Irene visits Eden

Jay Parini, author. Vermont resident and Episcopalian, reflects on the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene which devastated his state.


I’ve spent most of my adult life — over three decades — in Vermont. To some degree, it has been like Eden itself, a shelter from the American storm: leafy mountains, red barns and white clapboard houses, quiet dirt roads with covered bridges, village greens, lots of fresh organic food, ex-hippies galore and the open waters of Lake Champlain, which treads a narrow path over 100 miles between the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west.

The county where I live — Addison — has refused to let in the big box stores, such as Walmart and Costco We prefer our country stores, where you can buy anything from maple syrup and cheddar cheese to nails or diapers for a baby. Bernie Sanders, a socialist, is one of our two senators.

We were the first state to allow civil unions. Soon, a single-payer health care system will be put into place — a bold experiment that might show the rest of the country how to do such a thing. Rumor has it that the number of cows in Vermont exceeds the number of people.

Vermont usually experiences bad weather in the winter, where the locals take pride in their ability to brave the cold and the ice. Not many tropical storms or hurricanes visit this inland state. It has affected life in unexpected ways.

What is weird is how bright and calm the weather has become, leaving behind so much destruction, stirring up stories that will probably linger by the fireside for decades. The sky is suddenly clear as gin. There is no wind, just the aftermath of nature’s wrath.

I feel a sense of awe, thinking of Irene, how it moved through us on a dark Sunday, churning through the night, turning the field beside my house into a pond. Now it has left us — thank God — having taken its nastiness elsewhere. It has left Vermonters to pick up the pieces one by one, like Adam and Eve after the Fall, having to deal with the fact that a snake came through the garden.

Past Posts