Imagine

The other day, I woke up on the wrong planet. That’s the opening line of the picture book I read to the kids in my one-room library yesterday.

I was standing outside talking to one of my trustees when the kids walked over after lunch, kindergarteners through sixth graders. What a crew, he said, the kids cheerful, some of them in unzipped winter coats, others in t-shirts.

The kids spread out on my well-worn carpet. What if you did? I asked. Imagine if one day, you opened your eyes…..

The littlest kids’ faces glowed, and I wondered at the mysterious thoughts meandering through their minds, as they considered imaginary realms. Afterwards, the oldest kids lingered, checking out books, with their own system of swapping library books, sharing their imaginary worlds.

Afterwards, alone in the library for a few moments, I began pulling together a program in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. What if, I kept thinking… And isn’t this one of the drives of literature? To sway our story through imagination and action?

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Back Again

In a rosy dawn yesterday, we left Prince Edward Island, the sleeping kids sprawled in our little Toyota, sun-browned and a little too red on one daughter’s shoulders, myself driving and drinking coffee from my thermos, listening to CBC.

As I listened to the Island Morning’s interview with Henry Hank Gallant who walked across Canada in 1967, I thought how different the tenor of this place feels compared to my own country, even relatively liberal-minded Vermont. Much later, deep in Maine’s interior, listening now to Maine Public Radio, Trump’s voice whined over the airwaves about a great trade agreement, and all three of my young passengers who were playing Blackjack on a folded-over atlas howled. We are not Trump aficionados.

But Trump’s word great gave me a thread of the difference between these two nations: America, so fiercely militaristic and competitive, and its civil life – while doubtlessly filled with decent people – underpinned with suspicion and distrust.

We were glad to sail over the Connecticut River and return to our little Vermont village, to stop at the grocery store and have the teenage cashier whose hair was now dyed iridescent green rather than the cherry red from two weeks ago ask, How was your trip?

Dripping humidity here, the kind my mother abhorred when I was a child. July – the growing month in Vermont. My older daughter laced up her shoes and disappeared into the mist for a run.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

– Martin Luther King

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Nearly perfect strawberries I bought from an old man with just a few teeth along a roadside in Maine.