why I don’t live in paradise, for some definitions of paradise

It’s been a good long while since I’ve used this blogospace to talk about other blogs. I still read a lot of other people’s news in the form of twitter, facebook and yes, blogs. Rafe Colburn pointed me to something I never would have seen otherwise, a post on a NY Times sports blog where Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick talks about why he moved back to Indiana. Since I’m one of those lucky people who could probably live anywhere in the world, people sometimes ask me what I’m doing here. This guy’s answer resonated with me.

I’m really all Bay Area at this point. I’m loving it out there. In the course of this dinner, Tom tells me that he’s moving back to Detroit. I said, ‘That’s crazy, why are you doing that?’ He said: ‘If you can live anywhere in the world, you ought to live here, because it’s fantastic. It has all this natural beauty, and the weather is great. As a consequence, so many people who live here don’t have a reason to be somewhere else. They’re attracted by those thing as opposed to something else.’ He said, ‘I need to be someplace where there’s a sense of community because that’s what motivates me.’ That was an absolutely light-bulb moment for me. I said: ‘That’s me. That’s what motivates me.’ On a dime, I switched and said, ‘Where can I get involved in the community?’

It’s not so much that I think Randolph, Vermont is the only place for me, or that my family has been here for generations or whatever. It’s that I really like living in a small town, where I have a special job to do and where people still need to learn the sorts of things that I teach. And I like living in the woods and despite my grousing about the mice, I like living close, really close, to nature. I like having a short list of options even though I’m aware it’s a sort of artificial constriction of the whole list of what’s possible. There’s always the larger bloggy world when I need to go someplace I’ve never been before. Thanks, Rafe.

What do you think?


  1. I find myself thinking about my ideas of “home,” and “paradise” a lot now that I live someplace that I thought I would love, but do not. I wish I could find that magical combination of nature and community – I love the Cape in terms of the fact that I, like you, prefer to live simply and surrounded by natural beauty. But I have no community here, and I doubt I ever will. I miss Bristol, which feels like “home” to me…. I’m still hoping that someday I can go to Hawaii and see if that’s where I belong.

  2. Community is paramount for me, too, and I live living in a small town, where I know most people by sight if not name, and I also like living in a place where foxes, deer, porcupine and groundhogs are always around. (Mice, too, I’m sure!)

    But if work (spouse’s) didn’t require us to live in northern New England, I would like to find that community much further south … and coastal …

  3. That quote captures why we came to Vermont too. Thanks for sharing!

    Please don’t add “favorites” to abada abada! ;)

  4. A couple of years ago I was having a casual conversation with my friend on her condo balcony that looked down on Juno Beach, Florida. She asked me where I most like to live. I told her that the choice was between woods and water.

    She and her husband had made comfortable life in Florida, but the pace of the place is too much for me. My sense of place is in the midwest. My wife grew up in the Ozarks and after 30 years living in an evermore commercialized college town, we took the chance and returned to her family’s area. Deer run through the yard. Hawks and turkey vultures soar on the thermals. The land is bountiful in its way, but community is family here. My library work is akin to seat warming, but it’s a job in a depressed job market and I’m happy to have it.

    If I had your freedom, I would move to Rhodes in the eastern Mediterranean and live out my days eating octopus salad and drinking Retsina, but I’m not, so I’ll live out my days in the backwoods of Missouri picking blackberries and peaches in the season and catching the odd rainbow trout. Not so bad.