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Luskin: Resilience

A few weeks ago when lightning struck Valley Cares, an assisted living facility in Townshend, the residents and staff executed their well-practiced emergency drills and were all safely outside by the time fire fighters arrived. The residents then traveled the half-mile down the road to Leland and Gray Union High School, where they awaited transportation to temporary alternate housing.

These residents are experienced at such emergencies. The sprinkler system that contained this recent fire is the same one that froze and burst last New Year’s Eve. That emergency in extreme cold was also dealt with swiftly, thanks to the well-rehearsed emergency plan.

The Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival in Jamaica was also well-rehearsed - to perform a community concert at Valley Cares, but not practiced in making last-minute alternate arrangements. The concert was first cancelled, then postponed. Instead of performing in Townshend on a Wednesday at 3, the concert took place 26 hours later, on Thursday at five, in Brattleboro.

Just as the residents of Valley Cares were given temporary shelter around the county, so the Pikes Falls musicians were offered an emergency venue at the Latchis Theatre’s main stage, between the matinee and evening screenings of Mission Impossible. It was a magnificent performance that included a world premier of a commissioned work by contemporary composer Nathan Lincoln-deCusatis, a trio by Beethoven, and a clarinet quartet by Prokofiev.

Now in their fourth year, The Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival is based in Jamaica, where it performs at the recently restored Jamaica Town Hall. They also perform up and down the West River Valley, giving free concerts at venues like the Vermont Country Store in Weston, the West River Farmer’s Market in Londonderry, Jamaica State Park – and Valley Cares. On my way home from the Brattleboro performance, one word kept playing in my head, like a small, musical phrase.

As I drove north along the West River, I thought of all the ways Vermont’s riverside communities have brooked change and rallied after disasters both large and small. I was reminded of the generosity that flooded our communities four years ago, when Irene washed through, and again after the lightning strike at Valley Cares.

This past Saturday, local musicians staged a four-hour musical fundraiser on the Townshend Common to help Valley Cares rebuild.

The kindness that flows like the rivers through our communities in times of need is astounding, just like Vermonters’ ability to rebuild. The word that sang in my head was Resilience, the backbone of life in Vermont.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.
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