In 2017, before the idea of moving to Vermont ever came to mind, I simply wanted to find a way to spend more time in nature. I found it challenging figuring out how (I don’t have a car), where and with whom. At one point, my longing for a life I did not actually have was so strong that I bought a pricey duvet cover, printed with the image of golden-hued silver birch trees in Autumn. It’s pictured here.
As I compiled the photos from this past year, I realized that my dream has become reality. I went! With gear! Multiple times! And with many new, great people who wanted to be outside too.
Visiting | Vermont
In the last 365 days, I have had the opportunity to visit Vermont 3 more times.
Visit 1 – Tiny Houses
In June 2018, I rallied some friends to join me on a quick day trip to the Tiny House Fest Vermont hosted in Brattleboro, VT. Among many tiny homes, we toured our very first VERMOD, a zero energy modular home built in Vermont.
Visit 2 – Passing Through
In July 2018, on the way back to Massachusetts from Canada, family and I pit stopped in Rutland, VT. We caught the Saturday farmer’s market, stopped at a snack stand on Route 4 for ice cream, waded in some cool, clear water, pebbles rolling under the soles of our feet, grabbed lunch at a cafe in Woodstock, and gawked at the awesome beauty of the plunging Quechee Gorge. *The Quechee Gorge photo is from Spring 2018.
Visit 3 – National Poetry Month & The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
April is National Poetry Month, and this April 2019, I attended the Rutland Region NAACP open mic poetry event organized to celebrate poets of color. I presented two of my own poems, “I’d like to re-write history OR the ‘I-land’” and “Brothers & Friends“. My awareness of my hyper-visibility and isolation as a black female, traveling alone, in a densely white state, was visceral on this visit. I found myself rushed by anxiety, by fear. I had learned so much more about the adversity of living as a minority in Vermont. I realized how I take the subconscious comfort of dwelling amid visible, accustomed racial diversity, in the big city, for granted.
The visit led to other revelations on race, racism, racial justice and the path to racial reconciliation, but I’ll save them for their own post. 🙂 (hopefully soon)
Being | Outdoors
In the last 365 days, I have also had the opportunity to go places other than Vermont.
I had wanted a taste of tiny house living even before learning about the Tiny House Fest in Brattleboro. My chance to try it out came during summer vacation. I flew to Montréal, rented a car, drove out to rural Québec, and setup in a tiny house along a quiet river. During my stay, I grocery shopped, cooked, sun bathed, napped, watched some World Cup soccer at a local resto, hiked, swam, kayaked for the first time in my life (after watching a couple how-to YouTube videos), and star gazed when, on my last night, it finally occurred to me to look up at the country sky.
And I stayed up, looking, for a while. The stars, the stars, the stars.. they were awesome.
In August, I celebrated a friend’s birthday on a trip to the mountains of New Hampshire. Besides all of us knowing the woman of honor, we didn’t all know each other at first. But we got to know each other through some rich conversation and fun: we rock climbed, zip lined, rode a gondola to the top of the mountain, and got down and dirty, maneuvering boulders on a glacial cave walk. We finished off the night with more convo, margaritas and s’mores à la blow torch. On the way home, we stopped at a market and I purchased a wooden sign as motivation for this project. It reads, “Cabin Sweet Cabin.”
In September, I got to join two new connections for a fall foliage hike. Our connection originated from a mutual friend sharing about this project! One of my new friends was the first black outdoors woman (introduced by a personal connection) that I had ever met, much more hiked with. She has become role model to me for getting out in nature often, safely, and confidently as a black female. Like I said in my Lorraine Hansberry post, there’s great power in “witnessing evidence of precedence”.
Highlights: At one point, where you see the power lines in these photos, we got a little turned around. With all of us working together, we found the right way. And the photo of the warning sign? Well, we had definitely already walked through a flooded area prior to seeing the warning. While navigating the flooded trails, we got cozy with trees and sturdy plants to try to avoid stepping in the deepest depths of the pools. At one point, I caught a glimpse of a frog swimming along the trail like it was a shallow pond. If I remember correctly, our feet got pretty soaked, but we did it! We stopped and ate BGood burgers on the way home.
In the fall and winter, my outside adventuring took the form of anywhere from a 30 minute walk to a day trip in an around Eastern Massachusetts. For one weekend in January, I got to compare and contrast the flora and fauna of the Northeastern US shoreline with that of Northern California. So different!
A cool late autumn walk at World’s End… A special memory of this outing was the six of us, grown adults, climbing onto the branches of a single tree. It supported us well. I’m sure a few others could have joined us! I’d like to find this tree and climb it again, and definitely climb higher than the last time.
New Year’s Day
Have you ever heard of a First Day hike? It’s when you start the new calendar year with a hike on New Year’s Day. I had looked up a few First Day hikes organized by non-profits in Massachusetts, but they all charged an entry fee. In the end, a friend suggested we go to a local spot she knew for free. We picnicked, strolled, visited an old farm, fed cows and ended the day filling our bellies with Indian food.
Same season, completely different landscape. Well, duh right? But also wow. It was nice to reflect upon the uniqueness of the Northeast via appreciating the unique flora, fauna, terrain and wildlife of Northern California.
One rainy Sunday in April, I was feeling a kinda away and instead of heading to church, I dipped into my travel savings, reserved a ZipCar and drove to Newport, Rhode Island. I had been there before with my mom in 2017, and I remembered it was gorgeous. As I thought through places I could go, Newport seemed the perfect fit for a sweet escape. I would do the cliff walk: the waves crashing against the rocky Rhode Island shoreline on one side and towering mansions with well managed gardens and elaborate fencing on the other.
It was a misty, seemingly gloomy day this time around, but it complemented my mood. It was soothing. The sound and sight of the sea assuaged my anxiety, and the sight of spring flowers, bright and piercing the grey, reassured that life is a series of seasons. This too would pass, but for today, I could be gentle with myself where I was, as gentle as the fog blended the crashing sea and clouded sky.
Backpacking & the AMC Huts
FINALLY, we close in on the present! This spring I got to go on my very first backpacking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Not only that, our group was majority POC (people of color)!! 🙂 If you don’t already know, outdoor recreational spaces are frequently, if not always, predominantly white. Rare is the person of color on the trail or in the hut. If you are a lone person of color, that can be intimidating and uncomfortable at best. And at worst? I recommend reading the article, “Going It Alone” by Rahawa Haile. She’s an African American writer and hiker. In the article, she recounts her experience solo hiking the Appalachian Trail as a woman of color, alone. It’s very much worth the read. It was an education, on several levels, for me. It likely will be for you as well. I mean, have you hiked the Appalachian Trail? As a black female alone?
I am very grateful that my first backpacking trip was with a majority POC group. I felt at ease most of the time–with the exception of catching people staring at us longer than the unfortunately expected impolite fixation. I was more confident and secure alongside my diverse trekking companions than I would have been if I’d tried to figure this out on my own. I hope we do something together again in the future.
And that’s it! Thanks for sticking with me. If you missed it, you can catch up on Strides: Update 3, part 1 here.
Copyright © 2019 A.M. Wilsonne