So I’ve been thinking a lot about France again – and not only because of the devastating Notre-Dame fire. News that the Vermont Senate had just given preliminary approval to a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags instantly carried me back to my earliest visit to France in the sixties, and the first time I saw people carrying purchases in string bags.
Because I’m a writer and a former librarian, a friend once gave me a refrigerator magnet that says in bold print, I Am Silently Judging Your Grammar. But I believe that language is a living thing with the power to connect us all through meaning and understanding. And in today’s world, that’s no small thing.
Winter’s sudden arrival this fall marked the end of a large road paving project in my town. The resurfacing of a two-lane state highway that stretches forty-two miles from Rockingham to just south of Rutland is a busy corridor, and the project that slowed traffic to a halt all spring and summer led to more than a few frayed nerves.
The word community is in the news a lot these days. We hear about the black community, the LGBTQ community, the deaf community, the science community - large groups bonded by common identity or interests. What we hear less about is the value of community on a small scale.
One recent pristine summer afternoon, two people drowned on a popular southern Vermont lake. From a festive plastic float, they’d waved hello to others passing by on kayaks, paddle boards and canoes, including me.
President Calvin Coolidge, a Plymouth, Vermont native who adored his white collie Rob Roy, once stated in his plain spoken way that “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House” – a sentiment with which I firmly agree.
In the ‘80s, after footloose travel and a stint living in Greece, I decided to get a career and enrolled in a masters program in library science. In my final semester I took a class that introduced us to the latest trend in libraries - computers! When the guy sitting next to me said hello, I felt I’d seen him before.
Never mind that the snows had melted and the first green spears of new growth had pushed up to announce spring’s arrival. For weeks the entire state of Vermont had been held in the messy grip of an extended cold and rainy season.
I’ve done my share of protesting in life. In 1969, I joined a half million protesters in Washington, D.C. in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam - and was sprayed with tear gas. At a similar rally in New York City’s Bryant Park I saw fellow demonstrators clubbed by police and witnessed its rapid transformation from peaceful protest to street violence.
I recently sat on the edge of my seat in a packed house listening to two icons of resistance speak about the state of politics, environment and the media. Vermont’s own Bill McKibben, who jump started what’s now a global movement to fight climate change, shared the stage of Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts with advocacy journalist and investigative reporter Amy Goodman.
While awaiting the inauguration of a new president who admits he’s never read a presidential biography and hasn’t the time or interest to read anything more complex than popular magazines, I’ve been feeling anxious about what this might signal about the future of reading - historically one of America’s favorite pastimes.