Selected Letters


Readers are invited to contribute letters on the subject of not what is popular but what is important, on the themes of quality of life, and spirit of place.

Writers should say their whole name — no anonymous or unreachable contributions will be published.

Address contributions to Letters

My guests are more interested in discussing the state of things than everyday news; more about what it means to be human.”

Studs Terkel; Voices Of Our Time


Letter from the Governor on Immigrants in Vermont

Dear Robert (Oeser, JP):

Thank you for reaching out to me about the recent arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I, too, am troubled by recent events. As I’ve said, I will continue to protect our state’s values, and uphold the legal, ethical and moral standards – and Constitutional rights and liberties – that have distinguished America from the rest of the world for generations.

My team and I have reached out to ICE in order to meet and discuss recent arrests and deportation proceedings. We have also been in contact with Vermont’s congressional delegation to collaborate over this issue. One of the interesting facts we have learned is that there are just 10-12 immigration arrests in Vermont each year, and almost all of them are because the individual was convicted of a criminal offense. 

I will do everything in my power to ensure that ICE is only taking actions for which they have authority under federal law. Furthermore, I have signed into law Act 5 which protects Vermont residents from compulsory collection of information regarding religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation, or the disclosure of religious and other personally identifying information for purposes of establishing a federal registry or database based on that information. I believe that all Vermonters should be afforded government benefits and protections without regard to their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, or disability. 

I assure you that I will remain vigilant concerning this issue as the situation develops. Thank you again for taking the time to write.


Philip B. Scott


Bill Kelly

Bill Kelly, 75, died peacefully at home on Friday morning, February 24th. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Vermont in 1970 where he and his wife, Marty, raised three wonderful children, Sarah, Benjamin and Adam.

As a young man, Bill was about to start graduate school when he was drafted by the Army and assigned to the National Security Agency. In the NSA Bill was stationed in Ethiopia where he served as a code-breaker.

After the Army Bill taught English for a number of years in East Harlem. It was there he met his wife. Bill had a knack for keeping his students well behaved. Marty did not. While Bill reined in Marty's unruly charges, a romance was born. They were married on July 4th, 1970. [Caption: Bill with back to camera at Loaves and Fishes.]

When Bill first came to Vermont he worked as a carpenter. He taught English at Leland and Gray High School and was a guidance counselor there before opening his own psychotherapy practice.

Bill never forgave the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn, but did have fun coaching Small Fry when his children were young. He enjoyed his work as a psychotherapist , and he always looked forward to his Tuesday mornings at Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.

Above all he loved his time with his grandchildren, Sonia, Bea, Emmett and Henry, and was looking forward to the arrival of another grandson in April.

Aside from his wife and three children, Bill is also survived by his son-in-law, Brent Reynolds, his daughters- in-law, Corey Kelly and Haegi Kwon, his sister Jill and brother Jeff. A brother Peter died in 2007.

As Bill would want, no service is planned. Those wishing to honor his memory may donate to a charity of their choice or to Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen at Loaves and Fishes, c/o Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.


Bill Kelly was a faithful Loaves & Fishes volunteer, known for quietly going about and fixing whatever needed to be done, watering the plants and staffing the dish sink, where he would greet visitors returning their dishes and flatware.

When someone offered a witty remark, if you were quick enough, you could catch a glint in Bill's eye and a sly smile. He was always paying attention.  If you asked him, "How are you doing?" he would reply, "so far"  a response perhaps we can all relate to.    Robert Oeser.


Last Tuesday I was leaving the kitchen and he was coming in. He couldn't seem to move his right hand much, so I grabbed his left, and shook it. I think he liked that.

What I like is that he spent his time doing what he liked, being among friends who were altogether in support of other people who needed help.

