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Greene: Showing Off

It’s a given of Anthropology 101 that the moment a visitor enters a community, it’s changed, because its residents adapt - however slightly - to the newcomer. That’s especially true for a touristed state like VT.

VT has been serving up a carefully curated country experience for a long time now. For almost 70 years, Vermont Life Magazine has published stunningly beautiful rural images that would melt the heart of the most confirmed urbanite. Luckily for us, those urbanites have been kind enough to bring along some decent bagels and the New York Times.

But it’s a delicate dance between what tourists expect and what we have to offer. We advertise fall foliage, but not mud season, skiing but not roof raking.

And then there are the visions dancing in visitors’ heads. I once encountered a man standing on the edge of our land, loudly holding forth to his friend about how great it would to be to fill our meadow with condos. “Imagine it!” he cried. “Let’s not,” I responded.

Recent company took pictures of a toad hopping along in the woods—a scene I barely stopped to notice. They were also ecstatic over Canadian geese. But our Inner Mongolian visitors from Journey East a few years back said it best: Clean air! Bright colors! Clean water!

My mother took the hosting challenge to heart and entertained with athletic relish. She’d run a sort of upcountry boot camp, with enough activities and great food to leave her charges staggering toward their cars on Sunday afternoon.

Mom was a powerhouse of educational energy whose mission was to expose visitors to as much of VT’s culture and history as she could cram into 48 hours. She thought nothing of making the three hour jaunt to the Shelbourne Museum, a rapid-fire tour of same, heavy on names and dates, conducted at a brisk trot, a lavish meal in Woodstock, then home with a running commentary on VT history.

There would be another meal on landing, followed by a race around the meadow catching fireflies in mason jars. No lounging around reading on the lawn. Guests were there to be organized. She disapproved of nothing more than what she called dismissively Sitzenlust - whose literal meaning is seated desire. To her it meant a lazy and highly suspect lust for sitting.

I admit to falling short of Mom’s whistle-wielding example, preferring to meet guests halfway. In the process I’m reminded of how blessed we are to be here.