The new gig allows some work-from-home time, which is great. It also involves two days in an actual, not-at-home, office, which is also great. But it’s a transition. I haven’t had to commute regularly, at least not beyond the two flights of stairs from the main floor to the upstairs office, for 13 years. I’ve gone to work in my slippers, or flipflops, depending on the season, for more than a decade.
Last Monday, I climbed into the car in work clothes and real shoes, full travel coffee cup in hand, and headed along the backroads between New Hampshire and Vermont to a new (to me) office in an unfamiliar town. Along the way from home to work I drive through a handful of other small towns, past houses older than our republic, along fields mowed for generations and rivers older than time.
And then I arrive in a quaint New England village not unlike myriad other quaint New England villages dotting the landscape from the northern mountains to the eastern seashore. There is a tall, white-clapboarded church standing next to a small green, with a general store just across the road from the old house where my office sits. Mine is a room upstairs, on the right, with two green-shuttered windows looking toward the neighboring house, a placement very similar to my childhood bedroom in the 1720s house where I grew up (in another small town in a different state).
My second day at the office, I headed out for a fresh air fix. My colleague suggested I explore the short trail through conserved land just behind the office. So I walked a little ways down a quiet road, then turned into the woods and continued on a path that followed a river (I don’t know, yet, the river’s name) and traversed tall trees and giant glacial erratics.
I was happy to learn of this path so close to the office, and I expect I’ll walk there many times as the seasons shift. Eventually I popped back out onto Route 10, walking past the elementary school and the post office, then stopping into the general store to peruse the offerings.
The driver of the first car to pass me when I returned to the road waved as if I were an old friend. Perhaps she thought I was someone else. But I like to think it’s a small town thing that – like the school and the general store, the church and the common – translates from one place to another. Whatever the reason behind the wave, it contributed to the feeling of welcome I felt in this unfamiliar-familiar landscape, a bit further from home than I’m used to being.