Another Year in Vermont

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(HOST) As commentator Willem Lange takes down the old calendar and puts up a new one, he’s reflecting upon the dubious joys of life in the Garden of Eden.

(LANGE) An old classmate of mine from high school sent me this e-mail a couple of weeks ago:  "Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and the best for the New Year.  Stay warm.  It’s beautiful here in Florida, but many friends returning to the Northeast from our community for the holidays are expecting travel delays with the cold and icy weather happening and more to come."

Now, those sentiments are ostensibly designed to comfort those of us condemned to spend our winters in cold and icy weather and more to come; but what they unwittingly reveal is a mild hysteria induced by the guilt of living in a crowded tropical paradise surrounded by other equally tormented people too wussy to face the joys and trials of a northern winter.  Another e-mail, from a Texan transplanted to Vermont, complained that Vermonters have an insufferable air of superiority.  I was too polite to respond to that, but I’ll tell you:  There’s probably a reason for it.

I mean, think about it.  Stories of hair-raising adventures are often bestsellers: crossing the South Pacific on a balsa raft; clinging by frozen fingertips to the icy cliffs of Mount Everest; getting snowbound for the winter in covered wagons while trying to cross the Sierra Nevada.  Sounds to me a lot like our lives here in this refrigerated Garden of Eden.  We’ve got adventure up to here.

An ice jam in the Winooski River, a few days of wet weather, and we can paddle a canoe right down Main Street in the state capital.  Heading down the driveway in a vehicle when there’s traffic going by is always a crap shoot: Can I stop in time, or shall I turn and slide down sideways?

It’s a tenth of a mile from my back door down to the road – 528 feet.  Sheets of ice lurk beneath the snow.  On a January morning, headed down for the newspaper, armed with creepers, carbide-tipped poles, avalanche locator beacon, and cell phone, and clad in down parka and mittens topped with a balaclava, I can fancy myself at the Hillary Step on the south ridge of Everest.  Mother stands anxiously at the living room window waiting for my trudging figure to emerge from the trees on the way back up.  If it doesn’t, she calls my cell phone; after that, 911.

Out behind the house is a wilderness of swamps, old beaver dams, and deer tracks.  I can wander there for hours – often have, in fact, trying to find my way back home.  But when I do, there’s the incomparable pleasure of drying off in front of the stove in the parlor, looking out the window at the early-gathering darkness, and thinking, as a Canadian friend of mine used to say, "Ah-hah!  I beat you one more time, eh?"

So here we go again: 2009.  It won’t all be pretty; but it’ll be an adventure.  I can hardly wait to see what it’ll bring.
This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, wishing you all an exciting new year.

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