When Charlie Braun arrived in southern Vermont in the early 1970s, he set out to build things – a house, a family, and a community.
And although he left the area almost three decades ago to scratch the itch of his questing soul, he has left a little of himself in the hearts of his friends and in the lands around Belden Hill and by Packers Corners.
“Charlie’s sudden death rocked our neighborhood,” said Verandah Porche, a poet who arrived in Guilford a few years before Charlie. “I realized that he had built my house, along with a few other neighbors, 30 years ago. I live in this solid place.
Charlie Braun, 69, was struck and killed on October 6 while cycling in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he had lived for more than a decade and where he owned and operated the Other Side of the studio. Tracks.
“He helped me with my first song, advised me to love being a beginner, to listen deeply and share to learn,” Porche said.
Like everyone Charlie has met, Porche was immediately struck by his smile and his charisma.
“Charlie smiled more than anyone I know,” she said. “Easy and intense, he was, without order: musician, mentor, carpenter, father, father and grandfather, neighbor, spiritual seeker.”
“I loved the guy,” said Jon Peters, who moved to Williamsville in 1975 with his friend, Richard Davis.
“Richard played the banjo in the Arwen Mountain String Band and I played the drums,” said Peters.
Back then, the southern Vermont music scene was booming, particularly at Chelsea House, a large red barn still standing on Marlboro Road in West Brattleboro.
It was there that Peters met Charlie, who played guitar in a band called New Shoes.
“My first assessment was that he was a very talented and sexy electric guitarist,” said Peters. “He was the guy everyone wanted to play.”
Peters quickly learned that the passion Charlie transmitted through his guitar was not just about his music, but everything and everyone Charlie kissed.
“It’s almost a cliché, but he was the guy who always smiled,” he said. “When you saw him, you felt good. Whatever you do, he made you feel like you were the best at it. That you meant to him.
The nation was shedding its hangover as a result of the counterculture that had arisen around the Vietnam War, and people like Charlie, Davis, and Peters were looking for something different than going for their own business. father or to become doctors or lawyers.
“We were very influenced by the hippie movement of the 60s, the nascent back to the land and save the land movement,” Davis said.
These people, in search of something other than what the American Dream seemed to offer, were like excited atoms, vibrating with energy, combining and turning in new directions.
“It was a time when like-minded people met,” said Peters. “Many of them were lost in the world, trying to figure out what was to come next.”
And they had this overwhelming desire to build something new and different – tinkering with houses with leftovers, digging rocks out of the ground to plant seeds, and raising dynamos of potential that could come out into the world without the same baggage as they did. they came to southern Vermont to be cleared.
“We were the immigrants,” Davis said. “But economically and philosophically, we weren’t that far removed from the people who were native to Vermont. It was a philosophy of self-sufficiency.
Charlie seemed to embody a freshness, his friends said, a desire to search for something new and different, but at the same time, his steadfastness was as old and as reliable as the earth they were digging for rocks from.
“He had an aesthetic vibrancy that tied people together,” said Wende Mueller, who first met Charlie in 1974, when she stopped by Capt’n Bullfrogs Music, a record store on Main. Street, to buy “I’m Still in Love with You.”
“Charlie was behind the counter,” she said. “The moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he would have a profound effect on my life.”
Still, she said, “He was a little sarcastic. At the time, he was not an Al Green fan.
Nonetheless, they started dating over the next few months. They traveled alone, but all the time, they were sending letters to each other.
They returned to the area in 1975, continuing their relationship and giving birth to two daughters, Cedar and Jemma.
The war had just ended, she said, and it was May 1 in Guilford.
“All the hippies from all over came to the annual event. It was a big party. It was clear that a new era was dawning.
To some people in southern Vermont, it might sound more like an invasion than a new era, but the feeling didn’t last long. Eventually, these researchers would become friends and relatives, knitted in the fabric of Vermont.
Eric Morse was 23 when he moved to Vermont and was living in a house on Weatherhead Hollow Road in Guilford when Charlie arrived one day.
“We just did.”
They got along so well that Morse and Charlie built houses for their new neighboring families and, along with neighbors Sandra Marr and Smokey Fuller, raised a host of children who rushed between the houses.
“We had a nice little colony here,” Morse said.
“It was really beautiful,” Mueller said. “An incredibly magical and cosmic experience.”
“He was still working on a new song and playing guitar in a studio he had in his house,” said Skye Morse, son of Eric and Dale Morse.
And even when the kids were fidgeting, making noise or arguing, Charlie never lost his temper, Skye said.
“I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice or say something annoyed,” he said.
“He was a positive force and he was never in conflict about it,” Skye’s father admitted. “It was his intention to be positive because that’s what the world needed and it was something he could contribute.”
Eric Morse described Charlie as a devoted father and awesome gardener who built houses, but his real passion was playing music. And it was not only the passion that shone through, he said, but also the intensity of that passion.
“Charlie just took music to a different level,” he said.
Charlie also took the relationship to a different level, said Dan Snow, who met Charlie in the 1980s when he came to build a rock foundation for a half-timbered barn Charlie was building.
“He was everyone’s best friend,” Snow said. “And he has remained a staunch and loyal friend throughout.”
Snow described Charlie as “a very well-rounded guy,” a modern-day Renaissance man.
“He wasn’t trying to find his way. He was so curious. He had an exuberance and an enthusiasm for life. Nothing has passed it without a full review with care and interest. If there was one person in my life who personified Leonardo da Vinci, my hero by the way, it was Charlie.
Peter Hetzel, who moved to Dummerston in 1978, met Charlie in the 1980s, when they both worked for Vermont Timber Homes.
“He was always very excited about what he was doing and always excited to hear what you were doing,” Hetzel said. “His enthusiasm made you more enthusiastic. “
Over the years, Mueller found herself drawn to Buddhism and began to practice yoga and meditation. Charlie would come to Buddhism later in life, after their separation in January 2000.
“Buddhism changed her life,” she said. “It gave him a lot of peace.”
After leaving Guilford and before moving to his studio in Northampton, Charlie became a school counselor in Leyden and West Tisbury, Mass.
“Charlie was the kind of person who could pull things out of those who normally kept them inside,” Peters said. “It was his nature. If I were an 8 year old lost in life, this is the guy I would like to talk to.
Over the past decade, Charlie has recorded eight CDs of original music, reflecting his spiritual life and his fascination with kirtan, which is devotional call-and-response music with chants rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism.
He also lived in his van, which allowed him to show up at a friend’s doorstep, where he was always welcome.
“He was here a few weeks ago,” Eric Morse said shortly after Charlie’s death. “He came over and helped stack some wood and we watched the sunset together.”
Skye Morse was there that day, Charlie arrived and helped stack wood with his dad. Charlie played with the Skye twins and the memory can be read in his voice with both wonder and sadness.
“When I’m with my kids, I think of Charlie,” he said. “How can I be in the moment with them and understand what they want and need. The plans I had for my day are irrelevant. I’m just going to bring some positivity at this point. It’s Charlie.
With Charlie’s death, Davis said, the world lost a very bright and vibrant light.
“The void is enormous,” agreed Peters.
But Charlie would like his friends to carry the torch, Davis said. “Each of us must go on, feel the loss and remember the light.”
“The sticker on the bumper of Charlie’s VW pickup truck clearly indicated his core belief, for those of us still here and charged with continuing,” Wende said. “The real revolution will be love.”