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This is a project I started in July, 2021. I was reflecting on the human condition and on our connectedness. It made me wonder what it would be like to know what was going on with the other humans around us.

I decided to ask people what they are concerned about. First, the context is the present moment. Then, what is a larger or more global concern? Here are the responses, in the order of my approaching them.

1. Amanda

was at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre. This is not where she typically spends her time. She’s usually in the woods with her horses and dogs.

Her Immediate Concern

Amanda was here to get online for information, then to print and fill out forms for a business she is starting. The enterprise is Manda’s Mutts—an adventure club for Central Vermont dogs.

Larger Concerns

Her family. She and her boyfriend don’t have children. To them, family means their parents and siblings.

The couple always held this value, but the pandemic brought into focus the importance of being with people who matter. She cherishes them more than she did before, and really wants to take advantage of any special quality time they can have together. Her dad is in kidney failure and needs a transplant. He’s on a waiting list, but that brings no certainty.

An Update

November, 2021: I spotted this photo of Amanda walking the dogs. What a delight to see!

2. Gaston

was sitting on a bench outside Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. He was waiting for his partner who was shopping inside. They are on vacation, traveling from Chatanooga, TN.

His Immediate Concern

He had just looked at his email for the first time in a week (he was looking at his phone when I approached him). It caused a lot of anxiety; it was, in fact, overwhelming. He says he has been thinking on this vacation that time and how we choose to use it seems to be the only thing we’re in charge of.

Larger Concerns

Coming to terms with the capitalist tendencies woven into society’s fabric. Gaston is weighing how to value time as a commodity. Money is a factor in everything and he sees the effects on his personal life—his relationships and jobs.

He wonders if we can actually do anything about all this, or if are we along for the ride?

Also, he came to Vermont see some old-growth forests (pine and hemlock specifically). He works for a land trust and is, among other things, fighting devastation to Hemlocks caused by an invasive pest.

3. Auriel

was sitting near Rte. 14 in front of Bragg Farm. She was waiting for her husband, who drove up as we finished our quick conversation.

Her Immediate Concern

The couple was running late for something they had not planned, causing unwanted additional pressure. They were in disagreement over the activities they wanted to do with their friends; they were going to a music event instead of a lake.

Larger Concerns

Heath, harmony, and simplicity for herself, her family, and the natural world. Listening to our own self-care needs.

Auriel talked about midsummer in Vermont, and the way it feels like too much at once. That’s every July! But, considering this point in history, she’s focused on what feeds a recovery from trauma for individuals and the planet. She wants to be conscious of the ways we are aligning. To her, more pressure=more trauma and that is not what we need!

4. Alex

was in espresso bueno in Barre, picking up this tray of microgreens. This was a business errand for him, he runs Gratitude Farms – Biodynamic Growers.

His Immediate Concern

First, know that Alex was getting a parking ticket during our conversation. We could see that happening through the window and he completely brushed it aside. This is what he’s worried about right now: economic collapse. Alex believes they are creating deliberate shortages of food, water, and supplies. When he says they, he means the manipulators.

Two tablespoons of seed, he points out while gesturing to his tray, creates a pound of food. We have plenty.

Larger Concerns

Humanity and clean food.

5. Calvin

was painting the porch of the Alley Cat in Barre. I interrupted his work.

His Immediate Concern

The events in the news. Calvin says there is a lot of stuff in the world that is not good going on, and he’d like it to get a lot better. He shook his head more than once and repeated “a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff that is not good.”

Larger Concerns

Calvin is trying to get an apartment. He doesn’t want to fill in the details, but says he needs a new place.

6. Lynne

was at the (ReSOURCE) ReStore in Barre with her son. They were in the music section; she was looking through records.

Her Immediate Concerns

“Opportunities—those that arise that I need.” As specifics, she listed jobs and other choices.

Also: the world spirit.

A Larger Concern

One of Lynne’s sons just passed in December. She says she’ll carry that forever; there is a lifelong umbilical attachment.

7. Amy

was crossing Church Street near City Hall Park in Barre. She was there to scope out parking for an event she is involved with through the Vermont Workers Center.

Her Immediate Concern

Is there enough parking for the March for Medicaid event coming up Saturday? It is important to take into account that some of the attendees will have mobility issues. Amy was glad to find that there are thirty spaces available in the short section of Church Street next to the park. And, she notes, all metered spaces will be free on Saturday.

