Deborah Lee Luskin

Commentator

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.

The other day I ran in to my state representative at the grocery store, where we chatted about our kids’ whereabouts as we loaded our carts for the weekend. I’d already hugged one of my state senators when we bumped into each other outside the farm store, where we stopped to talked gardens. “It must be a relief to be home,” I said. She agreed, then said she was on her way to deliver her petition to be on the ballot again in the fall.

In May 2015, my friend Jan visited me on her way back to Alaska. We’ve maintained a strong bond for almost forty years even though we don’t often write and never call. But when we do get together, we pick up where we left off.

When we still hadn’t had significant snow by the end of January, I started hoping for a Valentine’s Day snowstorm like the one that redeemed the winter of 2007. That was the first snowfall that season and rescued people like me who love winter from the despair of a barren season.

I was enjoying an article by political historian Michael Kazin in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine about the term “populist” in American political history - a term that this election cycle has been applied to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Luskin: Act 46

Mar 24, 2016

While Act 46 aims to meet the challenges of declining school population, it has also increased educators’ concerns for job security, parents’ concern for educational continuity, and tax-payers’ hope for relief. The children whose education is at stake have neither voice nor vote in a decision that will affect them most.

As Moderator of Newfane’s Town Meeting, I’ve learned it’s impossible to predict what will become a bone of contention on which the body politic will gnaw. Some years, there’s been heated debate about how much to pay elected officials; others, it’s been about whether or not we really need a new truck. This year, voters worked through the first dozen articles with little discussion and less dissent.

More than half the world’s population already lives in urban areas, which may help explain why we humans are spending so much time sitting indoors.

As saddened as I was by the terrorist bombing in Sultanahmet Square in Turkey last week, I also felt enormous relief. The bombing took place on a Tuesday; two of my children had been in Istanbul the Friday before.

A kindergarten teacher once taught me a game that I play all the time in my adult life. It’s called The Good Thing, and it’s a way to make the best of a bad situation. For instance, one good thing about forgetting your school lunch might be tasting a tidbit from each classmate’s meal.

When I was eighteen, so was the drinking age. My friends and I drank our parents’ booze in each others’ homes. One icy December night I was on my way home from such a gathering. At best, steering my mom’s station wagon was like navigating a boat. That night, I swerved to a stop after running a red light. I was lucky: the intersection was empty. I was shaken. And I was drunk.

Like most Vermonters, I spend a fair amount of time driving though Vermont’s beautiful and largely forested landscape. As a result, I tend to think of the woods as scenery, not as a natural resource. But I live in a wooden house, work at a pine desk, dine at a table of oak and sleep in a cherry bed, and I heat my home with wood. It’s one of life’s ironies that I had to go to a museum to understand where all this wood in my daily life comes from, how it’s harvested, and by whom.

For the past thirty-one years I’ve stayed out of the woods in November. Every rifle season during deer hunting, I’ve donned blaze orange to walk the dog on a leash. If all goes well, this will be my last November on the back roads. If all goes well, next year, I’ll be in the woods, hunting.

I’m piqued that leaf peepers come peeking at peak foliage on the Green Mountain pinnacles as if nature were a spectator sport and autumn the champion season.

A few years ago, as I was leaving a doctor’s office, an elderly gentleman was pushing an older woman up the handicapped ramp. I held the outer door open, but even with my help, it was an awkward maneuver in a narrow passage, first to reach the inner door, then open it and push the chair in. The woman in the chair leaned aside as best she could, and the man succeeded, but muttered, “Accessible doesn’t mean convenient.”

A few weeks ago when lightning struck Valley Cares, an assisted living facility in Townshend, the residents and staff executed their well-practiced emergency drills and were all safely outside by the time fire fighters arrived. The residents then traveled the half-mile down the road to Leland and Gray Union High School, where they awaited transportation to temporary alternate housing.

Thirty-Six Miles Of Trouble is the title of a slim and entertaining history of the West River Railroad that once operated between Brattleboro and South Londonderry. According to author Victor Morse, the railroad suffered a series of disasters that included poor track, worse equipment, and regular derailments. The original wood-burning engines weren’t powerful enough to pull a train from Brattleboro up to the highest point on the route in Newfane, so passengers had to get out and walk.

Last year, I was picking berries, when I heard a car skid and crash on the road by my house.

When the town of Newfane celebrated its centennial in 1874, the Federal style courthouse, the steepled Congregational Church, and the Newfane Inn were already anchoring the Newfane village green that remains photogenic today.

I was born during the heyday of the agricultural use of DDT, so I didn’t see my first bald eagle until twenty-two years after the pesticide was banned.

I attended college during an era of feminist activism, when non-sexist language meant not using the word man when we meant human. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language sat on the shelf right next to our copies of The Elements of Style, and we insisted on the honorific Ms. allowing women to be in the world without reference to their marital status. I didn’t see what business my marital status was back then, and I still don’t now. Even though I’m long married, I use the name I was born with, and smoke comes out my ears when people who know better call me by my husband’s last name.

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