"Did you know," a bartender in Waitsfield asked us, after hearing that we were considering a move, "that Vermont has the only state capital without a McDonald’s?"
Heck, I could be proud of living in a state like that. But, the bartender added, you’d better come up during winter before making any rash decisions. And so, in snowy late December, we went up again to experience a real Vermont cold snap, and, stopping in a diner in Bellows Falls on the way back home, we spotted a real estate magazine atop a cigarette machine. "Snug northern house," one listing began, then went on to describe a small, energy-efficient place set on a few acres near the funky art town of Brattleboro, in the southeastern corner of the state.
With Cathy navigating, we trundled along an iced-over dirt road that twisted up a thickly wooded mountain. Approaching the summit, we came up against an earthen barricade and two signs. "Road closed for winter," one read. The other pointed toward a trailhead.
"Might as well have a hike," Cathy said, apparently getting into the Vermont groove. Before I could finish muttering something about the dangers of frostbite during pregnancy and getting back to Brooklyn by midnight, my wife was zipping her coat over her growing belly and reaching for the door handle. We tromped through the snow for a half mile along the flank of a long ridge, until a view opened up to the west, exposing a forested valley with some cleared farm fields and a few houses—one of which must be the one we’d come to see. It sure looked peaceful down there.
Just after sunset, once we’d found our way down the mountain, an agent opened the door and we stepped inside a cozy, cedar-shingled home. Out the west windows we could see a snowed-over beaver pond and a brook. To the east was the mountain we had just hiked. We took a look around and sat down in the breakfast nook, facing each other across the table. As if on the real estate agent’s cue, a full moon popped over the mountain and cast its glow on the breast of the snow-covered meadow that would soon become our vegetable garden.