Vermont: The Next Step Toward A Simpler Life:

A simpler life in Hancock, VT

What should be cultivated is simplicity. Simplicity means that you keep everything to a minimum. You keep your life very simple: you could get up, practice, eat breakfast, go to work, come back, have dinner, practice again, and go to sleep.

~ Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche: The Path of Individual Liberation

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.”

 ~ E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful  (via Rob Williams, Ph.D., Publisher, the Vermont Independent )


If you've been following our saga, you'll know that two months ago, my husband David and I made our first attempt to downsize into a simpler life by leaving our semi-comfortable suburban lives in Boulder and heading for the mountains. A month later, we found that this step wasn't quite cutting it. (Turns out our health was being affected by the altitude, too.)

So, with a little help from a friend of ours, we uprooted again and found ourselves here: The Gathering Inn, Hancock, Vermont (population about 350, not including chickens, horses, ducks, cardinals, deer, chickadees, moose, and everything else).

 The Gathering Inn, Hancock, Vermont
The Gathering Inn, at the corner of Rt 100 and 125, Hancock, Vermont
Of course, our new digs don't look exactly like this at the moment, since we just got two feet of snow. I shamelessly swiped the above photo from the website.

Here's what it actually looked like a week ago:

Where's the car? Hancock, VT 2017

Anyway, all weather aside, our goals for a simpler life currently go something like this:

  • Begin weaning ourselves away from fossil fuels by 
    • losing the commute, and 
    • learning how to seriously grow food 
  • Learn how to live in community, 'cause 
    • we can't do everything by ourselves, and 
    • people who know us in person are more likely to have our backs when the going gets tough 
  • Begin freeing ourselves from the tyranny of money by 
    • redefining "wealth" as "security, control and access to life-sustaining resources"
    • exchanging goods, skills, and expertise for things of real value like housing, food, services or even art
    • paying down or, if possible, eliminating debts 
    • cutting down on "middle men" by dealing directly with providers (such as doctors)
  • Reconnect with nature 
  • Make meditation practice a priority, both for 
    • mental stability, and 
    • reconnection with the nonphysical (spiritual) world
Naturally, this is a work in progress as we learn more, but you get the basic idea.

Why in Heaven's name are we doing this? 

Over the years, the two of us have started asking questions of our civilization. Here's a few examples:

Example 1: Why is money such a big friggin' deal, anyway?

Money is actually nothing but a belief that little pieces of paper and black dots on a computer screen have value. Don't believe me? Try stuffing a few dollar bills into your gas tank and see how far your car goes. Yet this belief holds 99% of the world captive as debt serfs while our "wealth" -- in the form of little black dots on a computer screen -- is siphoned off to creditors.

Creditors in their turn produce absolutely nothing of real value. (I tried stuffing a creditor into my gas tank once, but he ran away.) All creditors can do is create "money" (little black dots on a computer screen) out of thin air by making "loans" (promises to transfer little black dots to people in return for promises to transfer those little black dots back with extra) which are then entered into their accounting books as "assets" (more little black dots), which contribute to the company's "worth" (in little black dots).

In the words of the great virtual universe of pop culture: WTF?

Example 2: Why the heck do we keep using so much oil, even though it's getting scarcer and it's bad for us?

So, human beings use this handy substance that is, on a human timeline, irreplaceable for ... basically everything.

For instance, we use it to cultivate, fertilize, and transport food from the other side of the world onto our dining room tables. (Aside: one thing David and I have noticed after moving here is that there are very few fresh green beans available at the supermarket in March. This is because green beans aren't in season. Local food!)

Meanwhile, we pave over the arable soil next door  -- using more of the same nonrenewable resource -- to build new shopping malls and parking lots while our existing structures, roads, and bridges crumble from neglect.

Oh, and did I mention that, when used, this substance has a nasty habit of excreting toxic poop into our environment that poisons both us and the things we eat?

Instead of saying "Whoa, let's simultaneously make our air nicer to breathe, our water nicer to drink, our soil better for growing things, AND taper off our usage of this stuff that ain't getting any easier to find, " civilization says: "Let's use MORE of it to go to war to take it away from other countries!"

Uh, sorry, but that just doesn't make any sense, booboo.

Example 3: How come our iPhones haven't made our lives better?

Don't get me wrong; we enjoy our electronic toys just as much as the next person. But do they really do anything that land line telephones and encyclopedias didn't do, other than make it even more difficult to focus on anything productive we might happen to be doing?

Yeah, it seems quicker to look up information on the Internet than it is to call someone or find it in an encyclopedia. But the Internet is so infested with distractions such as Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube, in reality are we actually saving any time getting the information that we need?

Oh, and did I mention that the Internet is a greedy resource consumer?

Speaking of technology and resource consumption, let's talk about cars for a moment. Supposedly, cars make it easier and quicker to move ourselves and whatever crap we have from point A to point B. But do they? How much time do we spend sitting in traffic,? And how extra much do we have to work to earn the money to pay for car loans, insurance payments, registration fees, fuel, and maintenance costs? What about the impact on our health in the form of obesity, stress, and the inhalation of pollution?

There's nothing wrong with technology -- up to a point. But when does our return on investment in technology begin to degrade? At what point does the toll on the environment, our resources, our health, and our relationships outweigh the benefits of the latest shiny new toy?

Example 4: The White House

'Nuf said.

In answer to these questions, civilization, just like a bad Sunday School teacher, spews out the same old tired, irrelevant answers: 

"Work harder, make more money, buy more stuff, and you'll be happy." (But your creditors will be even happier.)

"More oil will put people back to work".  (No, it will be consumed in the creation of automation that eliminates our jobs.)

"Technology will save us". (No, technology is an energy CONSUMER, not an energy PRODUCER. It merely exacerbates our resource problems.)

"Your government will take care of you". (Really? Wanna know what our congresspeople spend most of their time doing?)

So, we've concluded that civilization is senile. 

It's suffering from dementia, delusional disorder, and is morbidly addicted to oil. It can no longer respond to new challenges with anything even vaguely resembling freshness or creativity. It cannot take care of us, and it isn't contributing much to our lives.

In short, civilization's no fun to be around. So, rather than waiting around for it to croak, we're moving away.

Okay, so we're throwing in the towel on civilization and opting for a simpler life. What does this insanity -- er, simpler life -- look like so far?

Well, so far, it looks like our human neighbors: Kathleen, 71, proprietress and duchess of this particular little speck of New England; fellow boarders Sarah, Michael, Lucy, and Kyle; and local business owners Diane of the Old Hancock Hotel across the street (all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays), and Sarah of the Hubbard Country Store down the road.

It looks like two permacultured acres, a cold greenhouse, and a beehive, ready for our food-growing experiments.

It looks like daily chant and meditation practice.

It looks like working, writing, drawing, and visiting family.

It looks like our non-human friends:

Some of the resident kitchen scrap-to-egg-and-poop-converters
Lucy, one of three resident cat food-to-purr converters

And like this view out the kitchen window:

March Snow, Hancock, Vermont, 2017

And this:

White River, Hancock, VT 2017

 And this:

White River, Hancock VT 2017

Are we doing the right thing? Who knows; we're not even sure exactly what we're doing yet. Gotta say, though, that so far, this simpler life looks and feels pretty appealing.

We'll keep you posted.

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