August 31, 2019
As I am in my sixty-fifth year, I have begun to enjoy the fruits of my labor and have semi-retired. In Vermont, that means I only have seven sources of income this year. Of course, I am never really idle, managing one remaining sidewalk project of my consulting practice as Municipal Project Manager, teaching skiing, coaching golf, guiding snowshoers, substitute teaching in our local public schools, and writing in support of youth music education. I also continue to be a very active volunteer, maintaining the Hemlock Hill Trail, serving on two transportation advisory committees, and serving on the board of a newly formed local non-profit recreation organization supporting responsible backcountry skiing. As you might guess, these are all mission-driven activities dedicated on making my world, and the world of the family and friends that I love, a better place.
My world is known as the Mad River Valley, a geologically bound community nestled in the bosom of Vermont. We call it The Valley, with the Green Mountains on the west and the Northfield Range on the east (aka the East Ridge), our community is defined geographically by the watershed of the Mad River. Though I am not a local in Vermont terms, my 25-year residency has provided me with a sense of place here that I now call my hometown. Everyone who has migrated here from elsewhere has a great story about how they discovered The Valley and how they managed to move here and eke out a life here. My story is one of running away from the fast lane, commercialism, and chaos of modern suburban/urban living, and running towards a place where the pace and scale are more conducive to my lifestyle. I found it.
Now happily enjoying the fruits of my labor, I am also enjoying the many fruits of The Valley – outdoor recreation, local foods, great locally brewed and distilled beverages, and fantastic friendships. I am also very lucky to be living near most of my family, yes including two grandkids. They say 60 is the new 40. That is true here, as many retirees are still kicking ass on skies, bikes, etc.. Nine is also the new midnight because we get in a good day of exercise and a great dinner and hit the sheets when the sun goes down. During the day, there are many amazing opportunities to get outdoors and have some adventure. I have had several prideful moments in the past few years enjoying the many accomplishments in making our community more walker-friendly and recreationally vital. Having worked on many sidewalk, bike path and greenway projects that have become reality, I now spend my time enjoying the fruits of my labor – one of the fine fruits of the Valley doing a hike or bike or run every day that ends in Y. Wintertime activities include teaching and skiing at Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen ski areas. I count the number of kids that I have taught to ski, or made to be a better skier in the thousands over the past 25 years. This is my best work. There are many fruits of my labor now giving the same effort teaching others.
Equally rewarding to me has been the growth of locally grown, raised, and produced foods that I have enjoyed. Fruits, vegetables and meats are all plentiful from the many fine small, family run farms in The Valley. Heartshorn, Neill, Gaylord, Turner, are all family farms that have been in The Valley for generations. These are the locals that have transformed their farms to contribute to one of the most robust local food communities that you will find, and some of the hardest working people that I know. The Localvore movement over the past several years is a tail of many individuals who helped shape the advocacy and policies to promote farm-to-table and the ethic of buying local foods and supporting local farmers, to great effect. The Waitsfield Farmers Market on Saturday, the Mad River Valley Food Hub and Taste Place, our local family-owned IGA – Mehuron’s Market, the farm stands along Route 100, our new game-changing local brewery – Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and the many fine restaurants that serve locally-produced foods are testaments to the hard work of so many Valleyites including me, one of their best customers. Truly enjoying the fruits of the Valley here.
Of course, all of these positive attributes are not relevant unless one engages with others within the community in sharing these fruits. I like to say that we all get to know each other because there are only two roads – Routes 100 and 17. Another aspect is the many social events that take place in the Mad River Valley. In addition to the fine recreational activities, there is a local music scene that entertains locals and visitors with gigs and events just about all week long, all year long. There is not one successful fundraising event or celebration that does not include food and music. Here is where friends are made and friends enjoy their companionship. Because the Valley is a very welcoming community, I never fail to attend an event or social gathering place without meeting someone I know and someone new and very interesting from afar. This is a place where eye contact, a friendly smile, and a welcoming hello are the standard, no matter where someone is from or what they look like.
Then there is family. Oh how rewarding it has been for me to raise a child here and watch so many others grow and flourish. I am blessed to have many family members within 3 miles of my home in this wonderful community including two grandchildren. I have had the pleasure of witnessing our community’s whole-village approach to nurturing our younger members with great schools, sports clubs, scouting, our local libraries, and more. It is a joy to see them enjoy one of the rites of summertime jumping off the Great Eddy covered bridge. Recently, I began substitute teaching and have experienced the value of our small schools. Each of the four towns within The Valley has a small elementary school with small-sized class and personal attention by very talented and dedicated teachers. Collaboration among the small staff and mentoring from older students, everyone knows everyone. The middle and high schools are also right-sized and equally nurturing, with emphasis on academics of the 21 century approach with a strong emphasis of non-contact sports, and the arts and music programs. Being that our community is highly reliant on the recreation and creative economic sectors, these are strong attributes. I am very grateful to have the privilege of being assistant coach of the high school golf team.
With my final kid at college at the University of Vermont, I now have the chance to reflect and enjoy the fruits of my labor. How fortuitous that I chose The Valley as my home 25 years ago. This week I coached golf at the Sugarbush Resort Golf Club, flew in a glider plane at the Sugarbush Airport piloted by my friend Johann who was visiting from Michigan, hiked to the summit of Mad River Glen, ran four miles on the Mad River Path, and enjoyed many fine meals with friends and family at several of our great dining locations. While traversing the Valley from town to town, I observed people enjoying the new sidewalks, paths and trails that I worked hard to help make a reality. My social calendar is filled with many great things to do and events to enjoy including running in the Mad Dash, a community foot race the idea of which started that in my living room along the Mill Brook 24 years ago.