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Finding Peace in Nature


Published August 11, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

Alison and her kids - at the Falls of Lana - JEFF NOVAK
  • Jeff Novak
  • Alison and her kids at the Falls of Lana

As the school year draws nearer and the pandemic continues to rage in many parts of the country, I find the words of a Wendell Berry poem, "The Peace of Wild Things" swirling in my head. It begins:

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I've always appreciated Vermont's pristine natural environment, but in recent months, I've felt especially grateful for it. In March, when schools abruptly closed and we were thrust into a completely unfamiliar rhythm, walks in the woods became a daily practice for my family that somehow seemed to anchor us to the earth. As the weather warmed, we began taking longer excursions to places like Lemon Fair Sculpture Park in Shoreham, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock, Alburgh Dunes State Park in Alburgh and the Falls of Lana in Salisbury. Despite everything that has changed, the unspoiled beauty of our state has remained.

And a lot of things have changed. With camps and classes closed, this summer has been like no other. Same goes for this "back-to-school" season. In this month's issue, Margaret Grayson writes about the tough decisions parents are facing about work, childcare and school this fall. Though circumstances vary, what's clear is that Vermont families are encountering issues they've never dealt with before — and there are no simple answers. Read "Working Class" here.

Here and here, find articles that explore how some local schools are using outdoor spaces this coming year, and why Vermont is uniquely suited for this kind of learning.

I'm also pleased to introduce "Art Lessons," a new column from Winooski teacher Emily Jacobs. Each month, Jacobs will share a project she's done with her students and offer advice for how to try something similar at home with your kids. In this issue, she explores the work of contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, who centers people of color in his vivid, large-scale portraiture to critique their historic marginalization. Find it here.

We will all face a myriad of challenges this fall — some we can anticipate, and others we may never have expected. Berry's poem ends with the words: "For a time/I rest in the grace of the world and am free." I'll be holding tight to the comforting fact that we live in a place where that "grace" is easy to find.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.