Small-town winter

By Ben Hallowell

Not unlike many students at Vermont Law School, South Royalton is the smallest town I have ever lived in. Perhaps there has never been a better time to live in a tight knit community. COVID-19 has made us all reflect inward, leaving us to define what makes us whole as people. Many of the activities that would normally bring people together have been put on the back burner for the sake of public safety—as they should. Even the most basic connection of exchanging a smile has changed. And foggy glasses would rather have us see no one at all.

As a student who arrived at VLS this past fall, it is certainly easy to feel distant from the people, campus, and businesses that make up the South Royalton community. Winter, although beautiful, can exacerbate these feelings. That’s why, on this one particular snowy morning, I was torn between staying in bed the extra hour before virtual class and pulling on my boots to make some fresh tracks. In the end, an extra hour of sleep doesn’t put a smile on your face or that cold morning breath into your lungs. I rolled out of bed, grabbed my camera, and took off through five or six inches of gently gathered snow.

I first stopped to admire the South Royalton Fire Department where, in the warm weather, I can always count on a wave from the members as they maintain their gear and vehicles. Around the corner, I stopped to take in the storefronts of downtown SoRo as the Co-op was receiving morning deliveries, like clockwork amidst the new snow.

From there, I explored around the buildings of campus, many of which I’ve never been in. They were all wrapped in coats of white and dripped with magnificent icicles. I exchanged a pleasant “Good morning!” with a campus worked as she took out some trash bags. The kind of good morning that you know is backed up with a warm smile beneath the mask.

My last stop on the way home was the culinary gem of SoRo that is the Worthy Burger. The empty, snow-filled parking lot made it seem insane that in a few short months there would be a line out the door and around the corner. Across the street, there would be live music playing in the park. Upper Pass would be passing out crisp, tall cans of goodness as local residents and students alike lounge around in the tall green grass.

Dreaming of summer is an easy road to go down, but we mustn’t neglect the ever-present beauty in the winter. Although it is an odd time to be here in this small town, community is all around us. We just have to pull on our boots and take a look around.

Ben is pursuing a Master of Environmental Law and Policy. He grew up on Long Island, NY, and majored in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont. In his spare time, he enjoys surfing, skiing, fishing, and taking photos. Follow him on Instagram @b_hallowell.

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