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Molnar: Beauty for All

11/07/11 7:55AM By Martha Molnar
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(Host)  Vermont is not our only beautiful state, but commentator Martha Molnar notes that it's one where the beauty is equitably distributed.

(Molnar)   As the light, the air, the blaze of October fade, my walks become a search for color and novelty. My focus shifts from the near and small to the distant and large. And I start noticing the houses, imagining a day in the lives lived in each.


As I pass a little old farmhouse, my eyes shift from the house to the mountains, to the slivers of lakes and the far fields visible in every direction. I crest a hilltop with million-dollar views, but no million-dollar homes. Instead, there are some nondescript old houses, an expanded trailer home, a camp, a smallish log house, and a couple of new, higher-end houses. The value of the houses is not generally related to how much of the unspoiled world above and below they command.


I am struck by how fairly Vermont's beauty is distributed, with all of us sharing our chief natural resource. Not just in the splendor evident on a drive on almost any road, even the Interstate; but also in the beauty surrounding virtually every home, from the antique mansion on Main Street to the modest ranch on the upland pasture.


In other places where I have lived, the views belong to the wealthy. The high-rent buildings on New York City’s Riverside Drive open to the Hudson River and neighboring New Jersey. In Westchester County north of New York City, the most expensive houses occupy the woodsy, unspoiled areas. Even in relatively lowly Queens, the leafiest streets showcase the most impressive homes. And any promising location that happens to be less than elegant, is sooner or later gentrified, exiling those who can’t afford the new order.


Vermont is a place apart. While it has its wealthy ski towns, they are by no means the most scenic or unspoiled. Western Rutland County, where we live, is arguably one of the loveliest areas in the state, a patchwork of wide valleys, forests, streams and lakes, with both the Greens and Adirondacks visible from many vantage points. And all are enjoyed equally by all of us.


We owe this fortunate state of affairs to the original settlement patterns and to intelligent planning. The landscape was preserved in the farms and pastures stretching across every valley. When development pressures mounted, the state and towns enacted thoughtful land-use regulations – from stopping a proposed highway atop the Green Mountains to outlawing billboards along our roads.


Still, challenges abound.  As we list the things we each feel grateful for at our Thanksgiving feast this year, I will offer my thanks for the privilege of living every day amidst this loveliness. And I will say a silent prayer that Vermont continues to ensure that the beauty remains available to all… on our walks and drives, and from the windows of our homes.

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