All the Ways You Can Stay


For Rudy.

Illustrations by Timothy Pantspockets.

Most kids like you, who are from towns like this,
Are encouraged to leave, and then set adrift.
“Oh the places you’ll go”, yes that’s what they’ll say,
"You’re nothing but stuck, if you do nothing but stay.”

You’ll head straight out of town, like everyone said.  
"That kid’s going places, they’ll make their own bed”.  
But then you’ll look back; it’ll be hard to swallow;  
The same place you once loved now just looks so hollow.   

The barns they all lean, and the field’s overgrown. 
Paint peels quicker on a house that’s not home.  
It’s hard to see, but indeed is the truth,  
That places will fade without memories and youth.   

Yes places need people, and this one does too,
And maybe this place, and these people, need you. 
Your family, your friends, these hills, and this town, 
They’d not be the same, without you around.    
So leave if you must, but perhaps not today. 
Stop and consider all the ways you can stay.


The adventure in life isn’t flying around,  
But in feeling your toes squishing right in the ground.  
If you stay in this town, it’s not that you’re stuck, 
It’s that you are part of a long line of luck. 

Your mom and dad, and Grampy and Grammy,  
They treat the whole town as if it’s their family. 
Because people who stay in the places they’re in  
Become one with their place as if it’s their skin.   
And never mind that, I’ve only begun.     
The best thing about it is that it is fun!   
Yes it’s fun indeed, for all kinds of reasons, 
Not least of which are all of the seasons.      
YOU CAN STAY IN THE SPRING, the season of mud.   
The hayloft is empty; the last of the cud.    
The buckets of sap, which to carry is toil.  
But by feeding the ‘vap, the sweetness will boil!   

The families and neighbors, who emerge now in greeting;  
Gulp coffee and donuts, then vote at town meeting.  
The sun’ll rise higher, revealing the boulders; 
You appreciate more the more you get older  

How hopeful it is, the rebirth of spring.    
The bulbs that bloom and the peepers that sing.   
The swollen brooks, the little spotted fawn;  
The woodcock at dusk, and the grouse at dawn.  

The resting is over, so after Lent go   
To brave the black flies and mend the back fencerow.  
Yes the promise of spring, is what is in store;  
What’s coming’s not less, but oh, so much more!   
YOU CAN STAY IN THE SUMMER, the nights’ll get warmer;  
There’ll be haymaking weather right ‘round the corner. 
Long dewy windrows impossibly green;   
In lilac hedges the chickadees preen.    

Hear the brook call you to swim and to fish;  
Supper at the Grange Hall, bring a side dish.  
Old Home Day sack races on the town square;   
The people that left will come back to be there.  
All around you are people who knew your grandparents;  
They see them on you like a mask that you’re wearin’.  
Their kids and your dad, they grew up here too, 
They played in these streams the way that you do.   

Fairground fireworks on the 4th of July; 
The Legion chicken barbecue with rhubarb pie. 
Everyone comes out for the firemen’s parade;  
They volunteer for fun, we’re happy they stayed.    
YOU CAN STAY IN THE FALL and don a sweater. 
First frost on the fields, it couldn’t be better!  
The Canada geese chase after the sun; 
To always be leaving cannot be much fun.  

Most trees send their leaves to return to the ground. 
But the beech tree knows best, it will hang around  
To see the new ways the sun how it chases 
Shadows across its favorite places. 
It’s time to harvest, there’s apples to press, 
For what’s coming up now’s not more, but less.  
Days are shorter and end by the fire; 
Watch the flames dance to your heart’s desire. 

Hunger in your belly, just like a beast;   
It knows rest is coming, but first, there’s a feast! 
The giving of thanks, the greatest of days; 
Everyone, everything, worthy of praise.   
YOU CAN STAY IN THE WINTER, I hope that you do,  
A fresh blanket of snow gives a new view  
To the mountaintop first, then the whole town. 
And slowly but surely things will slow down.  

At the Christmas Eve service, “Fall on your knees”;  
Read the hymnbook by candle and sing as you please. 
Go home for the holidays” is what they will say,  
But home for all-the-days, it’s better that way! 
Clear off the pond, with milk crates for goals; 
An island bonfire turns the trees into coals. 
Everyone comes to ring in the year;  
Can’t imagine a place better than here. 

Ice fishing derby, shanty tall tales;  
The whole town’s there to witness the scales.  
It’s the last burst of the great winter fun 
And a new wheel turning has just begun.  


So by now you know, my small Northern friend,  
The best thing ‘bout seasons, is that they will end  
They mix sameness with newness; that's the great key 
To loving the place where you ought to be. 

Now here will be here whether you’re here or not, 
But all places need people, lest you forgot.  
And sameness and newness, this place needs too.  
Which is precisely why this place needs you!  

To carry things on, to keep us all knowing  
That staying can often be better than going. 
This place has a rhythm, and your life, a rhyme;   
There’s music when family and place combine.  

So then stay in the summer, fall, winter and spring;  
To belong to a place is a wonderful thing.  
And then when you’re old, there’s something you should do, 
Show your kids all the ways that they can stay too.  


  1. I am from a rural New England town and knew as I was reading that the author must be from New England. This is beautiful and made me cry.

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