I used to want to be in a touring band. At the time, I thought it was for the music, but I wasn’t good enough, and I never loved performance enough to become good. To be sure, I craved the sound waves. I swallowed the amplitude like a pill. Some nights, I swear my heart would have stopped but for the kick drum. Heat rising from close bodies, throats sharing the same words like in the time of bards, souls all pointing in a single direction as though the man on stage were Magnetic North himself: these were my drugs, and I believed they could save me from the rot of stagnation. But at its heart, the dream was always about travel. I didn’t want to rock and roll; I wanted to be a rolling rock (let the moss grow where it may).
Call it wanderlust. I believe the scientific term is “Greener Grass Syndrome (GGS)” – that is, when forced to maintain the same life pattern in the same location for more than year, I grow first bored, then restless, and, finally, depressed. People with GGS imagine there must be greener grass elsewhere and so, compulsively, we must sometimes simply pack up our cars and go to find it. The reason I keep returning to Vermont is that the grass actually is greener here. The sky is actually bluer. The world actually looks the way Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tubs would have you believe – yes, Pantone color scheme and cotton ball clouds included. I have definitely been rained on here, and yet I have no memory of any days in Vermont where it didn’t look exactly like this:
The crazy thing about Vermont, besides all the old hippies and the wee college freshmen, is this. You can be walking down any old street, and many people who pass you on this street will actually make eye contact with you. Make, and maintain, like it wasn’t some embarrassing bungle on their part to have acknowledged a person outside of their own body. And then, these people who look at you, oftentimes – they actually smile! Some of them even wave, or go so far as to ask how you’re doing.
I went to Burlington alone for four days. More than once, I came to myself mid-conversation with someone who had been a stranger thirty seconds before. It would happen halfway through a crosswalk or schlepping back up Main Street toward Willard Street Inn, where I stayed. It would happen on a bike path/dog trail, where I had neither a bike nor a dog; suddenly I would have not only a new human friend, but a new canine one, too. I ate my first meal in the state with a homeless lady I met on a corner (hi, Rita, if you ever read this!). The writers of the city welcomed me into their fold, even inviting me to work in their studio outside of scheduled meet-up hours. I danced an entire concert with someone just because he had on a Twenty One Pilots t-shirt. I gave away my last Guatemalan quetzal to a barista at Muddy Waters because he said, gesturing at the foreign bills and coins affixed to the doorframe behind him, that the café collected them, and it didn’t make me sad to part with it. I don’t expect it back, but it felt more like sharing than like giving it away.
I think all of this has a lot to do with Vermont being full of dog people. You can start a conversation with any dog person, no problem. People love it when you ask about their dogs. Sometimes they love to tell you even when you don’t ask, but even as a non-dog person, I don’t think this is so bad. It says they have time for someone other than themselves. It says their life has room for something besides day-in, day-out drudgery (and if it doesn’t, at least many Vermonters are allowed to bring their dogs to work). It says that, not unlike the friend at the end of their leash, they would be content in this world if everybody would just look at you and say hello and maybe scratch your back a little once in a while.
Happy people, like dog people, are easy to talk to. They have time for you. In whatever small way they can manage in a split second on a sidewalk or waiting in line for lunch, they care. In spite of the whole rolling stone thing, if I ever have to grow some moss, I am thinking Vermont would not be a bad place to do it.