I am Steven, son of Graydon. I was fascinated by the Space Race and science fiction while growing up in the nineteen-sixties. My father was fond of telling me to get my head out of the clouds. He would add that I needed to get my feet firmly planted upon the Earth. He was a simple, down-to-earth man. I simply considered him old-fashioned at the time.
We left the Connecticut shores of Long Island Sound in my sophomore year of high school. My father had grown weary of the “rat race” of suburban living and desired a simpler life. He had been born and raised in the northeast highlands of Vermont, and he longed to return to rural living. This corner of Vermont was dubbed the “Northeast Kingdom” by Senator George Aiken in 1949.
I thought my father was mad. Men had first landed on the Moon just a year earlier, and my fascination with science and technology had not diminished. These were exciting times to live in; too exciting to be moving to the “sticks!”
I had discovered Rock and Roll in Connecticut, but it was in Vermont that I was introduced to Sex and Drugs. My fascination with science and technology was suddenly supplanted by life’s simple, but exquisite pleasures. Watching the mists of the early morning lift from the mountains and hills with a joint in hand was a fine way to start a day. Unfortunately, shortly after graduating from high school in 1973, the so-called “Energy Crisis” was upon us.
Employment was scarce in the Northeast Kingdom, particularly for a young fellow fresh out of high school. I found work in the Syracuse area of up-state New York where my girlfriend’s mother lived. Within a few short months, I wanted to escape the “rat race.” I listened to Led Zeppelin sing:
“If you go down in the streets today, Baby, you better,
You better open your eyes.
Folk down there really don’t care, really don’t care,
Don’t care, really don’t
Which, which way the pressure lies.
So I’ve decided what I’m gonna do now.
So I’m packing my bags for the Misty Mountains
Where the spirits go now.
Over the hills where the spirits fly…”
I did the Misty Mountain Hop and returned to Vermont. I realized that I had thought my father mad for this very same move just a few short years earlier. I did not reflect upon this much at the time. Life in the Northeast Kingdom can be tough, and I was busy trying to make a life for myself.
There were times when life seemed to get so complicated that solutions were non-existent. I discovered that my father had a talent for simplifying the most complex problems and finding the most obvious solutions. When I would mention this “talent,” he would remind me of his advice to get my feet firmly planted on the ground.
My father was a man of the earth. He knew how to grow things. He knew animal husbandry. The front stoop was his favorite place for coffee on a warm summer morning. From there he could take in the scenery as he watched the wildlife. The picture of him to the right is my favorite because it seems to epitomize his essential character. He was a humble man who could even befriend an ass.
My mother taught me the key to understanding my father, for he was not a big talker. He put little stock in words. He measured people by their actions, and that was how he expected to be measured. When I reflected upon this understanding, I came to realize that almost everything he did was for his family, his clan, and his tribe (community). When he did speak, his words were also measured, and people seemed to listen.
My father passed beyond over two decades ago, but he has been a guiding light for me to this day. I marvel at the things I learned from a man with an economy of words. As I reflect upon him to write this piece, I glean even more.
I have been told that I am a shaman. This is a difficult thing to discern for oneself objectively. My father may provide some clues to the veracity of this statement, though. I am compelled to wonder who and what he might have been in a different time and a different culture: one that honored the old ways. He was certainly well grounded in reality and connected to the natural world. If I am a shaman, it may be something I come by naturally; it may be my legacy. I am certain that he was the one ancestor who held the most sway over the person that I am.
Nothing is conclusive, at least not as people usually consider things conclusive. There are some odd nuances or coincidences to this story, though. Among these are that my father and I were both born when the Sun is in the house of the Archer, shortly after the day of Arianrhod. I hope to honor all of my ancestors, but I hope to honor the one I knew first (and best) the most.