Thirty years ago this weekend I gave birth to my daughter at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, then took her home the next day to our little cabin on the Houghtonville Cemetary Road in Grafton. Today, these dear places are battered victims of Hurricane Irene. Grafton is isolated, with all roads in and out impassable. Brattleboro is a mess of twisted, washed out streets and stores filled with mud. Springfield, my home now, has been mostly spared thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers reservoir built in answer to the huge floods of the 1920’s. Most of Vermont, though, is in turmoil with power outages, ruined roads, homes and businesses and covered bridges washed away in the flood. It will be years before everything is made right.
I’m grateful to my friends and family who have called to check on us, and for the wishes of friends and strangers alike in the social media outlets. I know a lot of you would like to offer some kind of help. Many of you will contribute to the Red Cross, or the Vermont Food Bank, or any number of other charities offering direct aid to the hurricane victims. Those contributions are very important as we try to help our neighbors get through the tough times ahead.
I’d like to offer a few other ideas as well. As most people know, we are just at the beginning of the Fall tourist season here in Vermont. People from all around the world travel here to see the beautiful foliage and enjoy the Vermont landscape every autumn. It is truly one of the most amazing things you will ever see. So, my first gentle suggestion is that you continue with your plans to visit us. Of course you’ll need to make adjustments if your original destination is no longer an option. There are many, many places you will have access to and lots of local activities will go on as scheduled. Here in Springfield the Vermont Apple Festival will be held on Columbus Day Weekend. The Wellwood Orchard will have it’s yearly Customer Appreciation Day this Saturday, Sept. 3–lots of fun with a petting zoo, hayrides, apple picking.
Vermont is an agricultural state. I can’t say what the effects of the hurricane have been on local crops, but my educated guess is that it hasn’t done them any good. I don’t know how apple picking will be this year. I don’t know what effects the hurricane has had on the apiaries. The farm stands will probably suffer (I know my own garden is ragged after all that rain–and we didn’t have the flooding problem). But if the farms are to live to see another year, we need to help support them. Remember that most small Vermont farms diversify in terms of production: they produce maple syrup in the winter, apples in the fall, honey from the bees around the orchards. And farms consume other local products and services: fuel, feed, building materials, equipment. One thing we can all do is buy some Vermont farm products. Here are a few websites for ideas:
For Vermont cheese: http://vtcheese.com/cheesemakers.htm
For apples: http://vermontapples.org
Maple products: http://vermontmaple.org
All of these websites contain information about local farmers who sell their wares over the internet. If you can’t come visit one of the farms/orchards, you can order online. Think about your Christmas lists…
With gift-giving occasions in mind, you might want to consider the work of Vermont artists and crafters. If you’re coming to Springfield, please stop by the VAULT (Visual Art Using Local Talent) Gallery on Main Street. It contains the work of local artists and crafters and is a beautiful gallery (http://gallelryvault.org). Other Vermont artists, many of whom sell their work online, can be found at http://www.vermontdirectories.com/artisan.html.
A small, important gesture you could offer is to buy a little bottle of Vermont maple syrup at your supermarket (be sure it says Real Vermont Maple Syrup! Even better if it has the label from the local sugarmaker…). You will help the sugarmaker, the distributer, the tractor dealer, the chainsaw dealer, the fuel company, the truck driver, on and on.
Vermont will survive. Because we live our lives on such a small scale, gestures on a small scale will be especially meaningful. I want you to know that this is still the most beautiful place in the world. There are many very sad scars here today, but when I look at the blue sky and the magnificent trees I know Vermont will be all right. No doubt the most powerful of gentle gestures are your thoughts and prayers for us as we pick up the pieces. We are grateful.