Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween in Vermont

After living in Tokyo and Shanghai, our family knows how bizarre and attractive our American holidays can appear to other cultures. You dress up in costume and ask strangers for candy? And they smile when they give it to you? Happy Halloween indeed.

There is something characteristically American about the trust required to ask, and the generosity necessary to give. Not to mention the penchant for disguise and the taste for sweets.

This year we celebrated in Woodstock, Vermont. It’s a beautiful town, with a traditional village green, an elegant and expensive resort (the Woodstock Inn), and an unusually high density of gift shops, real estate agents, and art galleries.

The elementary school’s afternoon parade was well attended and exceptionally good-natured, with much admiration exchanged from both sides of the curb.

What the Man Said

"I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks." —Daniel Boone

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.