And he also always had that look about him some have where they could see right through you, and whether he liked what he saw or not you might not know, but you knew he could see and he could accept you anyway. Phil Innes


Offie Wortham July 29, 2016

During the weeks and months ahead we will see many of Trump's major supporters publicly announce that they are no longer with him in his quest to become President of the United States. Most will not publicly say that they are going to support Hillary, but they will let everyone know that they no longer think Donald Trump is qualified to be President of the United States. They may quote the results of famous psychologists and Social and Political Scientists who have objectively examined the words and actions of Trump during the past year. Others will bow to the judgement of hundreds of military and political leaders who have stated that Trump is a dangerous and sick person. Whatever the reasons, watch Trump react violently to those who will no longer support him. Anyone who cannot read a book, and who only gets his news from television, is too ignorant to be a national leader. I'm not saying that all those who are beginning to desert Trump will publicly back Hillary, but they are realizing the mistake they made in endorsing an individual who should just pick up his marbles and get off the playground.

In Memoriam

Dorothy M. Rice, 1919 - 2016

Dorothy "Dodo" M. Rice, born Dorothea Marianne Straus, New Year's Day, 1919, in Mannheim, Germany, was the third child of Elisabeth and Ludwig Straus. From an early age, she was interested in cooking and the needle arts and, as an adult, became well known for her knitting and mending skills and for the many chair cushions and church kneelers she needle pointed. In October, 1937, she married Kurt David Reiss. A year later, sensing the dangerous times unfolding in Germany, they fled to Holland, then to America, and eventually settled in New York City. When their eldest son was conceived, they went in search of the faith that was to be central and formative to their lives. In 1952, they moved to Chappaqua, New York, looking for a quality education for their young sons, Edward (Ted) and Andrew (Andy). They became quite active in the community, particularly in Scouting and at St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Mt. Kisco, where, among other things, Dodo worked with the women's prison in Bedford and among the poor in the South Bronx. Three weeks after her husband died quite suddenly in 1971, Dodo began a catering business which was to sustain her and bring much satisfaction and fulfilment. In 1989, she retired and moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, not far from her son, Andy, and his family. There, she became active at St. Michael's Episcopal Church where she is now considered as a "matriarch" of the parish. She also immersed herself in the work of Loaves and Fishes, the Drop-In Center and the Visiting Committee of Holton Home, eventually serving on its Board of Directors. Throughout much of her life, and certainly ahead of her times, she was an advocate for equal rights for minorities, particularly gays and lesbians. Her community involvement, leadership and advocacy led to her being named Volunteer of the Year on several occasions. She moved to Holton Home in 2009 and lived there until her death on June 18, 2016. Dodo is survived by her brother Karl Straus, the person who, unable to pronounce "Dorothea", first called her "Dodo"; son Ted, former daughter-in-law, Judith, their children Megan and Joshua; and son, Andy, his wife Linda, and their sons Jacob and Gabriel. Dodo took particular satisfaction in the wonderful relationships she had with her grandchildren. She will always be "Omi" to them and their friends. A memorial service will be held at St. Michael's, Brattleboro, in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holton Home,Groundworks Collaborative or St. Michael's Church.

Robert Oeser

Tennessee Tensions

A letter from Robert Mitchell, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Debate over retaining the name of a former Confederate general on an ROTC Building has come into prominence recently. Several groups with interlocking membership have come forward. Some as moderate as the NAACP or as militant radical as the Black Lives Matter movement. (The latter group publicly and falsely claimed the MTSU student newspaper Sidelines had gotten death threats from the KKK. This was repudiated as false by the student newspaper editor herself!) The third group, "The Talented Tenth" is the one I will address.

"The Talented Tenth" is title of an essay that some have adopted to self-named themselves who are protesting on the MTSU campus. I understand the premise of the essay. At that time, DuBois and the Northern philanthropists of the American Baptist Home Society hoped men of color would become leaders and example of quality through education in the liberal arts.

" the object of the work of the schools–intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it–this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life." wrote WEB DuBois in The Talented Tenth. This direct quote from DuBois, which he based upon the principles of Morehouse seven years prior, calls for full education and understanding of the world as it was and as it is. These students are being done a disservice. Those fueling and orchestrating this protest I believe have missed the point. I am embarrassed by their actions and lack of leadership. They created a hostile and threatening atmosphere to those alumni and students who did not share their beliefs. They are creating a schisms both internally within the University and between the University and the community.

