Martha Molnar


Martha L. Molnar is a public relations and freelance writer who moved to Vermont in 2008. She was formerly a New York Times reporter.

I enjoy riding trains so much I even look forward to substandard dining while staring out the big windows, because the trip along the widening Hudson is as beautiful - and as slow - as the river itself.

“Sorry I didn’t call back,” I was telling a Manhattan friend. “I spent the whole day at the Fermentation Festival at Green Mountain College.”

The hummingbirds are leaving soon. I can tell from the way they fight over the feeder, as fiercely as when they first arrived, famished from their two-thousand-mile journey north. No sharing or taking turns for these birds, ever. Now, eager to bulk up before returning south, they dive bomb and try to bodyslam intruders in midair, the violence mounting as September advances.

We’ve all heard that the Inuit have more than fifty words for snow. The Sami in northern Scandinavia are said to have a thousand words for reindeer. In Greek and Russian there are two or three words for blue corresponding to different shades, which are perceived as separate.

But in English we have a woefully inadequate vocabulary for green.

Bill McKibben, Vermont’s leading climate change activist, was speaking at Green Mountain College. “We have won the argument,” he was saying. “Now we have to win the war.“

Last year, remembering the previous very long winter, my husband and I decided to finally take a long anticipated trip to Europe. Winter there would be milder, and in any case, there would be plenty to see indoors.

Molnar: Twice Warmed

Jan 20, 2015

They say heating with wood warms you three times: while cutting, then stacking, and finally burning the logs. So we thought we’d save on labor – and the environmental impact of burning wood – by installing solar panels. But while these may function without human labor in California, in snowy Vermont, they warm us at least twice.

Each year before the winter solstice, I start thinking about just how smart those ancient pagans must have been. The Druids, the Romans, the Chinese and others knew something we’ve forgotten: that’s it’s important to mark the winter solstice with something more than a passing mention on the news. The return of the light deserves nothing less than major celebration, and most of the religions and societies on earth have done just that.

Our house has become a battleground. The two of us against the invading flies, worms, wooly bear caterpillars, and spiders that each fall colonize it for their own comfortable survival through the coming winter.

Molnar: At the Pond

Oct 10, 2014

I once read a book called Watchers at the Pond by Franklin Russell. The author lived alone in a primitive cabin for a whole year observing a New England pond. His book is detailed and fascinating, his discipline admirable.

Having not much time and even less discipline, I decided to repeat the experiment in a single day. I would try to spend it silently observing life at the pond - without books, phone (except one stashed away for emergencies), camera, or even a watch to distract.

On the front page of the Rutland Herald, I recently learned that Castleton is the ninth most educated town in the country, and the most educated in the state, beating out Middlebury and Burlington, as well as Hanover in New Hampshire, home to Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

This coming Saturday Castleton will host its 76th Colonial Day House Tour. That’s three generations of women organizers and community members involved in this popular annual event.

Coordinated by the Castleton Woman’s Club, it lasts just six hours, from 10 to 4, but takes months of preparation. More than a dozen private homes and public buildings are on the tour, featuring a variety of architectural styles including Colonial Revival, Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Gothic Revival.

We moved to Vermont at the end of June six years ago and enjoyed every hour of the sublime summer, followed by a glorious fall and a very long white winter. After that, it was no longer beautiful. It was, in fact, devoid of any hint of loveliness – unless one was a newt whose future was tied to mud.

I had heard plenty about Vermont’s infamous mud season. But I had no clear understanding of just how long a drippy day can be, not to mention a week of such days. Nor of what it’s like driving on a dirt road that in mud season demanded skills I didn’t possess.

Molnar: Cooperation

Mar 3, 2014

At a recent Select Board meeting in my town of Castleton, instead of cooperation, divisiveness and vindictiveness ruled. Instead of allowing individual talents to benefit all of us, partisanship reigned. Instead of taking advantage of available resources, close-mindedness prevailed.

Some of the issues tearing the town apart will be decided at the ballot box tomorrow. But since the arguments have moved from issues to personalities, the nasty atmosphere is likely to persist.

Molnar: Naming Names

Jan 10, 2014

The garden catalogs are arriving too early, when I have other things I must do, but I steal a guilty glance... or two. The pages of eggplants are particularly gorgeous. Each catalog has a dozen or more varieties, each with a mystifying name. Hansel and Millionaire and Ping Tung Long. In fact, there are 2,500 unique varieties of eggplant in the world. But it’s too much to try to understand even the most basic differences, much less remember any names. And why would I?

We’ve heard it said that in Vermont you can’t fling a paintbrush without spattering a dozen artists. As a writer, I find that neither can you click on a book title without stumbling on several Vermont writers with similar books.

But I’ve been learning that Vermonters’ creativity extends well beyond the pursuits we usually associate with artists, writers and musicians. There’s amazing, thought provoking, startling originality in all kinds of occupations that we don’t often associate with exceptional creativity.

Molnar: Three Ranges

Nov 12, 2013

Now that the trees are bare, the earth’s bones have become visible. Across Vermont’s wide valleys we can sometimes see two or even three mountain ranges at once: the Greens, the Taconics and the Adirondacks.

Setting aside for the moment the recent crash of a commercial plane, and with sincere apologies to friends and family for all my years of whining about the travails of flying, here’s an ode - sort of - to the wonders of flight.

Molnar: Slow Fashion

Jul 23, 2013

The fire at the Chinese poultry plant that killed 120 people last month reminded me of the collapsed apparel factory in Bangladesh that killed 1,200 people two months earlier, which reminded me of another apparel factory fire in Pakistan that killed 262 people last year. The details of other factory accidents in developing countries, which have killed thousands of mostly women in garment factories, are too numerous to list. There are just too many, too often.

I used to love the sights and smells of fresh-mown fields, the open land, birds soaring, searching for fallen seeds. It was beautiful and productive, man and nature in perfect harmony.

Now when I see a cut field, I think of the crushed eggs of my favorite birds – the bobolinks - and the death of their future. Where I once saw productivity I now see desolation.