Home is where the heart is. We all know that.
Over these months and now years I have written to my satisfaction and given the very encouraging responses received I continue to reflect on the people and places of Vermont.
I love my house as you love yours. We are all the better to appreciate where the heart feels at home.
But for all of us, there is another place that attracts us. We all recognize that many, perhaps most of us, come from elsewhere.
About 40 years ago, when we bought our farm, I remember our first trip to the city dump, correctly and only sometimes called âthe transfer stationâ.
The attendant first saw me with my Connecticut plates and said with a smile, “We don’t like anyone here by the way.”
I asked quickly: “And where, my friend, are you from?” He said, “Connecticut.” Then the conversation turned. âDid you know,â he said, âWheelock was founded by people in Connecticut? “
Another place could be a lot of places. The now established Vermonter said quirkily, “You better not tell anyone how wonderful this life is in this place.”
Well, I’m from somewhere else. I never thought I would one day end up in Vermont, even though I skied all the mountains here when I was president of the West Hartford, Connecticut Ski Club in high school.
But I knew northern New England had a deep hold on me as a camp director and boating instructor on several beautiful lakes.
What brought me here was a pastoral role visiting a great lady, the well known and much loved Allis Reid, whose son and husband tragically passed away in the mid-1960s. Allis was the one of my older students at the University of Hartford and her family had been a member of the church that took me to my doctoral program.
Allis said, “Buy the old farm up the road, Bob, you’ll never regret it.” Even though it was barricaded and partially falling, we made the jump.
We thought that as a family we could ski Burke regularly, although we were fully engaged in a Connecticut church – one of the great churches in America.
I thought, âJust what I didn’t need! We had a beautiful rectory and our own waterfront home in Old Saybrook. We had deep and permanent roots there near the lighthouses and even had Katharine and Marion Hepburn as neighbors and even with precious pastoral ties with the Hepburn family.
Because I was conceived in a place called Fenwick and later in life I led the summer worship service at Saint Mary’s By The Sea every year, I knew this place would always anchor me there.
This other place has always caught my eye. It wasn’t so much real estate or even the beautiful memories.
It was the salty air and, oh yes, the seagulls, the sand, the shells, the dry, floating seaweed that made this elsewhere so expensive.
I tried to shake it somewhere else, just like you got your own heart.
Throughout my long and beloved pastorate at Peacham, I was helped by a tender annual remembrance gift when Bob and Sharon Fuehrer brought a Mason jar filled with the powerful smelling seaweed, seashells and salt water.
I kept it in the fridge and sniffed it at least twice a day. The Fueher’s spent the summer in their Maine home, returning to Peacham for various reasons. They knew the pastor worked diligently all summer. After all, 50 percent of the people in Peacham are seasonal. There was the excitement of the Tractor Parade on the 4th, a vibrant PAMFest, a Maple Leaf Seven concert, animal blessing and endless good times with the people in the summer. I was busy, but Bob and Sharon knew the scents of the shore were calling me elsewhere.
We all have our own stories of how we got to this place in this country we love.
Hearing the stories of others makes our own journey precious. Letâs celebrate this, even though it has been difficult at times.
I used to be the senior pastor of a huge church in Florida. In October, snowbirds would start arriving from the north. All year round, Floridians would often leave in October to travel north with their families for Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit people and places along the way.
The Psalmist was right when he wrote of the goodness of âour going out and coming inâ.
It’s more than the anguish of feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Perhaps we can be comforted by the wisdom to know that the leaves here are more beautiful than elsewhere. After all, the whole world comes to see the generosity of this beautiful place which for them is elsewhere.
My dear longtime friends, Susan and Stuart O’Brien from Peacham have struggled each year to decide when to go to their lovely seaside home in Florida. Stuart always wanted to leave early. Susan always wanted to stay here a little longer. She’d say a little sadly over the years, “Oh Bob, it’s my last Sunday, Stuart wants to go.”
I always asked, “Why go there?” Stay here a little longer. She always replied, âBut I love my husband. We would laugh together.
Perhaps the best way to deal with October is to be grateful for the memories from elsewhere and summers past and to honor our homes and hearts right here in the Northeast Kingdom. I will give thanks for the seasons to come.
Why not let Thanksgiving start in October.
Bob Potter lives with his family in Wheelock and is pastor of the Monadnock Congregational Church of the Great North Woods in Colebrook, New Hampshire. The services are available on Youtube. He can be contacted at [email protected]