Wednesday, October 10, 2007


On Saturday Moriah and I turned out of the driveway onto Route 30 North on our way to Burlington to meet Margot Harrison, the book/film reviewer for Seven Days, to be followed
by a stop in Waitsfield for a reading of Crosswords to be staged by the Valley Players of Waitsfield.

Following the curves in the road, enjoying the muted browns, greens and lackluster shades of yellow and orange-- a range of color I much prefer to the brash reds and golds of peak season-- I had a Vermont flashback of a hundred images of my own family's past decade in Vermont.

Coming when the twins were two and Ben five to literally escape the gun play in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn (and the screaming teachers at the woeful public school to which Ben had been assigned), we felt we had stepped back in time.

Our first stop was pancakes at the dimly lit and dusty cafe in Fairhaven, where back then all five of us fit into the narrow wooden booth. Later that morning we arrived at a friend's old farmhouse in Hubbardton, where Ben found his first salamander, and when a lightening storm burnt out our water pump, I bathed all three in the stream that ran outside our rickety bedroom windows.

And that was just the first clip of a full hour of Vermont footage in my brain.

Later speaking to Margot, whose mom had transplanted her own small family from Manhattan to Saint Johnsbury where she taught at the college, I became more convinced that there are
striking similarities to the experience of all Flatlanders. We came like immigrants set on changing our lives, and many of us raised our children-- making harsh financial compromises-- for the frugal, but better life we made here for our families.

So I told Margot about an idea for a book, which after compiling hundreds of interviews with friends and neighbors, would explore the similarities of our experiences, our Vermont.

Later when I spoke with my sister-in-law Julie Merwin, a writer herself, of my idea for the book, she had an idea of her own, a Flatlanders' Cookbook, to show the vast diversity of newcomers to this state. And then later in the day, when I ran the idea by my friend Chris Brown, artist/yoga teacher, she enthusiastically took up the challenge and will help design the questionnaire that by next week we will post on this blog and send off to our Flatlander friends and neighbors to begin our book: Flatlanders' Vermont.

I'm excited about the project and will write more of our literary adventure in coming weeks.
Hope you join us!



At 8:53 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, don't forget me when you have the questions ready.

I have some bright (and dark) Flatalnder moments of my own to share.

Elinore A.

At 8:57 AM , Blogger Ilana said...

What a conundrum, Friend o' Mine! I've had a flatlander's book of my own roiling around in my brain for all of the 35+ years I've spent in Vermont. Do I give you my stories because I'm too lazy to write them myself? I might just do that.....
Send me the questions, too!

At 9:07 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


Yes, and good point-- there's the bright moments of being a flatlander and the dark underside.

We look forward to hearing it all!

At 9:12 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


Chris and I had the feeling that there are acres of stories out there.

If you want to plant a few of yours in our field-- and go and grow your own-- I'm all for anyone with a literary inclination to write her own book.

(Granted, for me it's usually a two year commitment, but it's been the most fruitful work I've ever done.)

We'll post the questionnaire next week-- but maybe this is the catalyst for you finally sitting down and writing your own memoir!

At 9:24 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...

Juan & Celia--

Great to hear from you, and so look foward to another literary advetnure w. your family.

I still have the one act play we wrote based on your family history to the US and then to VT.

At 5:45 PM , Anonymous Moriah said...

Ahh, yes the days of the Wodden soldier. The place were my first memory comes into play; Me and Ted sitting with our feet barely extending of the benches and ben just about being able to bend his knees over the edge.And the waitress, ptobably being the first vermonter we met and detecting the brooklyn accents just smiling and looking like a female form of santa claus.And of course my first ever memorable pancakes with fresh maple "surup".
Good times, good times, ha

At 6:34 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...

Oh, my Momo--

Despite life's insanity-- that which we discuss everyday, a wave that can easily overwhelm: starvation, global warming, global dimming, shrinking civil rights at home & human rights in the world-- slipping away like the icecapes,

there are those shared moments.

So much sweeter that the two-year old sitting wide eyed across from me was recording the same mini-stack of pancakes and understood
the momentous nature of the moment.

Sitting across from eachother in that diner, you and I had the world covered-- with a 360 degree view of our first VT moment-- a view we'll always share. Much love, thanks for stopping by-- (hey, great writing, but remember I always proofread three times and still screw up with the small stuff)

love, Marv

At 9:10 AM , Blogger Sheela Wolford said...

Life is one big marvelous paragraph! It matters not the order or direction just that it's written and hopefully, read.

Eileen, what you wrote back to Moriah, is poetry. Moriah, what you wrote is the stuff that keeps women like your Mom and me believing.

Thank you.

At 10:37 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


Loved the wedding piece-- also about our creative best: our daughters!

Lately Momo has me dancing in the kitchen to the Beatles, and thanking the genetic odds that gave me a girl!

At 10:53 AM , Blogger Sheela Wolford said...

Sance my sweet sister! My girl, Leila, is coming over today for her fall gear and I'll garner a lunch out of it! Yes, it is the dancing that is the most glorious! I want to have a cookie swap. When will you be in town? I want you, Moriah, Leila, Samone, Anna, anyone else you can think of! My birthday is on Sunday, but you'll be out of town, yes? I want a cookie swap! Maybe Halloween? before or after? Meet me at the Promenade this week, yes?


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