I have reviewed many of the arguments and comments by the students and activists. One of the most prevalent comments was that Forrest's past evils were not undone by his renouncement of racism, slavery and brutality against former slaves and people of color. This presupposes his conduct was abhorrent for the period in which he lived. Condemning someone of a crime or a moral offense during a period in history when slavery was not illegal and its moral acceptance was supported by a great number of religious institutions is intellectually dishonest. Furthermore it is contrary the premise of "The Talented Tenth" which states," the object of the work of the schools–intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it–this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life."

This Easter holiday I am immediately reminded of the story of Saul. Forrest had become a Christian, just as Saul had become a Christian. Both renounced the brutality of their past beliefs and worked to resolve the injustices they saw. Each went to their "people" to bring a message of tolerance and the gospel of reconciliation. Forrest may have simply died too young before the full measure his redemption could be widely acknowledged and celebrated.

In the long run, if the name stays or goes will not effect my life, my beliefs or my love of MTSU. I want our University to be a place that is objective in it's presentations; especially it's presentation of history. Justice is supposed to be blind. How can that ever happen if we do not allow history to be color blind. That is the position the actor Morgan Freeman professes. When it comes to naming or renaming our campus buildings; let us act with full knowledge of what it is we are doing. When we are discussing issues that may divide us ;let us do it with respect and understanding of the lives and humanity of those whom we may disagree. That is being #TRUEBLUE.

Fire Chief Mike Bucossi in conversation with Robert Oeser

·         We're not the only Town facing fire station improvement issues; what has been learned, if anything, from other jurisdictions?

“Fire trucks” (engines, ladders, rescue trucks, etc) have become bigger and heavier over the years for many reasons including safety features, what fire departments look for the truck to do,  and community infrastructure, among other factors. As part of looking at the “fixes” from many different angles some of the alternatives investigated have been “raising the ceiling” for more height, lowering or digging out the floor(s) to gain height, or trying to widen door openings (alternatives other communities look at). These alternatives have all proven to be impractical or impossible due to existing building construction, lack of physical room, cost or a combination. Central Station is built on ledge with a partial basement. The floor over the partial basement holds a truck that weighs much more than it was designed for and has been repaired once already, a repair that is beginning to fail. Chesterfield, Newfane, Keene, Williston, Putney and South Burlington have all faced similar problems in the “recent” past and have all constructed new facilities. Greenfield and Hinsdale are presently proposing new stations. As far as lessons learned, I would say what I have heard most from Chiefs that have gone through it is not to throw good money at a bad situation. Fix it right the first time because you will end up paying out more in the long run if you try to piece meal it.

·         Is it a viable alternative to  refurbish older engines, with the considerable work around/ expertise and maybe self warranty required? Do we have the capability to do that?

Brattleboro refurbished 2 engines back in the ‘80’s and in both circumstances, though the results “weren’t bad”, you were still putting $100,000+ into 20 year old trucks which sometimes doesn’t answer any of the problems. Additionally, trucks are built much differently today, workmanship is not as good, materials are not as good, etc. During this last budget preparation I declined a budget increase of $40,000 to do work on the body & frame of one of our trucks because I don’t think the truck is worth that money and it is good money being spent on a bad situation. It is important to remember that you can refurbish a 20 year old truck but there will still be 20 year old components in the truck. The cost outweighs the benefit. So, is it an alternative, but I do not feel it is a viable one.

·         But are there unintended consequences to bigger fire engines? How can we avoid them?

When we spec a truck for our needs  we list the size water tank, hose bed size that we need to carry the needed hose, the size motor and right down to where the ladders are stored, how far the bumper(s) can stick out and how wide the mirrors can be. All of this goes into determining the size that the truck will be. They have to carry enough hose for us. They have to carry enough water for us. They have to carry enough tools for us as well as have enough seating for staff. Anything less does not serve the community effectively or efficiently and the tax payers get cheated.

·         Mutual Aid into our Town ……. 

