Tom Slayton

Commentator

Tom Slayton is editor-emeritus of Vermont Life Magazine.

To my mind, the passing of Vermont Life Magazine is a sad and sobering cultural milestone.

Philip Hoff and his wife, Joan, pose in front of the Vermont Statehouse at Hoff's gubernatorial inauguration, which took place Jan. 17, 1963.
Associated Press

Historians debate whether historic change is made by forceful men and women, or by larger forces — trends and events that push human beings into actions that they may believe they are in charge of. But with Phil Hoff, it was a combination of both.

Old Vermont, the Vermont many of us grew up in, was rural, isolated, and poor in many material aspects - but rich in tradition, humor, and dignity.

Slayton: The New Ceres

Apr 3, 2018
Bob Kinzel

She may be the best-known, most widely recognized sculpture in the State of Vermont, and she stood at her post, high atop Vermont’s most important building, for some 80 years. But this week she was taken down, and she’s going to be replaced.

The publication this month of Green Mountain Scholar: Samuel B. Hand commemorates the legacy of a man who — in the process of changing his own thinking about Vermont — changed the way we understand our history, even today

It’s hard to imagine that Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Vermont author and ultra-respectable taste-setter in the Nineteen-Thirties and Forties, could become a figure of controversy, but that’s what’s happened.

Holiday dinners are not what they used to be for my family. They’re smaller and quieter. Parents and grandparents on both sides of the family are long gone, and Liz and I are now the senior generation.

Summers when I was a boy, we’d sometimes go to visit my uncle, who had a small farm on the shores of Lake Champlain. Occasionally we’d take his old rowboat and row ourselves out to a drop-off, where the water suddenly went to more than 10 feet deep. There, you could peer down and see weeds and sand on the lake bottom. It was that clear.

As you turn off busy Route 7 in Ferrisburgh and pull into Rokeby, the historic home of the Rowland Robinson family, you might think that you’re entering a different world

But you’re not.

Slayton: Chimney Point

Oct 6, 2017

History lies in thousand-year-old layers at Chimney Point in West Addison, a place where the eastern and western shores of Lake Champlain come close together. It’s one of the two most strategically important points on the lake.

Old houses have stories to tell. And none is a more eloquent storyteller than the homestead of Justin Smith Morrill in Strafford.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

Our heroic Revolutionary War heritage sleeps quietly at Mount Independence. But the Mount, a point that thrusts north into Lake Champlain opposite Fort Ticonderoga, has important, dramatic stories to tell.

There could hardly be any prettier place to die than the hilltop field on which the Battle of Hubbardton took place. The flowers of midsummer — red clover, and Queen Anne’s lace — were blooming there the day I visited, as they might have been the day of the battle. The rocky cliffs of Mount Zion rose a mile or so to the southwest, and farther off to the southeast, the blue Taconic Range shouldered into the summer sky.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

It’s obvious that Calvin Coolidge loved his hometown, the tiny village of Plymouth Notch. Even after he was President, he returned there whenever he could, went fishing as any country lad might, and did farm chores wearing his grandfather’s coarse homespun farmer’s smock.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

The drive took me about ten miles west of St. Albans, through the pastoral countryside of Fairfield, surrounded by rolling fields of corn, lush pastureland, red barns and distant mountains.

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.

Pages