Tom Slayton

Commentator

Tom Slayton is editor-emeritus of Vermont Life Magazine.

The Fleming Museum’s new Asian Art gallery invites the viewer to explore not one Far Eastern culture, but several. Wandering among ancient Chinese funerary sculptures, 18th century Japanese samurai armor, Thai and Burmese Buddhist statuary, Indian paintings and more, the incredible richness of Asian art is powerfully evident. And one realizes that Asian art is no more monolithic than western art.

Former state naturalist and author Charles Johnson, and Bruce Post, a longtime Congressional aide, now retired, have written and posted online a statement they call “The Mountain Manifesto” in which they declare: “We have created this Mountain Manifesto because we feel the mountains are now under siege… this time for the seemingly insatiable human craving for energy.”

Sharp-eyed observers might have noticed that the golden dome of Vermont’s State House has begun to look a bit shabby. Its lustrous gold leaf finish now looks slightly worn and patchy. And there are flaws and cracks in the white-painted cylindrical “drum” that supports the gold cap.

The snow is melting, redwings and waterfowl are showing up here and there, and some sugar makers have already boiled sap. An early spring seems to be underway, even as our concerns rise for the health, perhaps the survival of American democracy. It’s town meeting time once again.

In the recent sour exchange between President Trump and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the President actually said that Lewis was “all talk and no action.” And I had to laugh because the life of John Lewis has been all about action.

Slayton: Missing Mose

Jan 3, 2017

In the year just past, we lost some wonderful, talented musicians and singers: Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Leon Russell and several others. But the one closest to my heart was Mose Allison, who died last November 16 at age 89.

About 50 years ago, Vermont began to change. And much of what Vermont is known for today — progressive politics, organic farms, food co-ops, and an easy-going, freewheeling approach to life — originated with the back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s.

A new exhibit at the Vermont History Center in Barre and a recently published book both focus directly on that time, when hundreds of young idealists left the conventional attitudes of their parents behind and set off in search of what they saw as a more meaningful way of life.

Recently I attended an event where I encountered a truly revolutionary idea for revitalizing a struggling economy. But it wasn’t at a political rally and the idea isn’t even new. It was tried about 80 years ago, and it worked — that is, it helped end the Great Depression by having the federal government pay artists to create art.

The presence of Calvin Coolidge still hovers over White Pine Camp like the morning mist rising off nearby Osgood Pond. There are several photos of him scattered around the camp complex, and the largest two cottages are named for Coolidge and his wife, Grace. But why is his frowning, taciturn ghost here, deep in the northern Adirondack forest?

History’s repeating itself up in northern Maine in a way that’s irritated some interests, but that should please every lover of wild lands and deep woods.

Slayton: New Chapters

Aug 15, 2016

Retirement, associated as it is with aging and diminishment, can feel like a time of loss. But in his latest book, Picking Up the Flute, writer John Elder suggests it can also be a season of deepening and enrichment.

Slayton: Budbill

Jul 20, 2016

David Budbill’s 76th birthday celebration featured readings of his plays and poetry by actors, scholars, and others who have long treasured this poet’s work. It was a truly memorable evening, marred only by the fact that David is now quite ill with a neurological disease.

A lifetime ago, fresh out of college, I went to work as a cub reporter at the Rutland Herald, and newspapering seemed like a great way to spend my life. The Herald newsroom was a noisy, churning hub of activity, cluttered with notes and old newspapers, typewriters and paste pots. And best of all, a collection of colorful characters — editors and other, more seasoned reporters — who live vividly in my memory to this day.

Slayton: Rugged Beauty

Apr 13, 2016

Image: Late afternoon light slants across the forested hills and the loaded log truck. Three men stand beside the truck, talking.

History, like water, flows downhill over time, and gathers in certain places. Places such as the Vermont State House in Montpelier, our exquisitely restored state capitol.

Slayton: Rise Up Bakery

Jan 14, 2016
Barre Historical Society

Food is more than food. As a historic restoration project involving an old brick bakery in Barre shows, food can also be history.

And now Christmas bustles in with its great load of festivity and excess. It’s an interesting holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus in the dead of winter, even though most researchers have concluded that Jesus was probably born in late spring. And probably not in Bethlehem.

It was Pope Liberius who, in the year 354, saw how much fun the Romans were having with their solstice festival, Saturnalia, and decreed that Jesus had been born on Dec. 25, thus co-opting the Roman celebration.

Slayton: Adamant Co-op

Nov 23, 2015

For its 80th Anniversary, the Adamant Co-op has published a cookbook that’s considerably more than a cookbook. Somehow it’s as much about the essence of Vermont as it is about food.

Courtesy of Charlie Hunter

It’s tempting to consign landscape art to the past, and think of it as somehow old-fashioned, or at least considerably less than cutting-edge. But a new exhibit, entitled “Eyes on the Land,” now on display at the Shelburne Museum, proves that that doesn’t have to be so. In this show, Vermont artists have rethought what landscapes are and what they might mean.

Slayton: Clean Water

Aug 17, 2015

The sky was deep blue and the air was cool and fresh as I paddled the Lamoille River with leaders of the Vermont River Conservancy not long ago. We navigated splashy little rips and long stretches of winding flatwater, and survived the one significant rapid, Ithiel Falls, without a single dunking. Then we pulled up for lunch on a tiny, evergreen-topped island right next to a deep, clear swimming hole.

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