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Luskin: Borders And Boundaries

In 1764, King George the Second set the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire at the Connecticut River’s western low-water mark. Simultaneously, Britain’s Royal Board of Trade decreed the same low-water mark as the border between New York and New Hampshire, squeezing Vermont off the map.A border dispute between New York and Vermont ensued until Vermont became an independent nation. But when Vermont came the fourteenth state in 1791, the border with New Hampshire became a question that took a hundred and fifty-nine years to resolve.

It wasn't until 1934, the US Supreme Court set the boundary along the line in King George’s original charter.

This history is of great personal interest. I was born in New York, and I’m married to a man born in New Hampshire. For going on thirty years now, we’ve been learning to negotiate our own boundaries.

During the baby rearing years, it too often felt as if my side of the river was under water. My resentment of my husband’s freedom to advance his career while all I could do was advance the laundry bottled up affection as effectively as any of the river’s dams retained water. But we also had days when we’d put our kids in a canoe and paddle along the shore until we found a good spot to swim.

As the kids grew up and independent, so did we, taking up different sports. He craves the risk and excitement of kayaking in white water on New Hampshire’s tumbling streams while I enjoy sculling on the Connecticut, seeking balance and peace. We tolerate one another's interests - which are similar but not quite the same - just as Vermont and New Hampshire are geographically similar, but different.

Like New Hampshire’s White Mountains, my granite state spouse is tall, while I’m shorter and rounder, like Vermont’s Greens. And while I used to say he’s somewhat more conservative than I am, we’ve both changed over the years.

Nevertheless, having plunged into this river of marriage, we’re committed to run the entire course. We’ve encouraged each other to swim with our passions, against strong currents when necessary. We’ve taken turns rescuing each other from drowning in discouragement, grief and despair. We’ve paddled together, swum and dived deep.

After all, a boundary isn’t just for keeping two things separate. It’s also the place where those same two things meet.