For five years, our family has owned a home in the woods of Vermont, in a fantastic little town called Quechee that has nearly been severely devastated by today's floods. I don't even have words to describe the way my heart broke as I watched video of our little covered bridge being torn, plank by plank, by the raging fury of the Ottaquechee River. Simon Pearce, the renowned glassmaking shop and restaurant, built originally as a mill and made of brick, may have to come down before it's rebuilt. And I hear our realty agent's office, our post office, and a host of other sites are all but gone. Neighboring Woodstock fared little better, with its Farmers Market (where, each summer, we buy the most amazing tiny little delicious strawberries) underwater, and its legendary Inn evacuated and flooded. Over these years with whole summers spent in a small radius, I've befriended shopkeepers, waitstaff, farmers -- and oh, the farmers, what have they left? -- cheesemakers, artisans of many sorts ... and I can't get my arms around what may have happened to so many of them, to their life's work, to their homes. Vermonters are hardy, but how hardy can they be when they call "home" a place that may no longer exist?
In 1928, Vermont native, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, toured Vermont, addressing its citizens in part to discuss successful recovery from the last horrific floods to hit the area, in 1927. (That's right -- there is likely to be no one alive who remembers the last floods of the proportions witnessed yesterday in Vermont.) His words, they stick to my ribs like sustenance. President Coolidge said, "I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of our Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont."
I choose to spend time in Vermont because of the beauty of its land and the character of its people. The landscape will never be the same after yesterday, but the people remain. Thank God, the people remain. They will rebuild, and I hope to help them. Us. For while I do love California, my heart stays in Vermont. It's there I would be if I could be anyplace, even today, even yesterday.
If you are the praying kind, please join me in this one for my beloved Vermont:
Please replenish the stores of strength of the citizens of Vermont, for they are going to need plenty extra in the days and weeks ahead as they begin to rebuild. Especially bless, keep, and help the rescuers who are working, tirelessly and selflessly, to mitigate the danger wreaked by these floods. For those who have lost homes, loved ones, animals, their livelihood, and more, please wrap them in your love as they grieve and help them to find their way when they are ready. Bless them with comfort and, eventually, peace, so that they can return to the best life they can craft out of this chaos. Remind them that they are capable, brave, and, above all, Vermonters: indomitable pioneers who can always begin anew while never losing a sense of belonging to the history that will always live in these Green Mountains, a past of virtue, fierce independence, freedom, and unity that can never be taken away. Remind the world, Lord, that Manhattan may have escaped these raging waters, but Vermont and its people did not. Shine your light on Vermont, so that the world may see the help it needs to rebuild and to care for its people again. God, please bless, keep, and restore to health the brave little state of Vermont.