It was early spring, 2002, when I found the old cabin, nearly overtaken by forest. It stood empty, at the dead end of a narrow valley in northern Vermont. Built in 1850, it had nothing that I had wanted in a house: no closets, no TV reception, no cell-phone service, no Internet access. It had everything I needed.
Beyond the tangle of raspberry bushes, a spring trickled from the side of the hill and joined a brook where trout hovered in the pebbled shallows. I found fiddleheads and wild ramps sprouting in the glades along the banks. Sap buckets still hung from the maples. One day I followed the river as it flowed down valley through a farm. A gray-haired woman in knee-high mud boots herded a sheep, goats and chickens past a weathered barn. “Eggs for sale” read a sign on the door.
I’d fled Manhattan just six months earlier, tired of high heels and takeout dinners. I was sick from breathing smoke and exhaust and shaken by the recurring images of two office towers tumbling into dust.
I craved clean air, clean water and clean food. I needed to be fed by my neighbors and nourished by the landscape.