2035: Samples From A Vermonter's Journal
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Evan Wing of Milton, is a 2012 graduate of Rice Memorial High School and currently a freshman at Norwich University. His fictional journal was among the three prize-winning entries for a writing challenge about the Future of Vermont co-sponsored by Young Writers Project and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s ECOS Project. The prompt was to write about Vermont, specifically Chittenden County, in the year 2035.
2035: Samples from a Vermonter’s Journal
By Evan Wing
Today I woke up to a new year. Actually, that’s not true; seeing as I slipped into a roast beef- and beer-induced torpor well past two-thirty in the morning, I have woken up in precisely the same year that I fell asleep in. 2035 doesn’t feel any different, and aside from the ominous gurgling coming from my protesting stomach, neither do I. Looking across the flat, snow-laden field, grey in the dim morning light, I can still see the bright flickering of Burlington, calmer now at five in the morning than the bright, sprawling, pulsating spider web of colored light of the midnight hour, punching defiantly through the New Year’s Eve darkness.
I used to have the family over for brunch on New Year’s Day, but now they all go to restaurants in town. I’ll probably get an earful over the phone about being the only member of the family who hasn’t moved into the city. Oh well; I like having more space anyway. At the very least, I don’t need to compete for wood!
The snow is lighter than it has been these past few winters. Even so, today I saw the huge plow from the Municipal Department come trundling up the dirt road to the farm, like a Tiger tank from those grainy film reels of the German invasion of Poland. It’s a beast of a thing, not like the old trucks that made do with a simple plow bolted to the front. It’s more akin to a giant snowblower, a gaping maw of spinning tumblers and whirring axles propelled forward by a squat, heavy vehicle on comically wide treads. Rumbling by my mailbox, it cleaved a path of powdery destruction through the drifts, boxing in my driveway where I had just finished shoveling myself out.
All I have to say is, thank God the state pays for my back pain medication!
It’s the heat of tax season, that most magical time of year. Once again, the news is full of stories of people spending too much, saving too little, and buying things they don’t need. My parents and sister keep urging me to move into the city; truth is, I don’t think I could afford any but the tiniest apartments, even if I wanted to move there. The broad streets lined with stores are now narrow, the buildings tall and packed with new arrivals to the Green Mountain State. It’s funny; it used to be a “real Vermonter” was someone born and raised in the state. Now, anyone who spends a few years sauntering around the congested waterfront sporting an 802 T-shirt is considered on par with those of us still left, watching, out in the woods, living the same lives we’ve lived since we were children.
The first warm breezes are filling in over the fields, bringing with them a tantalizing promise of summer. Burlington shimmers in the distance, the tall glass towers sparkling in the warm sunlight. Making rounds on my tractor, I have a clear view of the road leading past the farm. A motley assortment of cars goes by: lost tourists on their way into the city, frustrated office workers on their way out. Almost silent, the electric and hybrid sedans are seen long before they are heard. If your back is turned, often the only sign of their presence is the quiet, rumbling crunch of gravel, growing nearer and nearer. It used to startle me, but no longer.
Every once in a while, I’ll hear the familiar chugging of a laboring diesel engine, and I’ll turn to see an old truck, or sometimes another tractor, come puttering into view. The driver, an old man like myself, often slows down briefly; our eyes meet, and there is a sense of mutual experience, a silent commiseration of sorts. Then he jostles past, his eyes snap forward again, and he trundles into the distance, leaving a haze of dust and unspoken memories behind him.
A family stopped their car near my driveway today, camera phones drawn. The mother, improbably dressed for a trip out to the country in platform shoes and long, flowing pants, was talking in excited whispers to her two uninterested kids about what happens on a “real farm”. I was mending a section of fence far away from them; stooped low among the tall grass, I wasn’t noticed for several minutes. In fact, I hoped not to be noticed at all, but when the shadow of a man dressed in a pale blue Oxford, topsiders, and new jeans fell across me and the owner of the shadow extended his hand, introduced himself, and asked for a tour of the farm, I couldn’t escape.
So for half an hour I walked the family around the farm, pointing out all the equipment and crops and tools of the trade. I noticed something odd: even though I spoke in present tense—this is what I use to harvest wheat, this is where I keep my tools—the parents always recounted it to their kids in the past tense—this was what they did, this was what they used.
It felt like I was giving a museum tour.
Eventually the family tired of the tour and had taken their fill of pictures, and they all piled into their car and drove off. And there I stood, all alone, with the still-broken fence and the sparkling, promising city in the distance.