Mary McCallum


Mary McCallum is a freelance writer and former prison librarian who now works with Vermont elders.

McCallum: String Bags

Apr 29, 2019

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.

Mary McCallum

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.

McCallum: The Lamp

Nov 27, 2018
Laura Wilson

When The Statue of Liberty was under construction, the young American writer Emma Lazarus was asked to compose a poem that could be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the building of its pedestal.

Mary McCallum

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.

McCallum: Squirrels

Sep 25, 2018
A grey squirrel in the grass.
Dgwildlife / iStock

Lately it seems like everyone’s got a squirrel story. Newspapers, radio and the internet have been buzzing about the exploding population of Sciurus carolinensis, the Eastern gray squirrel.

Mary McCallum

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.

Lately, the critters in and around my house remind me of an old movie title about the good, the bad and the ugly.

Richard Svec / Cavendish Historical Society

This spring, the Vermont General Assembly passed a resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birth.

Associated Press

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.

It’s happened again. This week massive ice jams and flooding set in motion by warm weather, rain and rising waters put people and property in danger.

Sadly, last week’s shooting at a rural Kentucky high school that left two dead and eighteen injured didn’t seem to hold our attention for very long.

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.

I’ve joined the growing ranks of Americans who’ve undergone a total knee replacement.

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.

In the darkened theater we followed an Afghan woman as she escaped her burning village with nine children, carrying a fifty-pound sack of flour on her head while trudging through deep mountain snows.

The use of online communication to advance social causes has created some clever new words, like clicktivsm – the signing of online petitions to feel part of social change.

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.