Her Larger Concern

Lack of access to equitable and affordable health care—not only in this country, but in this state, and right here in Barre. She cites Act 48, passed ten years ago. Vermont does have universal health care, but she hasn’t seen the will to figure out how to implement that. She notes the situation has remained much the same with both democratic and republican governors.

Amy is also concerned about the motel program (which provides housing for those in need) ending this month. “When you don’t have a home to live in, it becomes a health issue,” she explains.

8. Jack

was outside of petco on the Barre-Montpelier Road. His dad was in the store; his younger brother in the car. The three were dropping off their dog for grooming.

His Immediate Concern

The dog. This is only her second go-round, and he wants all to go well for her. The first appointment went just fine. Jack’s dad had successfully dropped off the pet and came out of the store as we spoke.

His Larger Concern

Staying positive. Jack notes there is a lot of negativity all around: on the internet, the news, and in the people you come in contact with—just out there in the world. He’s focused on staying out of that and staying healthy.

To him, healthy means being comfortable in his skin. It also means being comfortable in his surroundings, and with the people he spends time with. He thinks it’s worthwhile, also, to step out of your comfort zone (a new job or a move across the country, for example). He’s not looking for a big change for himself right now; he’s feeling good where he is.

9. Matt

was on top of Mt. Abe with his two goats. He grew up in Vermont and remembers this hike as a field trip. He has since moved away, but he’s visiting his grandmother. He showed me from the mountaintop where she lives.

His Immediate Concern

To finish some work on the roof of his grandmother’s house. He came to Vermont to help her out and estimates that he has saved her at least $6,000. He brought his excavator with him and was busy with that the day before the hike.

A Larger Concern

He started an excavation business last year. It’s doing OK but he’d like to be doing better. So far the enterprise is just him, which allows him some flexibility in pricing.

10. Archie (and Maggie)

were out for a walk behind the McFarland State Office Building in Barre. Archie’s office is on the back corner of the building. Maggie was a little bit distracted by a gray cat. Archie says other cats don’t seem to bother her.

His Immediate Concern

Family happiness—not necessarily his own, he says, but the rest of his family. He has children and grandchildren.

Also the approach of Veterans Day. Archie is a veteran and works with veterans. He’s wondering what others — he calls them our veterans—are thinking. He references what recently happened in Afghanistan and current situations. This work, and his concern for it, consumes a lot of his life.

A Larger Concern

Archie’s job is to find work for veterans, but he points out it’s not just that. He also helps in addressing finances and homelessness.

He wishes there were ZERO homeless vets in the state of Vermont. Only fifty are housed in shelters; there is no more room. The rest are living on the streets or in tents. “Then they’re trying to find a job? That makes it even more difficult.”

11. Dorie

was on her way to Barre’s North End Deli to pick up her copy of the New York Times. was on her way to Barre’s North End Deli to pick up her copy of the “New York Times.” She said she had to rush home for a Zoom meeting, but agreed to take part in my project. She emailed her answers to me later.

What Concerns Me?

The most immediate thing that concerns me is: I need to remember to listen with a “third ear.” When you stopped me, I was coming home from a vigil I take part in once a week in downtown Barre. In the vigil, I hold up a sign that says (in more words) that Black lives matter, are worthy and are important in our society, in our community. When people drive by, many respond in support; a few show their opposition. I smile at the supporters but I also give serious attention to those who are opposed. I ask myself: What am I actually hearing from them underneath their comments and gestures? Do I hear different values or do I hear different fears that are based on the same values?

A Larger Concern

that I carry with me is human beings’ propensity for killing each other, particularly in state-sponsored violence, which we call “war.” I do believe that conflict is a natural part of human society. I do not believe that conflicts need to be solved through the threat or practice of violence toward each other. But even in our democratic, thoughtful society, a huge portion of our taxes go to support militarism and war. We need much more investment in finding other ways to address our conflicts. Killing each other will not make the conflicts go away, it just buries them until they arise another generation later.

12. This Man

was starting the day with his colleagues at Delicate Decadence in Barre. He is in the military, involved in protecting against cyber threats. Cyberwarfare, he called it.

