Friday, August 8, 2008


Fifteen years ago, Diane didn’t believe in fireflies. Being a California girl and never having seen an actual firefly, she didn’t believe me when I told her about a curious summertime bug that floats through the lazy stillness of dusk and randomly pops off with shots of dazzling yellow. What’s more, these bugs fly so low and so slow and congregate in such large numbers that even the youngest child can easily catch one, coax it into a mason jar and say, with a straight face, that he has put lightning in a bottle. “I should know,” I told Diane fifteen years ago, “I did this myself as a kid.”

Still trying to convince her, I went on to tell her that untold acres of drowsy Iowa corn fields are shot through with their silent lightning, that the emerald lawns of small town America are punctuated with these yellow points of light, that nightly every wooded hollow dances with a thousand splendid suns while elves and fairies frolic in the moonlight. OK, I made that last part up. Elves and fairies don’t dance in moonlit Iowa cornfields. You’ll have to step into the bright lights of a big city to see that.

After leaving New York City, we drove up the Hudson River Valley, then cut east along the far western borders of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and (finally) New Hampshire. As we drove, it occurred to me that, in retrospect, Diane had no reason to believe me when I told her about the marvel of fireflies—I have been known to shade the truth on occasion and even embellish a detail or two from time to time. But I did enjoy an idyllic small town Iowa upbringing. And Santa Claus did live next door.

OK. Even if Santa didn’t live next door to us, fireflies nonetheless dot the emerald lawns of small town America. Diane has since seen this herself, and she now believes. So when I tell you about the perfect little hamlets that dot the back roads of New England, you should believe me, too. Better yet, why not come along for the ride? The entrance to Perfectland is here.

Once through to the other side, the towns are picture perfect, outside...

... and in.

... because in these parts communities are built on the bedrock of simple faith, grandly expressed...

... and humbly preserved.

Perhaps it is no surprise that Norman Rockwell set up his studio in these parts (Stockbridge, MA to be exact). Maybe Rockwell embellished a little when he created his illustrations of small town life in New England...

... but then again, maybe he didn't.

Being the world-wary travelers we are, we did not trust the substance of what we saw. Or maybe we simply disbelieved that this sort of perfection was possible. So we looked hard to find a seething underbelly of discontentment. However, we found not a single disagreeable sign.

Even the local kids seemed to be regular enough, maybe.

Such is the way of life in this perfect land, where Dartmouth Ivy grows thick and fragrant on the campus Green...

... and fireflies swoon in the warm fields of this American Dream.

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