Editorial: Taking time to see a forest amidst a gaggle of trees

The saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” can be an apt metaphor for how easily we succumb to the routine and miss what is right in front of our eyes. An anecdote is to leave for a couple of weeks, return, and view our surroundings with a fresh perspective.
I did just that for the middle part of August.
For those who think we live in a sleepy part of the country, here were just a few of the stories reported in the Addison Independent during that time:
• Sen. Patrick Leahy joined others in the grand opening of Woodchuck Ciders new $34 million, 100,000-square-foot facility in Middlebury to grand fanfare. Two weeks later, the company would host 7,500 cheering fans — mostly young adults — to Middlebury for a day-long “Ciderbration” that rocked out throughout this past Saturday into Sunday. Folks came from throughout Vermont, New England and far-flung parts of the country. It was a hoot, and one we hope could become a regular affair.
• Addison County Field Days provided photographer Trent Campbell and our bevy of reporters with great shots and stories of arm-wrestling competitions, the Demolition Derby, a profile of Lucien Paquette and several profiles of young 4-Hers. It remains a family affair that values the heart and soul of the county’s agricultural traditions.
• A special section profiling the county’s 20 volunteer fire departments demonstrated, as well as anything can, the invaluable contributions volunteers make to our communities.
• Swimmers and swim teams dominated the sports pages, as did stories of individual successes, such as Lincoln resident Alison Zimmer becoming one of 16 riders on the U.S. downhill mountain biking team. The UCI Mountain Bike World Championship will be held in Hafjell, Norway Sept. 2-7, and Alison will be riding against some of the world’s best. We also wrote of the 28-day voyage by Peter MacFarlan when he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail — most of it in the rain.
• On the op-ed pages, a letter from our two county senators, Chris Bray and Claire Ayer, along with Rep. Willem Jewett, challenged the state and Shumlin administration to justify the public good of the natural gas pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. on several well-considered points or otherwise suffer a serious loss of public trust in the process. That letter prompted a lengthy response from Gov. Peter Shumlin.
On a sadder note, we learned that the honorable Sen. James Jeffords, who served Vermont for decades as a moderate Republican in the House and later in the Senate before famously switching his party affiliation to become an Independent and give majority control to the Democrats in 2001, died at his home in Washington at age 80.
• Vermont Gas adopted new tactics — establishing a mediation process — in its efforts to win over landowners negotiating easements for the pipeline from Chittenden County to Middlebury in Phase 1 of the project. Many holdouts don’t seem to be interested, but it was a compromise in the process as requested by the Public Service Department. Meanwhile, the governor announced his administration would appoint a neutral third party appraiser to help determine a fair valuation process for easements settled through the eminent domain process.
• A gaggle of goose goslings made the front page for their daily road-stopping parade across Route 7 in New Haven. It’s one of those stories that remind us life is not all about government, problems to solve, schools, taxes and sports. It’s also about the daily interactions in our lives and, hopefully, the joys those provide.
• Community plays were held in several theatrical venues; primary elections were held; businesses changed hands; and a 48-ton load of crushed cars being carried by a tractor-trailer overturned on Route 22A at mid-morning on Aug. 13, just two minutes after a 10-gallon bucket of nails went flying from a vehicle onto Route 7 in New Haven, spilling tens of thousands of nails onto both sides of the highway, slowing down traffic substantially on both roads.
Hey, to paraphrase Forest Gump, stuff happens.
• A new solar array was officially opened — the first net metering project in the state — in Middlebury drawing Gov. Shumlin to the scene as part of his statewide solar tour to promote it as a source of clean energy and job creator; several artist exhibitions and performances were featured in the county, and a skate board park was proposed for Middlebury’s recreational park — finally.
• In Ripton, bestselling author David Shields was one of several big-name authors to give readings at the annual, nationally renowned Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, while hundreds gathered to toss bocce balls at the annual fundraising tournament for the Counseling Service of Addison County — the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Meanwhile, Porter Hospital CEO James Daily was one of many who willingly cooled off with a bucket of ice-cold water dumped on his head as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a movement that spontaneously swept the nation via social media raising millions of dollars in an effort to fight the illness.
Yep, so many things happen every day in front of us, we forget how vibrant and meaningful our lives are right here in Addison County — a forest rich in community and interesting individuals.
–Angelo S. Lynn

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