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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian


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No, this is not “How I Met Your Mother.” That’s Minnesotan. This is Heritage-Identity-Mountains- Yale-Massachusetts. Category: Things That Complicate My Relationship With New England.

First, Heritage: This really is a complicated bit of my relationship with New England. One the one hand, my parents are from Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively. A generation before that, my relatives were from all over, but something brought them all there. So it’s a place I love. On the other hand, as a white male, there are other things I have to consider. The first European settlers of New England had, to say the least, a complicated relationship with the indigenous population. Let’s just say that the First Thanksgiving story erases a whole lot of nasty stuff. That’s something I always keep in mind when I go home.

Then there’s Identity: What is New England? It’s six states, with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world (in my opinion, but see Mountains for more details). It’s Ben & Jerry’s and lobster rolls. It’s the Freedom Trail and Tanglewood. It’s Portuguese fishers, English farmers and Abenaki fishers and farmers. It’s a place I needed to leave as a high school senior, and also a place I can’t wait to return to. I’m also going to go ahead and claim that some of the best (or at least my favorite) poets live in New England. Mary Oliver. Mark Doty. Maxine Kumin (may she rest in peace). They’re part of our identity, too.

Mountains: Where do I even begin? How about right next door? My hometown, Hamden, Connecticut, is called “Land of the Sleeping Giant” after Sleeping Giant, a small range of 600-foot hills two miles from my house. In the context of New England as a whole, though, a 600-footer is child’s play. Some people “peak-bag” 4,000-foot-plus mountains in New Hampshire, of which there are 48. Many thru-hikers, unshaven and triumphant, step off the Appalachian Trail at Mount Katahdin in Maine. You can see all sorts of landscapes from New England’s mountains: lakes, bright green forests, more mountains, fields, even the ocean. These are the things I dream about. People come to New England for mountains. I’m going back for them.

Yale: The sticking point for me. I grew up right around Yale. My dad works there. He and I both dislike it. It’s like a gigantic octopus draped over New Haven, extending another tentacle (in the form of a walled courtyard or building) into the rest of the city every few years. Naturally, it has its merits (and a lot of name recognition) too. But it always reminds me of why I left.

Massachusetts: The first prize. Home of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (my dream workplace). Where my parents are moving soon. From Boston to the Berkshires, it’s got a bit of everything: graduate schools, mountains, an impressive capital, a huge and ecologically diverse coastline. I would have to have a really good reason not to end up there. One reason, of course, might be that the rest of New England is pretty darn cool, too.

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