Tap into Vermont Maple
We’re continuing a series at Tweetspeak — 50 States of Generosity, in which we highlight the 50 states of America and give people beautiful ways to understand and be generous with one another by noticing the unique and poetic things each state brings to the country. A more generous people in the States can become a more generous people in the world. We continue with Vermont.
State bird: hermit thrush. State capital: Montpelier. State flower: red clover. State tree: sugar maple.
So I think on the whole that it will be safe for you to take as a sort of master key to Vermont life the hypothesis that, in a manner of speaking and in some respects, we represent the past — it will be safe, that is, if you don’t say too much to us about it.” – Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Vermont: A Guide to the Green Mountain State, published by the Federal Writers’ Project as part of the Works Progress Administration, 1937
This tension between the past — through which outsiders view Vermont — and the present — through which Vermont views itself — is part of the state’s ethos. What draws visitors and new residents is a chance to step away from rush hour, to step back in time to when maple syrup was a real product, harvested from maple sap. Vermont’s state flavor is maple. And the state quarter features a fellow hanging sap buckets on sugar maple trees. Right now is maple season.
It’s said there are four seasons in Vermont: summer, fall, winter, and maple. Maple season falls in March and April. ‘Tis the season for maple syrup festivals celebrating the first agricultural crop of the year. (Bring snowshoes, just in case.)
I’ve been to Vermont three times, but never in maple season. Each time I stayed at the Trapp Family Lodge, owned by the descendants of that singing family of Austrians who found, on the Gale Farm, land which looked a lot like the old country. They named their property Cor Unum, One Heart. If I were to visit the lodge this month, I could attend a sugar maple tour through the sugarbush and the sugarhouse, one of the 3,000 sugarhouses across the state.
Vermonters are independent and proud of it. Ethan Allen, the founder of the Vermont Republic was also the founder of The Green Mountain Boys, a militia that fought in the Revolutionary War. Vermont was the 14th state admitted to the union. Its state seal, The Great Seal of Vermont, has a pine tree with fourteen branches.
Even in its early days Vermont was progressive. The republic’s constitution outlawed slavery before any other state. Its motto is Freedom & Unity, a balancing act that might sound tricky, but isn’t so strange to a Vermonter. Think Vermont! is the slogan of the department of economic development, reminding the world that this state, with its own troop of ambassadors, is shaped like an exclamation point.
What is there to do in the Green Mountain State? Vermonting! A verb which means to do what Vermonters do: go outside! Ski Vermont. Bike Vermont. Fish Vermont. Hike Vermont. Bring your dog to sniff Vermont. There’s also artisanal cheese, hard cider, craft beer, and of course, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
When I think about Vermont, I think about Robert Frost, named the state’s poet laureate in 1961. Frost was born in California, farmed in New Hampshire, wrote in England, wintered in Florida, and died in Massachusetts, but he taught at Middlebury College, so Vermont claims him as its own. Like the state he identified with, he didn’t quite fit anywhere else. The epitaph on his tombstone in Burlington reads, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
Burlington is only about 30 miles from Stowe, where Maria Von Trapp is buried. Both Frost and Von Trapp loved the state’s farms and villages, the green mountains and the sugar maple trees. They each made for themselves “a place apart.” A place that represented the past. And a place where life does what it does best: It goes on.
green mountains, white snow,
sweet souls outside
Poetry Prompt: Vermont Generosities
Use any of the things you learned about Vermont (research more, if you want!), and put one or more of them into a poem. If you like, weave in a little generosity. Share in the comments.
More About Vermont: Poets & Writers + Landmarks
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, photographer
Jeffrey Brace, author of The Blind African Slave or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-Named Jeffrey Brace, published 1810
John Deere, blacksmith, tractor-man, inspiration for farm couture. My grandfather had a John Deere-themed cake for his 92nd birthday.
President Calvin Coolidge, inaugurated by his father at the family homestead in Plymouth Notch, following the death of President Warren Harding. Coolidge’s homestead is a National Historic Site.
John Dewey, educational philosopher
Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, National Recreation Trail
Phineas Gage, much of what we know about neuroscience comes from this patient, who survived a horrific accident and allowed doctors to study his brain
The Green Mountain National Forest, 400,000 acres of federally managed forest
William Morris Hunt, painter
Shirley Jackson, novelist, not born in Vermont but lived, worked, and died there. Presumably, like her dreaming larks and katydids, she still walks alone.
Galway Kinnell, not born in Vermont, but served as its poet laureate
The Long Trail, oldest continuous footpath in the USA
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, 400-year-old hemlocks, a mansion, a “bottomless” pond, and sugar maples
Lucy Terry Prince, first Black woman poet to be published in the U.S., known for “The Bars Fight”
Browse more 50 States of Generosity
“Megan Willome has captured the essence of crow in this delightful children’s collection. Not only do the poems introduce the reader to the unusual habits and nature of this bird, but also different forms of poetry as well.”
—Michelle Ortega, poet and children’s speech pathologist