Tom Slayton

Commentator

Tom Slayton is editor-emeritus of Vermont Life Magazine.

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.

Scan by Capitol Copy

When we hear the phrase “working landcape,” we’re accustomed to think of hayfields and woodlots – the pastoral Vermont. But artist and architect Tom Leytham sees another working landscape, one that he says is “hiding in plain sight.”

Newspaperman Norm Runnion’s death earlier this month was another reminder that we are witnessing the passing, not only of a key generation of journalists, but also of the kind of journalism they represented.

Slayton: Two Trails

Jun 16, 2015
Tom Slayton

Last Friday, a dream more than 100 years old was realized when the Green Mountain Club officially opened the Long Trail’s newest link – a suspension bridge for hikers across the Winooski River.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

All this week, we're discussing Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. It's this year's pick for the Vermont Humanities Council's Vermont Reads state-wide reading program.

Twelve-year-old Haroun has traveled to a magical land where all the world's stories are created. And it's up to him to stop a villain who controls a shadowy cult of silence from poisoning the Ocean that serves as the birthplace of the Sea of Stories.

Here's a passage from the moment when Haroun finally confronts the nemesis of storytelling, Khattum-Shud:

Lately, I’ve been reading poems written by a man who obviously loves the things many of us treasure about Vermont – the beauty of mountains and rivers, the simple pleasures of a quiet life close to nature and far from the rattle and frenzy of cities.

Slayton: Green Up Day

Apr 27, 2015

Greenup Day, as just about every Vermonter knows, is a Saturday in May dedicated to a statewide cleanup effort. What you may not know, however, is just how widespread this effort has become.

It was started in 1970 by Gov. Deane C. Davis. By the 1990s, 7,000 Vermonters in towns across the state were involved. And today, more than 20,000 individuals in every single town in Vermont arm themselves with rakes and trash bags and head out to do battle with a winter’s worth of trash.

For the past week, newspapers, websites, and the airwaves have had remembrances of a man unfamiliar to many contemporary Vermonters – even many of today’s journalists.

Used by permission of the Fleming Museum and courtesy of the artist

What makes a painting “great?”

It’s easy to assume that a great piece of art is the result of a great artist expressing his or her innate genius – sheer brilliance, manifesting itself.

The other morning, it was 10 below outside, and, as I gradually awoke, I realized it was getting cold inside as well. I looked at my bedside thermometer: 49 degrees. Uh-oh... Something must be wrong.

Reforming Vermont’s snarled, almost Byzantine system of organizing and financing public education seems likely to be the Gordian Knot of the current Legislature.

The earliest Christmas I can remember, I was maybe seven or eight. We had a Christmas tree decorated with red glass balls and a string of colored lights.

If you turned off any one bulb of those lights, the whole string would go dark. My brother and I devised a game in which one of us would go out of the room and the other would turn one of the colored light bulbs just barely enough so that all the bulbs would go out. Then the other would come back into the room and try to guess which bulb, when turned, would light up the whole string.

Just about every Vermonter knows the name Ethan Allen. But according to two prominent Vermont historians, much of what we think we know is probably false.
 

H. Nicholas Muller and John Duffy agree that Ethan was the conqueror of Ticonderoga. He was an off-and-on leader of the Green Mountain Boys, a stirring speaker, and a prolific writer.

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