His Immediate Concern

His four daughters. They are always on his mind, and anything he does is for them. He is concerned with their well-being and what he can provide for them. There’s a clear and direct line for him from a job and money to taking care of his family. He referred to his upbringing as old-school. He looks up to his grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily.

Another Concern

He’s trying to get to know the community and other individuals. He is new to the area and doesn’t know a lot of young people.

13. Noodle

was with her boyfriend at the Maplewood Service Center in Berlin. She was taking a vacation day. Tiny red hearts formed the pattern on her cloth mask.

Her Immediate Concern

Saving people’s lives. Noodle is a nurse and works in the behavioral health unit at a hospital. She has done rotations for everything during clinical: Covid patients, ICU, geriatrics, maternity, and pediatrics. She likes what she does.

A Larger Concern

Existentialism. Finding meaning in nothing, and the joy in suffering like Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. She references these questions: What is the way out of pain? The path to enlightenment?

Noodle believes we have to help people and need to make meaning the best ways we can—to learn, to grow, and to unconditionally love. She carries a sense of justice, morality, selflessness, and altruism.

She acknowledges this is an ideology, but is at the same time truly convinced we can all save each other, and humanity, if we all just come together and set aside our differences.

14. Kristabeth

was in a meeting of the Women Business Owners Network that I also attended. She succinctly described herself as “a pastor for people who don’t do church.” She agreed to meet with me later on Zoom.

Her Immediate Concern

Not catching Covid. Krastabeth says this is more present now than it has been at any other point in the pandemic. She plans to officiate a wedding this weekend for a couple coming to Vermont from Texas; the stakes of the commitment feel high. She can stay fairly isolated, is vaxxed and boosted, but her husband leaves the house to do his job. He is being cautious—masking and limiting his exposure as much as he can.

A Larger Concern

The climate crisis. Kristabeth believes this problem is fed by disconnection in our society. What she wants to do about it, in a space she calls her “little corner of the world” is to foster connection and creativity. She explains: Feeling connected to others flows into connection to what is around us. We are a part of the natural world, not separate. Our life, and the earth’s life depends on understanding this.

15. Chris

was in the foyer of the Wayside restaurant in Berlin at lunchtime. He was meeting someone who was to interview him for a new job. He pointed out that he doesn’t always dress this way. His usual work attire is sweatpants worn at home.

His Immediate Concern

The job interview. It’s with a company other than the one he’s working for now. It matters to Chris to be able to continue to work remotely.

A Larger Concern

The pandemic’s physical and psychological impact on people. Chris thinks people are starting to get less worried about the virus and says that’s great.

Chris is concerned about his daughter. They only recently moved here and most of her friends at school have never seen her face. She doesn’t know what they actually look like. This is scary to him. “That shouldn’t be considered normal” is the way he put it.

16. Tim

was at Gifford Woods State Park. He was freshly showered and walking back to his campsite. He’s from Alabama and is hiking the Appalachian Trail from north to south.

His Immediate Concern

Food! He had plans for getting a beer and a burger and had eaten the same about five days prior. He also mentioned pie and noted that it’s pretty easy to get resupplied in the area. Tim said that everything revolves around food when you’re on the trail and hungry. He estimates he’s burning five thousand calories a day, eating three thousand. He is forty-five pounds lighter than when he started forty-seven days ago.

Larger Concerns

His health. Tim is thirty-five and wasn’t always good to himself in his younger years. He’s relieved to have legs, arms, and eyes that are working well; he has been aware lately of other people who don’t. He made a reference to soaring health care costs and noted that he wants to be here for a while.

And of course, God. He doesn’t like to get too preachy on the trail because everybody’s got different ideas. But he believes there’s something out there and it’s looking out for him and for a lot of other people. He wraps up by remarking he’s thankful.

17. Brandon

was at the Berlin Mall enjoying a part of his day off work. He works installing fixtures in new stores and lives in Kentucky. He has also lived in California, Kansas, Georgia, and Florida. This is the first time he’s been to Vermont. What strikes him so far? He loves the maple syrup.

His Immediate Concern

Getting through life, in the moment. Just getting through this day and realizing what he’s thankful for. He’d like to reflect and “make a better me” in every moment, and in every step that he takes.

A Larger Concern

Brandon does not want to be a disappointment to his family and friends. What that means to him is to be a man of his word—to be there when they need him or when it’s the right time. He wants to show up for them. His family includes, among others, siblings and two kids.