More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers. The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.
I know I’m tired when I start to envy hibernating animals. The woodchuck who decimates my spring crops is now snoozing away, resting up for this year’s gorge. Meanwhile I trudge through my to-do lists at all hours, every day. Something’s wrong. Weekends and holidays have become fair game for anyone who wants to schedule a meeting, a game, or a practice. And the encroachers have gotten very bold.
The current stand-off with Russia over Ukraine is very serious and potentially very dangerous. It certainly has echoes of the Cold War, which dominated world affairs for nearly half a century. But in those days Soviet-American confrontations came with the real possibility of nuclear war. I still believe that prospect ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union - but what’s happening in Ukraine right now does have a Cold War connection.
Crimea is a troubled peninsula about the size of Vermont that juts into the Black Sea, with a population slightly larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Its history spans thousands of years. It’s been invaded or ruled by Gothic tribes, the Byzantium empire and the Mongols, among others. It’s home to many Tartars, an ethnic Muslim minority who were expelled by Stalin in World War II for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis; the Tartars now make up around 12 percent of the population.
When I heard that Maria Franziska von Trapp, the last surviving sibling of the original Trapp Family Singers, had died, I dusted off the old LPs they made for RCA Victor from 1938 to 1956 and took a fresh listen. The great choral conductor Robert Shaw, mentor of Vermont’s Robert De Cormier, once called these singers “the greatest choral group in the history of recorded sound.” And, despite surface noise like frying bacon on these old recordings, the reason why remains crystal clear.
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.
This isn’t the first time Vermonters have considered establishing a state bank. In the late 1780’s they were caught in a national depression stemming from the closing of the British West Indies to American trade and the resulting loss of British specie – that’s a technical term for hard cash, as opposed to paper notes.
I walked into Jyoti Hansa’s Thetford yoga class in 1998, unsure of what to expect. I didn’t think she could help me with my tight hamstrings, scoliosis, and level of grace which frequently prompted comparisons to President Gerald Ford . None of a dozen or so other teachers I had tried could.
Fourteen is a magic number at the Vermont Statehouse. With its 14 counties, Vermont was the 14th state to join the union. The number of years between Vermont’s declared independence and our 1791 statehood? Fourteen. And, during the legislative session, the lifeblood of communication at the Capitol is a small army of 14-year-olds.
It’s Black History Month, an important time for reminders about the history and people of our country. While many schools and organizations make sure to include programming to celebrate it, it’s often a month when reminders about Black history and culture get packaged into a few weeks, then perhaps get put aside for the rest of the year.
Those of us who were once involved in winter sports – skiing, skating, bobsledding – might easily dismiss the spectacle of the Olympics. The starting line of a cross-country race, for example, represents sometimes lonely years of weight lifting, hill running, wind sprints, waxing, and thousands of miles of looking at the words Fischer, Rossignol, or Karhu shooting ahead of you in the snow.