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Barefoot in the Grass: Coming Home to Vermont

“Would you ever consider moving to Vermont with me?”

The first time I asked my wife Ang this question was a long time ago. We were living in Seattle, not married yet, still dabbling in “what if?” scenarios for the future. We were at a serious stage in our relationship, already living together in our sweet, tiny, best-we-could-afford bungalow on the outer-edge of North Seattle. I might have been surfing Vermont real estate websites, or maybe I had just gotten off the phone with my mom. What I know for sure is that the question came from somewhere deep inside me, somewhere that knew Ang and I were headed for long term commitment and that I wanted to raise a family with her. For me, “raising a family” and Vermont have always been inextricably linked in my heart of hearts.

“Probably not. I would miss my mom.”

Ang and I at a (rainy) concert in Seattle, 2009-ish

Ang and I at a (rainy) concert in Seattle, 2009-ish

So we moved along in our sweet life in Seattle, surrounded by our family of friends as expansive as the extensive network of parks, trails, waterways, and beaches that we frequented with our lab, Carbon, to feed the part of each of us that needs green spaces and fresh air.  In 2010, we had a beautiful wedding on the rocky beach of Lincoln Park, right next to the ferry dock on a drizzly, gorgeous Seattle November day. Over the next few years we changed jobs and cell phone providers and brands of whole-grain organic non-GMO bread. We took a meditation class, traveled to Ang’s native Kauai, saw each other through surgery and lay-offs and went to Disney World. Then we decided to have kids and got down to the elaborate business that lesbian couples take up to have kids. When I got pregnant with the twins, I felt it again: that gravitational pull toward my family and my home of Vermont.

What’s weird is that I love Seattle. I make sense there. I’m an outdoorsy, left-leaning lesbian Social Worker with a penchant for Indian Food and quirky independent films. I’m practically invisible there since there are so many of people like me in the greater Puget Sound region. I moved there for grad school in 2000, built a successful career and professional network, and made the kind of friends you would bury a body for. The life that Ang and I were living was fun, happy, comfortable and fulfilling. So what is it that pulls Vermonters back from other wonderful places?

Sunset on Darling Hill Road in Lyndon, summer 2010.

Sunset on Darling Hill Road in Lyndon, summer 2010.

This story is not my story alone.  Many of my generation of VT natives went boldly out into the world seeking new shores. We wanted to travel, go to school, see something beyond the borders of our tiny towns. I was lucky enough to find a place that I loved to be, one that allowed me a dynamic urban life, the opportunity to come out as gay in a safe, supportive and vibrant LGTBQ community, and to become the professional I wanted to be. And here I was, wanting to walk away from that, wife in tow, and plant myself and my babies-to-be in a drafty farmhouse on a dirt road next to the wood stove for the duration.

I feel what it is that pulls us, but it is hard to put it into words. Vermont is beautiful, but there are many beautiful places. It’s “family friendly”, but there’s plenty of that too. What calls us back is a “Vermont-ness”, a certain synthesis of all the best things we want for our children’s childhood: safety, rich community life, meaningful cultural experiences, unspoiled natural beauty, a collective ethic of inter-dependence nuanced by independent thinking and close family ties. I wish there was a word that could transmit the true sense of what “Vermont-ness” is to the uninitiated, because it’s hard to explain to all those friends back in Seattle (not to mention Ang’s mom) why we packed up our 10 month olds last fall and shipped out.

The simplest thing I can say is: I feel like I can walk barefoot in the grass here.  In Seattle, and every other place I’ve ever been, I don’t walk barefoot. I am wary of broken glass, spoiled food, soil soaked in pollutants from traffic run-off,  and all other things that urban and suburban places–heavily-populated and anonymous–host in their green spaces.  For me, walking barefoot is like a litmus test for contentedness. I want C and B to grow up walking barefoot.

Lounging in my mom’s back yard in the Northeast Kingdom during our visit last summer. Willoughby Gap is off in the distance.

After our trip this summer, during which we all walked, played, rolled and lounged in the grass, Ang came to me and said, “I think I want to move to Vermont.” It felt right, it felt necessary, to bring our family here. We miss our people and places in Seattle, but the babies are walking now and each day of this long snowy winter we get closer to walking barefoot in the grass as a family.

 

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17 Responses to Barefoot in the Grass: Coming Home to Vermont

  1. Elissa February 24, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    I hear that!!

  2. Laura February 24, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    Wow, this hit so close to home. I know what you mean about Vermont-ness, though I’m not able to put it into words either. There’s something about Vermont that tells me it will be a great place to raise our kids. I often ask my husband, “is this home?” I’m ready to settle down and he loves it here but I’m not sure were sold on it. Maybe we have a bit more wanderlust to indulge before we can settle. I love your writing style, this was a really great read! Looking forward to more posts from you Shauna!

    • Shauna Silva February 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks Laura! If you stay, you’ll be in a wonderful place:)

  3. Gretchin
    Gretchin February 24, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Oh, my heart! I loved this post, and that picture of the babies! Thanks for reminding me why I live here. The barefoot description made me cry. Sharing this with my friends and family!

    • Shauna Silva February 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks Gretchin! That pic is one of my absolute favorites as well!

  4. Christin
    Christin February 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Great post. We are just 3 years new here, but it is a special place to us.

  5. Kim February 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Alarmed to see this story. Such a beautiful story, but grossly misguided

  6. Honi February 24, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Welcome HOME!

  7. Ang February 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Kim, what is alarming and misguided about this story?

  8. Nissa February 24, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Loved this Shauna! I’m truly captivated by this state and what you have coined “Vermont-ness”. Loved reading your story of how you ended back up here!

  9. Shannon
    Shannon February 24, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    Shauna…I love this post! It’s funny because I never considered coming home after moving west to Seattle. It was my husband who nudged me back in this direction….and he’s not even from here. I’m so thankful that he did because I’ve fallen in love with my home all over again and now my kids get to as well. Welcome home! And welcome to the blog!

    • Shauna Silva February 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      I know, Seattle is a hard place to quit. I’m glad we both did!

  10. Kim February 24, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    I’m sorry to say there is a dangerous epidemic of increased drug use, enormous mental health population, and absolutely no forward-momentum in business, science and technology in vt. The rest of the world is leaving VT in the dust. Soon, Vermont will be the Miami of the 80’s-and it will be too late to rectify and save this great state

    • Elissa February 25, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      I would have to disagree with your assessment. The drug epidemic in VT is a problem, but the economy is varied (and vibrant), there’s much forward movement in energy efficiency, the cost of living is overall affordable, people have the opportunity to experience the outdoors and connect with nature in all seasons… and SO MUCH MORE.

      And if nothing else, what WILL save this state but families such as this moving back, raising their children to respect this great place, and reclaiming it?

  11. Kim February 24, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    To be clear-LOVED this blog. But there is too much pretending and sweeping big problems under the carpet by politicians and the general public is oblivious to how dangerous this state is. And it IS dangerous. I would know firsthand 🙂

  12. Heather February 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    You are such a beautiful writer, Shauna! While we miss you back here in Seattle, reading this makes me totally understand your decision. And sparks my wanderlust as well. 🙂

  13. Tricia Kennedy
    Tricia Kennedy February 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    We’re celebrating our three year to VT anniversary this month and phew…..it’s still amazing and fabulous and I feel so blessed to be here with my family. Welcome to an amazing state and community here! 🙂

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