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Vermont corner

05/21/05 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST) On a map, the southeastern corner of Vermont forms a precise little point, but on a recent walk, commentator Alan Boye found that the reality looks quite different.


(BOYE) The crisp, cloudy morning is quiet. I step away from the empty highway and start up the path. Behind me, the Connecticut River flows towards the sea. Ahead of me, the dirt path follows the edge of a plow- ed field. Next to the field, on the other side of the path, trees grow on a gentle hillside.

Each tree is soft with spring's colors. A vibrant green covers most of them, but scattered among the trees, like flecks of colored light, a few shine white with blossoms.

The path I am walking on is just a few hundred yards from the most southeastern point in Vermont. The hills to the east are in New Hamp- shire, and just beyond my car is the border with Massachusetts. I came here because I want to feel what it's like to be at the very corner of our state. Just north of the tiny village of South Vernon, I spied this hill and parked the car.

I walk alone in the quiet morning. A few birds are singing, and from somewhere far away comes the faint hum of machinery. I zip my jacket against the cool, damp air. Low clouds brush the hills towards New Hampshire, and I can see a gentle rain falling off towards the south. The old farm road where I am walking follows the plowed field for a little while and then enters the woods.

I stop again and again. I look this way and that. I keep trying to imagine that border at my back and how all of Vermont spreads out ahead of me. I know it's nothing more than a game my mind is playing, but I can't help it: I keep trying to superimpose a map onto the landscape. It's just a bunch of lines we humans draw to distinguish one place from another, but I keep trying to picture those lines, as if they might actually appear before me on the hillside.

Those hills are New Hampshire, I repeat again and again, and those over there, Massachusetts. I keep trying and trying to see Vermont in front of me until, finally, I stop. I take a deep breath. I turn back toward the Connecticut River. Fields of bright green grass line the valley. In the far distance, clouds skim the tips of the tallest hills. At my feet, tiny blue flowers spring out of the dark moss at the edge of the faint path.

I hear that low, mechanical hum again. I study the empty highway below me. In a moment, a farmer's tractor appears. It moves slowly and steadily northward, up the highway until it disappears.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.
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