Life in a Northern Town, vol. 1.

I had an idea to write two entries about what it’s like living in Middlebury, one for all the great things, and one for all the things that are a little bit more difficult. I keep ending up with just one entry, because it turns out the good things and the bad things are — in many cases — the same things. So far:

Pro: No big chain stores!
Con: Not so many stores.

I love that Middlebury’s Main Street doesn’t look like the outdoor version of a suburban mall. The stores downtown have a lot of character, and in many cases are staffed by the people who own them, so you get a real sense of community when you’re shopping around (Vermont Book Shop, Clementine, Belladonna: I love you). On the other hand, as my friend Jen once put it, “There’s nowhere to buy socks.” For just basic things, I often end up ordering online or heading up to Burlington for an afternoon. Kind of a hassle, but in this case, the pro definitely outweighs the con.

Pro: It’s cooler than I’m used to.
Con: It’s colder than I’m used to.

The last couple of days notwithstanding, summers are incredible here. Middlebury comes alive with things to do. I adore not having air conditioning and actually being able to smell the outdoors instead of being hermetically sealed inside all summer. And it stays green and lush right through the summer in Vermont, instead of turning brown and crunchy from the heat. Flipping that around, I think the cold in the winter is completely ridiculous. If I’m still writing this blog when January rolls around, you can bet I’ll have plenty more to say about that. The pro outweighs the con if you ask me about it in the summer. In the winter: not so much.

Pro: There are few strangers here.
Con: There are few strangers here.

In the past nine years, we’ve gotten to know our waitresses at Steve’s Diner and Flatbread, various college characters, students, parents of students, tons of neighbors, the UPS guy (Phil, who was spotted having a long chat with John in town last week) and the man who picks up our trash, just to name a few. We haven’t yet had the “don’t talk to strangers” conversation with John, because we just don’t see that many strangers. I really like this about Middlebury. I find it comforting in a way — cozy and snug. At the time, it can be a little bit much when people mention that they saw you taking out the recycling in your pajamas. Pro over con, for sure.

Pro: Shared values.
Con: Super-duper emphasis on shared values.

For someone with my left-leaning politics, Middlebury is a great fit. Obviously you meet all sorts of people, but the overwhelming majority seem to be accepting of many cultures and lifestyles, protective of the environment, etc.  There’s a weekly peace protest on the green, and I assume this is not a top market for Fox News. I’m on board with all of it. The thing that sometimes gets me is that I almost can’t keep up. I don’t compost. I don’t have a farm share. I once panicked because I thought a particularly sharp-eyed friend was going to spot a bottle I’d inadvertently thrown in the trash. Still, I do my best. And the spirit is there, even when the organizational and agricultural skills are lacking. And I appreciate the encouragement.

I’m not a typical Vermont resident (from North Carolina, no kitchen garden, no skiing, less fleece, etc.), so this is probably not representative of the experience my neighbors have in Middlebury. But all in all, it’s a great life here. There’s a lot more to say on it (what it’s like to be a kid in Midd, for example) but we’ll save it for another day.

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