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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Signs Of Spring Brighten These Strange Times

As you know, I use my column to promote upcoming events in Reading. This week, I’m going to start by writing about events that were upcoming but are now canceled.

The Community Sing-Along (March 27), and the Silent Book Club (April 1) at the library are canceled. In addition, the library is closed. The final concert of the Reading Recreation Commission’s Winter Concert Series (April 4), the Reading Bunny Hop (April 11), and Easter services at the Old Stone Church (April 12) are also canceled.

The Town Clerk's hours have been modified. It is best to call (484-7250) or email ( to make an appointment to conduct town business or if you have questions. Also, note that you can get your dog license by mail. Send a check ($9.00 spayed or neutered dogs, $13.00 if not) along with a current rabies certificate.

To find a silver lining in all that is going on, I offer this. With last week’s wacky weather came sure signs of spring, and that is all something we can be happy about, even if we get a few last gasps from winter. On March 20, the first full day of this season of rebirth, I took out my compass and stood at my kitchen window and watched the sun set. It was just about due west and halfway through its annual journey north toward the longest day of the year. I also heard robins in the morning before the sun had come up. I've toured my yard and have seen bright green plants poking through the soil and buds forming on trees. Last Saturday morning, I rose to notice that the ice was gone from the pond across the road.

Daylilies or irises? I can't tell yet, but I do know that I am happy to see this sign of spring!

Years ago, Jason Dow told me that his grandfather knew it was time to stop gathering sap when the ice was gone. I still see Jason toting vats of sap up and down the muddy road all day long. I shout-asked Abby Rowlee from a distance 25-or-so-feet, I in my driveway, and she on the opposite side of the road with her kids, if the sap was still flowing. The iced-out pond was immediately behind her. She confirmed it was. Maybe that proclamation was more guidance than a hard-and-fast rule.

When I met Jason five years ago, he invited me to come to the sugar house while they were boiling. One Sunday afternoon, I did. There, he pointed out his daughter, Dylan’s and Abby’s daughters, Dylan, and then Dylan’s grandmother to illustrate the fact that many generations of this family are involved with sugaring on this hill. The grandmother was Pat Vittum. As I am sure you know, she died earlier this month.

It wasn’t until about two years after my introduction to Pat that I had an extended conversation with her. She and I sat together at the community luncheon held in May 2017. She told me she always wanted to meet me because she once lived in the house that I live in. She also spoke in loving terms of Jenne Road and of her great-grandchildren.

We spoke again at a similar luncheon, this one around Thanksgiving the following year. We shared stories about our families’ stuffing recipes, and she told me that she took care of the gravestones in the woods beside my property. I had never thought to tend to the grounds around those little stone markers, but this spring, I think I will.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Pat, even if it was just for a few short meetings. I feel lucky to be in a home that she once occupied, and I hope she left some of her spirit, love of life, and good nature here to nurture me.

What is nurturing me at home during these strange times is baking, knitting, my ukulele, writing an article to run in Woodstock magazine

I've already moved my Brussels sprouts into larger pots. Before they go into the ground, I'll need to move them into larger living quarters at least one more time.

in the summer, my seedlings, and of course, my job.

Reiterating that I am without my usual content for his column, I am turning to you to help fill this space. Please share what you are you doing to get through this (my contact info is below). What are you struggling with? What joys have you found? What realizations about yourself and the way you live you discovered? What do you think you will do differently after all this craziness is over? I’ll share them in upcoming columns, and together, we can work to sustain our community by reading about our shared experiences. Your stories could help us build a sense of empathy towards each other. They could help us forge new friendships or at least different appreciations. They could impart a bit of humor or wisdom during a time when we could use a lot of both.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes on Front Porch Forum for updates from our Town Health Officer, Mary Springer. And follow this bit of advice she gave last week: “As days turn to weeks, it is important to stay vigilant in maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, and following all suggested ways to prevent the spreading of COVID-19. Social distancing does not mean social disconnecting. Write letters, use zoom, text, chat, or whatever technology mode you choose. And above all...laugh, sing and enjoy each day.”

Excellent advice. Stay healthy!

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on March 26, 2020.

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