My Life in 315 Words

By Alice Vining

I am a Virginian who has gone North Toward Home. I was born in Richmond in 1939 into a large Virginia family, but spent my childhood summers in New Hampshire at Rockywold on Squam Lake. My school was Chatham Hall, a Virginia boarding school filled with Northern girls sent South to learn manners. I went North to Smith. My gentle father tried to dissuade me because I “might come home full of ideas.” I spent time in England on an English-Speaking Union Scholarship, took my Junior Year in Paris, and did come home with ideas.

Settling in Washington, I taught at the Potomac School, then worked as a Selection Officer at the Peace Corps in those heady Kennedy Years. I wrote letters for Sargent Shriver and strolled with just a wave into the White House to eat my sandwich with college friends who worked in the West Wing. Joe and I married in 1965, and by 1969 had two baby boys. When we moved to Ann Arbor for Joe to join the Michigan law faculty, I was sure we’d return East, but I found the city and the University made a truly wonderful place to live. For 51 years.

I traveled often to Norway where I have friends like family. I worked as a Realtor, specializing in older houses, and we lived abroad during Joe’s writing leaves in England and Italy. But New England was in the blood. From 1972 on we incrementally built our Vermont summer house, Clear Hill, my place of the heart. Joe has done his academic writing there, and I do my non-academic writing there, too, for the pleasure of friends and family. I also partner with the land, “land-sculpturing,” and I work in clay on a smaller scale.

We bring with us Huckleberry, an Australian Cobberdog puppy and therapy-dog-in-training, who has no idea that we are octogenarians!

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