Life in the Upper Valley
Vermont and New Hampshire are the Twin States. Two states that are often said in conjunction like North Carolina and South Carolina.Tiny, and upside down mirror images of each other,labeling them correctly on the map is a frequent source of stress for 5th grade geography students across the country. To the left of the Connecticut river, Vermonters live under the guise of ‘Freedom and Unity’, while to the right, New Hampshirites live under the stark motto of 'Live Free or Die'. The Upper Valley is a microcosm of both states.
Borders are powerful. The literal end of one place, and the beginning of another. A place where people stop,reflect, and take pictures underneath metal signs. Yet, in the Upper Valley they’re crossed with indifference. A common everyday task. A citizen of Lyme,New Hampshire who works in Claremont, NH, crosses the border four times a day if commuting via I-91. There are more spectacular geographic anomalies than this, such as The Northwest Angle in Minnesota,where one must drive through Canada to arrive via car. But considering that the average American only leaves their state on a special occasion, it’s still a peculiarity.
For the unfamiliar visitor, one could easily find themselves unsure of what state they’re in. With parking lots mixed with solid green Vermont plates and Old Man of the Mountain NH plates, I’ve overheard on more than one occasion in West Lebanon people saying that they’re in Vermont.
Like all siblings, Vermonters and New Hampshirites have their rivalries. Demographers can quantify which is better with quality of life statistics, but that will never eradicate our innate tendencies to squabble. I had to bite my tongue at work recently, when a client told me the only use of Vermont was to get to New York. But still, in the Upper Valley, we’ve learned to coexist. Aging hippies in Ascutney drink alongside bikers from Claremont without the commencement of a fist fight. Our strength is that we get to share the best of both states. Vermonters go to the box stores in West Leb for sales tax free shopping, New Hampshirites go to Harpoon for Vermont’s superior beer. We don’t have to choose between the natural beauty of each state, because we can swim at Barnard Lake in the morning, kayak on Mascoma in the afternoon. And if anything, we can all agree, ‘if it’s not at Dan and Whits, you don’t need it.’
Maybe the Upper Valley isn’t really Vermont or New Hampshire. Maybe we should just adopt the motto “Live Free and Unite”, and call ourselves Vermontshire.