Returning to Vermont each May is like coming home for Christmas. Instead of carols on the stereo, the sparkly tree, scented candles on the mantle and Grandma Cooper rolls, it’s the morning and evening song of the Woodthrush, chartreuse trees against blue sky, lily of the valley scenting the yard and a cold Smutty Nose beer on the porch. The haven of home and the excitement of celebration. As with the seasonal decorations and treats of Christmas, May’s springtime treats are put away to make way for summer. Instead of lilacs and lilies of the valley, we look forward to peonies and the perennial garden. The brightly colored Rose Breasted Grosbeaks and the melodic Wood Thrushes go off to nest, leaving the birdseed to the ever present Goldfinches and Chickadees.
Like a slow moving picture, the scenery and sounds evolve around our house and woods. Right now we are waiting for grass to grow on the scarred landscape, and the vegetable bed to produce leafy lettuce and fragrant herbs.
With luck, we will survive without a fence around the raised bed this year, since the deer and rabbits have not discovered the tender lettuce; however, one critter has already been digging around, and I suspect it is the furry woodchuck I saw saunter along the stone wall yesterday.
After studying my landscape books and consulting with my daughter, a future landscape architect, I planted a variety of foliage plants across the front of the house to hide the new cement foundation and basement window wells. I chose the blue-green and brightening yellow-green of hostas, Lady Ferns and Japanese Forest Grass along with several weeping and dwarf blue spruce shrubs. Thinking the bed was shady all day long, I discovered the hot sun on my back as I planted each new purchase, praying I had not made a costly mistake. I noted the bed basked in hot sun for two hours. Having done some on-line research, I am hoping regular watering and a layer of mulch will protect them. If not, I have another location I can move them to if I see yellowing, scorched leaves. Gardening is a process full of problem solving opportunities; nature provides variables that keep me involved, observing and adapting. Even with all the garden-help books and on-line advice, risk is involved. Perhaps we should place bets on the probability of sunburned hostas and hungry predators.
During all the work on the house, we enjoy escaping to see friends and host family coming up for visits. Seeing our missionary friends from Madagascar, Todd and Patsy, was a delight this month. The rainy drive up to Burlington was worth the time together to catch up and share stories of family and missionary challenges.
Some weekends Joe and Virginia come up to recover from the fast pace of NYC and help out with projects around the house. Trips to farmers’ markets, hikes and museum visits provide vacation time for us all. Mass MoCA was an incredible museum experience for us in western Mass., our old stomping ground thirty years ago. Who would have thought North Adams could transform itself in such a creative way?
Moving into June, we continue to supervise work on the house. Electrics, plumbing, windows and doors and insulation all continue as we prepare new space for living. We are learning patience, problem solving and how to use what we have in resources.
The transition from our urban life in Peru to our rural life in Vermont takes some time and emotional energy. Disengaging and reconnecting with people and place is intentional, and we want to ease out and back in as gracefully as possible, each time. To be honest, for me this requires God’s grace and times of quiet and prayer. Vermont provides that during these summer months, and in Peru, our apartment is a place of respite, too, especially in the early morning quiet.
This year we jumped right into the building project on our house and have had no time to ease into transition, but the excitement of the “new” has kept us energized. I think perhaps July will be a quieter time when we can muse and relax. Alongside building and digging in the dirt, we visit churches on Sundays to encourage congregations and clergy and to share about God’s work in Peru. Yes, it is possible to live in two worlds, but not simultaneously. I find myself praying for my Peruvian friends when they surface in my mind. Between those promptings and the internet, we keep in contact. When we return to Peru in September, we will pick up the threads of that life and re-connect, plug back in, and walk alongside. These seasonal times of transition require energy, cost money and take time, but for a few more years, it is worth it. Our Encore Years are precious, and we attempt to use what we know to share and work alongside people in both cultures, Peru and New England. Meanwhile, though missionaries in Peru, we also have a “retired” status and can make time for friends, family and celebrations. God is good and I give thanks every day for these incredible blessings of place, people, plants and critters!