Wednesday, July 6, 2011

O Quebec I: The Northeast Kingdom

 Photo by Hallie Cohen

Travel up I-89 past White River Junction and Montpelier, Vermont’s capital city, and then off through well-heeled ski villages like Stowe up towards the Canadian border and you enter what is known as the Northeast Kingdom. The words conjure Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, or Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and you can’t help thinking of Heart of Darkness, as the supermarket chains are replaced by old general stores, followed by miles of houses that seem to have left the present behind, including some whose roofs have imploded. You become aware of the frequent “Moose Crossing” signs, and even think you might run into some extinct species of animal. The roads become more winding and mountainous and the population more intermittent. The world is quieter in the Northeast Kingdom. You don’t see too many Escalades or Mercedes, and you don’t hear too many loud sounds, besides those of birds. The lawn mowers and hedge cutters honing topiaries are not part of this sight and soundscape. The Northeast Kingdom is like the late work of an Ibsen or Shakespeare—there is something ethereal and almost refined about its heights. Like Solness in The Master Builder, you ascend to a “castle in the sky” that is somewhere between destitution and heaven.

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