A Place to Heal

Pawlet Silos.jpg

I have been in Vermont a little more than ten years. I came here a year or two past a painful divorce. Part of my pain was that I was perhaps too invested in the marriage, codependent, and so when it came undone, so did I.

At the time, two years out, I believed myself to be doing well. But in reality, I was just surviving. There was still a lot of broken pieces to sort out. There’s a reason I spent five years, three in Virginia and two here in Vermont. Therapy, my first therapist once told me, is like peeling away an onion, and I was one big honking onion to peel.

Vermont has turned out to be a good place to heal. My corner of Vermont is quiet. There are places to walk. Places to sit and look across the horizon and think, or lose yourself for a time.

The people here are accepting and kind. Their care is not the effusive sort of care that I was surrounded with in Virginia, but rather they are quiet. They don’t approach you, but they are open to being approached. They will let you in their lives, and they will help you out, but you have to make the first move. That was, as it turned out, just what I needed.

Vermont measures time differently than the rest of the country. Things move slower. Things get done slower.  “Right away” means sometime in the next day or two.  “Soon” means “eventually”. This can be maddening at first, but once you surrender to it, you find that it is relaxing, because while it lowers your own expectations of the speed of things, it also lowers the pressure to move quickly in your own life. Life slips into it’s natural rhythms, and that is healthy.

I live some distance from anywhere. I can pretty much buy whatever I want to by, but I have to travel 45 minutes to get it. And often, if I want two things, I have to travel 45 minutes in two different directions to get them. Again, for someone like me, living and working on the outskirts of cities much of my life, it can be a little maddening.

But there is an advantage to that distance as well. It makes you more conscious of what you buy, what you need. You have to plan to go get things, and I quickly found I really didn’t need to get as much. Life became simpler when shopping became a journey, not just something available 24/7 right around the corner.

It is a rural community, West Pawlet, Vermont. And I have become more aware of the power of seasons, how they affect the farmers, and how each year has it’s time for this and time for that. I know when it is mud season, manure season, baby animal season. Seasons here are not just about temperature and rain, but about how people live and what people do. Weather is not just a thing to wonder about. It affects people’s livelihoods.

You become more aware of what it takes to get that food you love to table. You see the farmers out in their barns and in their fields at five in the morning, no matter the weather. You see them working as darkness falls. They may be the hardest working people I know.

I am not exactly a foodie, but I have come to the place where I don’t mind paying a little extra buying meat or eggs or vegetables from the local farmers. It’s fresh. It tastes wonderful. And I know how it was grown or raised. It is better in every way you can measure better.

I spent the first few years here visiting a lot of churches. It took a long time to find the place that soothed my soul. Everywhere I went, people were kind and welcoming. There were a lot of churches I found I could worship and heal in. The fact that I was divorced did not keep them from accepting me. (A lot of churches don’t know what to do with divorced people). I was allowed to simply worship and heal. No one ever pressured me to do this or do that. I could just heal.

And yet, as I did heal, they made room for me. They let me grow to my own spiritual and emotional healing at my own pace. No pressure.

Some states don’t particularly like eccentrics. Some states accept them. Here in Vermont, they seemed to embrace them. I don’t consider myself eccentric, but I happen to enjoy eccentrics. I number a fair number of them as friends. I revel in the fact that there is a spirit of acceptance here I have never found elsewhere. I rejoice that the batch of misfits that make up many of my friends have a safe and loving place to live.

Vermont is where my children came back to me. Both of my kids made the choice to move up here from Virginia and live with me as they finished their high school years and went to college. Having them come back to me was a big factor in my healing. Getting to watch them grow into themselves and launch out on their own lives was not just the work of being a parent, it was a healing thing, and it could not have happened had I stayed in Virginia. They, and I, needed that distance to be in a safe place to simply learn each other again.

I found love here in Vermont. I came here for love, but that did not work out. I was ready to accept that I was of an age and time in life where perhaps romantic love was past. I could have lived with that. But in the end, I met the woman I love, who is now my bride of nearly three years. She has taught me a lot about myself, and with her I grow and stumble and thrive without fear. I had forgotten what that was like.

The peace. The pace. The nature. The people and their accepting nature. It is unique here in my little corner of Vermont. It is not for everyone, but for me, it was just what this broken soul needed, and I an very grateful.

One thing I have noticed in my own writing lately, is how often I end with that phrase –  “I am very grateful.”

It’s not that all has been peaceful and perfect since I moved here. My kids coming up here was not easy, not without drama and at times, court battles. My parents both died, within a year of each other while I was here. I experienced a layoff and unemployment for too long a time. I struggled with creating a new kind of work life. I had major health issues when I first moved up here, and more recently with my cancer. It has been a decade of change and challenge.

And yet. And yet…. healing. The spirit of this place. Again, The peace. The pace. The nature. The people and their accepting nature. It is a place where you are allowed, even encouraged to be what you are, whatever that might be. And if what you are is healing, that is fine too.

So yes, I am grateful. A decade of healing and growing, at my own pace without pressure, allowed me to sort out and keep the best of what I was, and to become better where I needed to become better. And as that journey continues, it continues from a place of slow-grown strength. The best kind.

Of course I am grateful.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. When we are getting older, most of us refuse to change, I admire your courage to change of city, it is a long distance of the other city, It is good to try new things, new people, new places. Very beautiful writing and thoguht, Tom.

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