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 people and places in Vermont.
I love my home just as you love yours. We are all the better for appreciating where the heart feels at home.
But for all of us, there is someplace else that has a pull on us. We all recognize that many, possibly most of us, are from somewhere else.
Some 40 years ago when we purchased our farm I remember our first trip to the town dump, properly and only sometimes called “the transfer station.”
The attendant saw me for the first time with my Connecticut plates, and said with a smile, “We don’t like anyone here from someplace else.”
I asked quickly, “And where, my friend, are you from?” He said, “Connecticut.” Then the conversation turned. “Did you know,” he said, “Wheelock was founded by people from Connecticut?”
Some place else could be a lot of places. The now established Vermonter said whimsically, “It’s just best not to tell anyone how wonderful this life is in this place.”
Well, I am from some place else. I never thought I would ever end up in Vermont even though I skied every mountain here when I was president of the West Hartford, Connecticut Ski Club in high school.
But I knew Northern New England had its deep hold on me as a once upon a time camp director and boating instructor on several magnificent lakes.
What got me here was a Pastoral role visiting a grand lady, the well-known and much loved Allis Reid, whose son and husband had tragically died in the mid-60s. Allis was an older student of mine at the University of Hartford and her family had been members of the church which had put me through my doctoral program.
Allis said, “Buy the old farmhouse up the road, Bob, you’ll never regret it.” Even though it was boarded up and partially falling down we made the jump.
We thought, as a family, we could ski Burke regularly, though we were fully committed to a church in Connecticut -- one of the great churches of America.
I thought, “Just what I did not need!” We had a magnificent parsonage plus our own waterfront home in Old Saybrook. We had deep and lifelong roots there by the lighthouses and even had Katharine and Marion Hepburn as neighbors and even with treasured pastoral ties to the Hepburn family.
Because I was conceived at a place called Fenwick and later in life I annually led summer worship at Saint Mary’s By The Sea, I knew that place would always anchor me there.
That someplace else has always pulled at my heart. It wasn’t so much the real estate or even the memories as magnificent as they are.
It was the salt air and, oh yes, the seagulls, the sand, the shells, the floating and dry seaweed that made this someplace else so dear.
I’ve tried to shake that some place else just as you have your own heart pulls.
All during my long and beloved pastorate at Peacham, I was helped by an annual tender gift of memory when Bob and Sharon Fuehrer would bring a mason jar stuffed with potent smelling seaweed, shells and saltwater.
I kept it in the refrigerator and sniffed it at least twice a day. The Fuehers spent the summer at their Maine home, coming back to Peacham for a variety of reasons. They knew that the pastor worked diligently all summer long. After all, 50 percent of Peacham folks are seasonal. There was the excitement of the tractor parade on the 4th, a vibrant PAMFest, a Maple Leaf Seven concert, the blessing of the animals, and endless good times with summer folks. I was busy, but Bob and Sharon knew that the smells of the shore called me to someplace else.
We all have our own stories of how we got to this place in this land we love.
Hearing one another’s stories makes precious our own journey. Let’s celebrate that, even if it was a rough ride at times.
I was once the senior pastor at a huge Florida church. In October, snowbirds would start to arrive from the North. Year-round Floridians would often leave in October to go north to be with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit people and places along the way.
The Psalmist was right when he wrote about the goodness of “our going out and our coming in.”
This is more than just the angst of feeling the grass is always greener on the other side.
Perhaps we can be comforted by the wisdom of knowing that the leaves here are more beautiful than someplace else. After all, the whole world comes to see the bounty of this beautiful place which for them is someplace else.
My dear, late and longtime friends, Susan and Stuart O’ Brien of Peacham struggled every year with their decision of when to go to their lovely seaside Florida home. Stuart always wanted to go early. Susan always wanted to stay here a little longer. She would say somewhat sadly through the years, “Oh Bob, this is my last Sunday, Stuart wants to go.”
I would always ask, “Why go? Just stay here a little longer.” She would always reply, “But I love my husband.” We would laugh together.
Maybe the best way to deal with October is to be grateful for the memories of someplace else and of summers past and honor our homes and hearts right here in the Northeast Kingdom. I’m going to give thanks for seasons yet to be.
Why not let Thanksgiving begin in October.
Bob Potter lives with his family in Wheelock and pastors the Monadnock Congregational Church of the Great North Woods in Colebrook, New Hampshire. Services are available on Youtube. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org