She Nailed It! 

"She" is Mary Hegarty Nowlan, the editor of Vermont Life. This is her Spring 2011 column:

In a New Light


"In 2009, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an article about the changing nature of the American Dream. Brooks painted a portrait that included neither manicured lawns nor chic urban living. Instead, he argued, the new American ideal involved living in "places where you can imagine yourself with a stuffed garage — filled with skis, kayaks, soccer equipment, hiking boots and boating equipment."

As Brooks describes it, Americans today strive to live in a place "where spectacular natural scenery is visible from medium-density neighborhoods." These places have "loose social structures and relative social equality ... strong social identities and pedestrian meeting places. They offer at least the promise of friendlier neighborhoods, slower lifestyles ... ."

Sound familiar?

We experience this new American Dream every day in Vermont...

When Vermont Life began in 1946, Americans had endured two world wars, the Great Depression, constant social change and rapid industrialization. The pastoral life, the simple ways, growing up on the family farm were real, living memories for many people. Nostalgia for a simpler time was powerful.

From its start, Vermont Life identified with that sense of nostalgia ... it was part of the original marketing plan. But nostalgia, by its very nature, implies wistfulness, a longing for better days gone by.

Times change. Over the last six decades "newcomers" have arrived in pursuit of their own American Dream. Back-to-the-land hippies, starving artists, ski bums and rat-race refugees looking for a real job and a real life have been drawn to Vermont and its enduring values.

People here still work hard, value self-reliance, enjoy the outdoors, cherish the landscape, help their neighbors and think for themselves. Vermont today is a welcoming place where roving butchers ("The Trouble With Butchers") and Emily Post's family ("Post-Modern Manners") feel equally at home.

The genius of Vermont, in short, has been its willingness to evolve.

Today we're the healthiest state in the country, the greenest state and, per capita, the state with the greatest number of local dollars spent buying local food ("First We'd Like to Say"). Vermonters today are forward-thinking.

And we are all in this together. The dairy farmers who remain are some of the sharpest businesspeople around. They've had to be, to survive. And other farmers, whether raising alpacas ("Giving Fleece a Chance"), yaks or organic greens, are indebted to dairy farmers for their perseverance. Without them, new-school farms would not have had the infrastructure to build on.

Likewise with the ingenious business owners who continue in this difficult economy to keep our historic downtowns working, or the entrepreneurs who opt to locate in beautifully preserved buildings. They're grateful for our past, but focused on the future.

That's how Vermont works. The Vermont way is a living legacy. Viewed in this light, Vermont's best days are always right now.

Vermont Life co-founder Lyman Orton once wrote that the thing that sets Vermont apart from other places is "the prodigious feeling that when you hear about Vermont you get homesick. It's the wonderful feeling that when you get here you're home."

Welcome to the new American Dream... Welcome home."

Mary Hegarty Nowlan, Editor

Photo: Cornfield and Rainbow over Mt. Mansfield, Stowe, VT
© 2013-2014, Charlie Aronovici