Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Limits of Landscape

Last week, looking north from Vermont’s Mount Ascutney, I really didn’t know what I was seeing. There were trees with leaves, trees with names that are hardly mentioned in Montana: maple, beech, ash, oak, and hornbeam.

From above, the landscape looked cozy and inhabited, with quilted patches of woodlot and pasture. It was a pleasant perspective, without the constant reproach of “No Trespassing” that I experience on the ground here.

Open space is better than urban sprawl, but I’ve been spoiled by Montana’s 32 million acres of public land—more than five times the area of the entire state of Vermont. An unfair comparison, I know, but consider these more impartial statistics: public land accounts for almost 35% of Montana, but only 8% of Vermont. No wonder I feel hemmed in.

Many locals seem to cultivate a healthy sense of ownership that extends far beyond the boundaries of their personal property. As a newcomer, I'm not there yet.

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