Thirty-six years old. Born in northern Vermont and for the most part, stayed there. 34 of 36 winters taking what came and (mostly) not complaining.
And now. Gone. Eight weeks in a 3/4-ton Dodge van, rear seat ripped out and replaced with a sheet of plywood and a piece of foam. A bed, of sorts. The van hung with all manner of warm-weather play: Two kayaks, three bicycles, a tricycle for the littlest. The bags packed with swim suits and sandals and sunblock. The map on the dash traced with a line extending from Cabot to the Florida Keys.
Christmas spent in a deserted campground in the Ocala National Forest. The boys get leather belts with their names embossed, a book each, and a maple candy. And one of those little planes that fly with a rubber band. They are ecstatic.
After presents, kayaking. Otters and turtles and egrets and funny fish with long snouts that look like they might bite. For dinner, chicken cooked over a fire. It’s good.
No skiing, no pre-dawn mornings spent leaning into a thawing hole of vision on the windshield, coffee sloshing onto Gore-texed thighs. It’s a strange shift and the adjustment has demanded some discipline, learning to enjoy this different world and not dwell on the storms left behind.
And the larger lesson: At some point in your life, if you are lucky, you feel connected to a place and a place’s people. Does it choose you, or do you choose it? He does not know, but he is grateful to feel that connection, even as prepares to point the big Dodge southward, into the heat of winter.