Opinion: The crisis is quieter here

  • Published in MyView

By Pippa Biddle

I watched footage from the Women’s March from under a fleece blanket on a brown faux leather couch with a view of Mt. Ellen. As thousands of people flooded airports with cardboard signs and off-sync chants, the loudest noise I heard all day was the crunching of day-old snow under my boots.

Hiding up north for most of the winter, the social and political unrest has seemed close to surreal and I’ve found it hard to fully accept what is happening when nowhere around me is it visible. The protest selfies my family and friends are posting on social media from as nearby as Burlington can feel like a well-orchestrated farce when things are so calm in the shadow of General Stark. Even the recent executive actions seem impossible along my steep dirt road.

Living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, a walk through Union Square made the anger unignorable and participation an overwhelmingly obvious moral obligation. Road tripping across the country for two months this past summer, the pre-election tension was palpable, robbing me of any chance at surprise triggered by the results of November's election.

But holed up here, far away from major ports of entry and the contingents of combat-ready cops that have framed the post-inauguration New York experience, my political conversations are softer and less aggressive. With fewer screaming matches and more time to think, this is mostly appreciated; but pulled back from the fire, I feel complacency clinging to my skin.

I drive south every few weeks for meetings and appointments in and around New York and soon I’ll be giving a workshop on youth leadership and civic engagement at a public high school on Long Island. It feels somewhat false to be preparing to champion speaking up when I’ve lowered my voice to a murmur.

Perhaps I’ve given myself permission to do so because I’m not here to stay. One of the many urban escapees to the Mad River Valley benefitting from a winter rental, I am spending the season working remotely. I answer email from in front of a gas woodstove and take a few turns off the Single Chair at MRG in the afternoon for my lunch break. I have allowed myself to be lulled into a gentler pace that locals may have the antidote for but which I have found intoxicating.

The crisis is quieter here and I’m a little ashamed to admit how much I’ve enjoyed it.

Pippa Biddle lives in Fayston.