always expand. There is always room for more. Love has, they say, no limits. And I have come to believe it.

Humming old sixties tunes. Dancing in my chair.


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