One of the things Vermonter By Choice Murphy Robinson likes about her adoptive state is how Vermont’s Constitution grants its citizens “liberty in seasonable times, to hunt and fowl on the lands they hold and on other lands not inclosed [sic] . . . under proper regulations.” She thinks this guarantee is consonant with Vermont’s long tradition of sustainable rural life-ways, which include the skills and ethos she teaches as a wilderness guide and outdoor educator.
Murphy was born in Iowa, raised in Maine, and makes her home in a tiny house in Worcester. She founded Mountainsong Expeditions, where she teaches skills for living lightly on the land, and with spirit.
Raised a vegetarian, Murphy is now an omnivore who promotes ethical deer hunting practices that go far beyond game laws, and touch on the history, myths, and spirituality of hunting as a way of deepening our human connection to and honoring the forests that sustain us.
At Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts, Murphy fell in love with the trees in the arboretum, the nearby mountains, and Medieval studies, which led her to spend her junior year at the University of York in England. To escape the urban setting of the university, she joined the hiking club and walked the Yorkshire moors and dales.
By the end of her year in England, Murphy became a student hike leader and trained in wilderness first aid. Just before returning to the United States, she hiked the 90-mile West Highland Way in Scotland; the day before boarding the plane home, she chanced upon a book about the world’s great hiking trails, where she first learned about the Appalachian Trail. A few years later, she hiked it.
After graduating from college, Murphy began her career as a professional wilderness guide, including as a summer wilderness leader for the Farm and Wilderness Camp in Plymouth, Vermont. Winters found her working outdoors in Minnesota, Arizona, Utah and California. She even attempted urban living in Berkeley, California – and gladly returned to Vermont.
Murphy is deeply appreciative of the strong Vermont traditions of a sustainable food chain and local economy. She values Vermonters’ willingness to live and let live; she has found Vermont to be a place that is both rural and accepting of people constructing meaningful lives.
In Vermont, Murphy has been able to establish a wilderness school that reflects her values of inclusiveness, spirituality and feminism; she’s continued her studies into Medieval traditions of female spirituality, and she’s found a community of others who observe a variety of earth-based spiritual practices constructing a spiritual, feminist life.
Murphy says it best: “I really love it here. Vermont really feels like home.”
Vermonters by Choice profiles Vermonters whose deliberate choice to live here adds to the state’s vitality and culture. If you would like to nominate someone to be profiled, please contact me.
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