Peace of the Mountain

WHEN WE FIRST started living in Vermont all year round in 1967, I was reluctant to believe that it would be our last move and that our house would be the one I would die in, but I have long since concluded that this will probably be the case and accept it with comparative equanimity. And I long ago concluded something else, too. The first few years we were there, the children were still little, and our problems with them, like theirs with us, seemed little too. They were healthy and happy, and so were we. Like everybody else they had their troubles at school, but basically they liked it well enough. They had their friends, and we had our friends, but the richest part of our lives seemed to be the part we had togetherthe picnics by the gentian pond, the sledding in winter, the summer trips. We were a world very much to ourselves up there on our mountain, and by and large all was well with us. But down below there was another world where, by and large, all was not well. Friends got sick and died there. Accidents happened to people we knew. Children not much older than ours got into all sorts of grief. Couples got divorced, and men lost their jobs. And farther away still, Vietnam happened, assassinations happened, Watergate happened, until there were times when it seemed to me as though the world below was a stormy sea with waves all around us as high as the hills we were encircled by, and the little patch of mountain where we lived was the only place left anywhere that was safe and dry. What I concluded thenless in a way to mar our peace than to deepen my sense of itwas that the day would come when the wild waves would wet us too, and the winds would lash us, and the great beast browsing its way up from below would raise its head and notice us at last. I concluded that even in Paradise, maybe especially in Paradise, the dark times come.

-Originally published in Now and Then