Burlington was booked so we found a hotel down the road apiece in Montpelier. Tim has been trying to teach me how to say it: Mont-peel-ur. But my mind won’t retain that, so I end up doing some hybrid French & Appalachian thingy. I blame it on DNA.
The town was so charming, we decided to get our walk in before we headed off to Maine. So we walked past the capitol and Tim posed for the obligatory photo. There was a group on the front lawn administering Covid vaccines. Vermont is 80 percent vaccinated which is what the rest of the country ought to be.
A lot of people were out walking with dogs and kids and they were all headed in the same direction, as if Zombies pulled North by some magnetic force. Tim insisted we had to follow them.
Turns out they were locals headed to the Saturday market, which is so quintessential Vermont that it made me love the place and people even more. We picked up the most delicious croissants and then continued our walk.
Tim, who is always anticipating how to be kind to others, stopped at a crosswalk I had entered. He thought a car wanted to turn left across the street, so wanted to give them opportunity to do that. I hopped back up on the curb when a woman older than me turned to Tim and waved him to cross the street like those crosswalk helper women in elementary school. Then she began to instruct Tim about how to cross the streets in Montpelier. I was quietly dying laughing, loving this women’s direct mannerisms. That, too, was exactly the sort of thing that seemed to define the state, polite but no nonsense people.
Back home in Oregon, our children and grands are suffering in an oppressive heat wave. Climate change is here, folks, and it’s downright the biggest threat we face as a world. We are smart enough to come up with ways to mitigate it; the question is whether we have the will to do so.
Our one stop in New Hamshire included a walk along the University of New Hampshire’s campus, where we met Mr. Baer.
It was a quiet day on campus, no other tourists in sight. We did bump into one elegant girl.
Mill Girl and Miner boy can be found in nearly any of the towns throughout Appalachia.
I often wonder how many of these towns Mother Jones found herself in and whether she grew weary of trying to persuade workers to stand up for their rights.
There was an entire community of people living along the River front, just below the campus. My daughters and I have been talking about wage inequity and how, even as professional women who work decent wage jobs, they could not make mortgage payments and childcare payments on their own. The streets of Portland are crowded with unhoused people since the pandemic.
Contast that with those who have second or third or more homes along the coast of Maine.Those who made fortunes in oil futures or the stock market. Those rich enough to have homes that sit empty except for a month or so during the year.
Do you think that when people like President Bush or Trump drive through communities like Kennebunkport they look at the homes of teachers and pharmacists and grocery clerks and think: Those poor peasants? The way middle class folks do thr homeless? I asked Tim.
Tim knew I wasn’t really expecting an answer. It was a contemplative question.
I loved that moment in a recent Biden press conference when Biden leaned into the mic and commented: “You can’t get people to work for you? Pay them more.”
This notion that people in Appalachia or others parts of the country don’t have summer homes on the coast of Maine is because they don’t work as hard as the wealthy is a bunch of hooey. Some of the laziest people I’ve ever met are wealthy.
Not all, of course, but enough to make me wish the ghost of Mother Jones would rise up out of her grave.
For far too long Americans have given their very lives to the benefit of the few. If this pandemic has people questioning and challenging the old paradigm of corporate America, if it has a new generation of workers saying: I want more time with my family, then perhaps there is good that can come from all that was lost.
Work is inevitable and, done rightly, it can give our lives direction and purpose. But it should not be the thing that binds us.
God created us for one reason: A longing for friendship. Loneliness drove God to create flawed humans. Imagine how lonely you’d have to be to create someone like Bill Barr or Mitch McConnell.
Thankfully, our lives have been enriched by the love of good people. The kinds of friends that entice you to drive thousands of miles across country just to be able to hug their necks. There is no amount of money that can bring a person the kind of joy that results from a deep and abiding friendship.
This is what we were created for – one another.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain, Burdy & Christian Bend (Mercer Univ. Press).