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I'm waiting on the edge of a frost-laden pasture for the naked cottonwood to appear in better definition against the dawn sky. It's a hulking tree with over one hundred and fifty years under its belt, sporting fissured bark and roots which guzzle 500 gallons of water a day during the summer. It's dormant now, a frozen sentinel that's stood guard over both pioneers on horseback and photographers with digital cameras and iPhones. I look at an app on mine, positioning the tree between me and where it predicts the sun to rise in about 45 minutes. Overhead, I can...

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Nearly half a century ago, when I was a young boy in Northern Vermont, and Cyber Monday was as far off as any notion I had of the world being larger than the Northeast Kingdom, winter wasn't marked by any equinoctial event or particular day on the calendar. For us, and many other families scratching out a living along the Canadian Border, we heralded winter by cutting a Christmas tree. The Thanksgiving meal had been eaten, deer season, with its reverberating rifle shots and town talk of who had gotten their buck, had ended, and often Nature had covered the...

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"I'm going home," I told the woman sitting next to me on the plane in Billings, Montana, when she asked where I was headed. "Northern Vermont," I added, and then, because I've never been much for conversation, pulled the brim of my hat down and leaned back into my seat as we taxied toward the runway. A Starbucks mocha, loaded to the gills with extra shots of espresso, ensured that sleep was many hours off, but I closed my eyes and thought about it. Where I was going, and what it meant to me. Easy enough to chalk it up...

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The sole salvation of my primary grades at Irasburg Elementary School was recess. During those blocks of time outdoors, before the clanging cow bell signaled a return to sounding out two-syllable words, practicing cursive handwriting under the tutelage of a true battle ax, implacable instructor, or doing page upon page of multi-digit addition and subtraction problems, I was blissfully free to pursue what, at the age of eight, I was sure would be my life’s calling. While other boys rammed matchbox cars over homemade ramps of sand and dreamed of being Bo or Luke Duke, I prowled the grounds with...

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Unless you were born in the North Country, you probably believe the summer solstice is the greatest time of year. Day has eroded both ends of night to the fullest, giving us more vitamin D and less darkness than during any other 24-hour period. If, like me, however, you grew up at or above the 45th Parallel, you know this is no cause for celebration. In fact, quite the opposite, for after June 21 the days begin shrinking. The nights ooze longer. And that part of our brain that never forgets the blasting chill of a winter wind says, "Chink...

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