In August of 1988, my wife and I along with our 3-year old son arrived in the village of Saxtons River, VT to settle into a new life in a somewhat ramshackle house rented from a cousin. Only two years removed from the jungle villages of Sri Lanka followed up by an interim stay in Connecticut, we arrived with few belongings save our clothes, some tag sale furniture and kitchen items, my wife's sewing machine and my professional equipment - a treatment table, acupuncture needles, along with about one hundred large glass jars full of Chinese medicinal herbs.
Our living quarters were mostly the upstairs bedrooms while the rest of the house - the front room, living room and dining area - was used for the office, treatment room and pharmacy. Access to the kitchen meant going downstairs and walking through the office.
I hung out a sign reading 'Julian Jonas, Lic Ac Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture'. Of course, in those days there were no licensed acupuncturists in Vermont, there weren't even registered acupuncturists. But having been licensed in Japan and California, I figured that was good enough.
The decision to come to Vermont was the result of a number of factors and a fair amount of deliberation. We had landed in Connecticut from Asia to be close to family, but the provisional status of acupuncture there at the time - basically a limbo without clear legal status, along with a failed partnership with a naturopath who, it turned out, had embezzled the funds I provided to establish a joint clinic to make bad investments in the stock market (remember the crash of 1987?), was making our welcome feel thin in the Nutmeg State.
Plus, the affluent abundance of life in middle America that had been so alluring after our sojourn in third world (I guess these days one would say 'developing world') had lost much of its luster... The signifiers of this life - the malls and highways, and the lifestyle itself felt bland and uninspiring.
So, we made a grand tour of points further north, places that seemed a bit more 'authentic'. Maine, New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts and when we came to Vermont my wife declared, "I could live here!". I too had wonderful associations having spent many summers in the state as a child.
Calling the state board of professional regulation to inquire about my status as an acupuncturist, I was told by a very polite woman that it was unregulated without any form of licensure or registration and that I was free to practice. When I further inquired whether I could use Chinese herbal medicines, she responded in the affirmative. Pushing my luck a little, I then asked about homeopathic medicines - which I had just begun using, to which she replied somewhat impatiently, "Look, you can practice as you wish as long as you don't pretend to be a doctor or otherwise misrepresent yourself."
And so it was settled. Originally, we intended to settle in Brattleboro and even made a full offer on a house on High Street close to downtown. The sellers, an elderly couple who had raised a family there and lived in the house for over 40 years, apparently overwhelmed by the prospect of actually giving up the house, suffered a severe case of buyers remorse and refused to sell. Mortified real estate agents were profuse in their apologies, but nothing could be done.
At that point, my cousin, who owned a house in Saxtons River but was living in New York, suggested we rent it out. Our agent, Claire Oglesby - an original 'back to the lander' from the 50's and a renowned educator in the area who only moonlighted in real estate to get by - cleverly decided to show us the house on July 4th - timed perfectly for us to witness the most funky and charming, 'only in Vermont' parade imaginable.
But I still had doubts about establishing a practice that would sustain my family in this small Vermont village. My cousin suggested I talk with Linda Balamuth, a chiropractor who practiced around the corner from the house. Linda, who later reverted back to her maiden name of Haltinner and a number of years later became the founder and guiding spirit of the Sojourns Clinic, was encouraging... but succinct. "Why not?" was pretty much her reply.
Why not, indeed. For the first few years I would commute to Connecticut weekly to see patients, working by day and sleeping on the clinic floor by night. Slowly, as the practice in Vermont began to develop, I weaned myself from the Connecticut practice - though there still are people from there with whom a consult to this day.
Then in the midst of it all, I decided to totally retool my practice because my hitherto dormant interest in homeopathy resurfaced full force. It was like a spark had been ignited inside of me and I could not refrain from pursuing this new path - despite the fact that I had spent a decade training and working as an Oriental Medical practitioner. Just as I had done with my Connecticut practice, I spent the next several years weaning myself off Oriental Medicine while I developed the skills to practice homeopathy.
In the early 1990's, I had begun writing a few articles for the Valley Times Journal, a long since defunct free weekly out of Walpole, NH. Not only did it give my practice some visibility, but served as an impetus to research, think and write about various aspects of health care. With the demise of the Journal, I moved on to the Brattleboro Reformer until that too ran into hard times and was bought by a national chain that no longer had interest in my perspective.
Then in 1996, Mitchell Shakour welcomed me into the Monadnock Shopper family. 'We can't pay you much, but we'd like to give you a platform to educate people about alternative medicine'. So, for the last 23 years, working with editor Michelle Green, I've had the opportunity to publish an estimated 300-400 articles for the newspaper. I owe a large debt of gratitude to them both.
At the end of this month, my wife and I will again being moving on - to the browner pastures of the Southwest. That 3 year old who we brought to Vermont now has his own 3 year old (and a 1 year old) and, amongst other things, this move will bring us a lot closer to them.
Just to be clear, this is not a retirement but a relocation. I cannot even envision not practicing homeopathy and will be opening a new office in New Mexico. And I am continuing to work with my current clientele via video chats like Skype and FaceTime, in addition to the old fashioned telephone. While I always appreciate some one fully embodied sitting in front of me at the office, somewhere north of 50-60% of my consultations are already held remotely with people not only from all over the country but from around the world...
So, this is not an 'adios' as much as a heartfelt thank you to the community and an invitation to anyone who wishes to be in touch.