My dearest friend in the world—we’ve known each other since high school in Pennsylvania—moved with her family to Charlotte over three years ago. They had to beg from Peter to pay Paul, as my father would have said, in order to make the mortgage. Before they moved in a single piece of furniture, they laid reasonably priced wood laminate over the battered floors as a placeholder until they could afford to move ahead with “real” renovations, which have yet to commence. They have three magnificent children and an energetic black lab and they work like giddy beasts to ensure their family can thrive.
On the day they closed on their house, their realtor gave them a poster, illustrated by Charlotte artist Linda Seiffert Reynolds, depicting classic Charlotte scenes—Town Hall, The Old Brick Store, the view from the top of Mt. Philo, among others. At the bottom of the poster the text reads, “The Town of Charlotte, Vermont, 1762-2012. You can get there from here.”
The sweetness of Reynolds’ drawings has always, in my mind, played a satisfying foil to the enigmatic message and the poster often makes me giggle. I like the idea that, even if I’m in Charlotte, I can still get to Charlotte, should I find it necessary. Part joke, part zen koan, the poster in some way explains how I feel about my fulfilling, challenging, complex and sublime life here.
I’ve been in Vermont 11 years and I’m still trying to get to here. I’m home but I’m still, always, trying to get to home. This, in some measure, is the human experience. We can allow our restless minds to wander quite easily, even if we’ve “achieved” peace. But this here/not here gap feels specific to this place somehow, though I haven’t yet hit upon why. It could be personal circumstances—my family and I have been going through a major transition for over half the time we’ve lived here, and we are moving into Burlington during this next chapter to establish two households and secure the bedrock of a loving family that just looks different than we originally thought it would.
It could be, to a larger degree, that the here/not here gap speaks more to the experience of living in Vermont, a glorious amalgam of contradictions and questions that I am grateful to ponder every day. Does the disparity between income and cost of living make it harder to realize the dream of Charlotte? How can we alleviate the stress it puts on working families? Does the diligently, mercifully conserved beauty of this place unintentionally inhibit the growth of businesses and development of a town center? How can we encourage healthy growth in concert with our land and our lake? Does the transition in the larger economy dovetail with shifts in Vermont’s population and butt up against zoning laws in ways that could jeopardize land use, sustainable agriculture, quality of education and more? How can we keep building our town while still retaining its rural character?
The same Reynolds poster hangs just outside our office here at The Charlotte News. Over the past year I’ve looked at it every deadline day, as we scurry to put the paper together and carry on the important work of this community publication. Getting to know my hometown through this work has been incredibly enriching. Understanding my neighbors’ concerns and celebrating their accomplishments through The News has instilled in me a reverence for this paper’s role in Charlotte’s past, present and future.
I have learned more about myself personally and professionally in the last year than I ever dreamed possible. My heartfelt thanks go out to our board, staff, contributors, volunteers and interns. And I extend my boundless gratitude to outgoing editor in chief Alex Bunten, who has guided this publication with wisdom, ingenuity, foresight, sense, a watertight work ethic and humor to its greater good, for posterity.
And thank you, dear Charlotters, for reading and keeping the heart of the Town beating! I have loved being the assistant editor of The Charlotte News and living in this stunning place filled with people I am proud to call neighbors. I’m moving for now, but I won’t be far away and someday, I suspect, I’ll make it back home.