One final, unseen consequence of “stations that are too small”; when all of Brattleboro personnel and equipment are committed to an emergency we request “cover trucks”, other towns that bring their trucks to Brattleboro to answer other emergency calls. Many of the towns around us that we use to “cover” have trucks that will not fit into our stations. A good example, Hinsdale has the only ladder truck for miles that will fit into our station. That is because they have our old one…. Putney, Keene, Greenfield, Westminster all have ladders but they will not fit in. If they come into Brattleboro they need to leave their truck outside, is it fair to them to have their truck freeze up and split the water pump because they are here. Very recently a mutual aid cover truck was damaged trying to fit into Station 2. Does the time come when they say sorry, we can’t do this anymore? I realize we don’t build the stations for other towns but it is certainly an issue that needs to be considered.


Though this only scratches the surface I hope this helps and certainly encourage anyone with any questions to contact either Asst Chief Lynch or me.


Michael Bucossi                
Fire Chief
Brattleboro Fire Department
103 Elliot Street                                    
Brattleboro, VT 05301
(802) 254-4831

* If you have not yet completed the survey you can do so here: or go to the “News” section on the Town’s website


Qi Gong on Black Mountain

Dear Phil.,


Such a pleasure to receive the photos below; thank you. As I meditated on that rocky outcrop, I did wonder whether Native Americans had been there before me; felt something that encouraged me into the Dao Hua Qi Gong ‘Bird’ Form. Perhaps there were some traces of their intangible shamanic presence; information in quantum time. I loved this natural neighbourhood, with our walk up Black Mountain through near hollow-ways to its flattish summit, crowned with a broad circlet of pines, and what followed.


So our visit there remains precious to me, and hopefully implicitly relevant to our present NI discussions and of potential interest; so I offer this human-scale account to you, Alan and our NI friends, which I also hope you will enjoy...


Some 20 years or so ago, when visiting Brattleboro’ VT to (Circle-) dance, our friend Parker walked me up the relatively nearby Mt Monadnock. [caption: Mt Monadnock as photographed from Black Mountain] We took the easier, more gently ambient way, spending some 2 hours on the mountain. What most impressed, attracted and inspired me then, were the considerable number of eagles gliding and swooping around the summit. I had been doing shamanic work at that time, and Eagles had emerged as my ‘power-animals’. I had had dreams... How to gain some sense of connectivity in situ with these wonderful birds, with awesome intangible presences, (though I would not have put it like that then)? I had no idea, and they were disinterested. (I had been enthused and intrigued earlier by an encounter with a golden eagle when on holiday in the Scottish Highlands with my wife and young family.)


Before my most recent visit, I learned several things; one was that the eagles had departed; also that Parker is a considerable expert on Thoreau, and I thus imagined the loss of eagles as also a loss to the romantic grandeur of Monadnock. How important might that be to me? How do I nowadays relate to landscape? (I explore, ‘Inclusionally’ and with Qi Gong practice, in intention.) I asked if we could revisit,with my brother, knowing that this would be, in Parker’s terms and mine, a different mode of ‘communion’ with a Mountain that had its own sacredness. We spent some 7 hours, this time, on what I was told was the 3d most climbed mountain in the world. There was no easy way up, and another companion struggled with the climb. Our mutuality with each other was an aspect of the Communion. I used the Hua Gong Bear Form to climb; and the Tiger Form to come down, when I could. There were hawks en route, but no eagles, and I did experience this as a lack, and a sadness, hoping that they had found somewhere else to go. My sense of ‘respect for’, being-with’,  this Mountain felt, non-the-less, very deep. We stopped to dance on the way down, and I played the Andes tune ‘Dolciendes’, otherwise known as ‘Condor’, for the birds, on my tenor recorder, which always helps me to be more fully present.


When we met the next day, you offered to introduce me to Black Mountain, explaining that often eagles soared there in the updrafts from their nests in the fairly precipitous, cascading bluff-outcrops that you can see on the photos below. With reasonable fortune, we would see them.


We walked up with your lovely Beagle, ascending gently through those near hollow-ways. I commented on the bird-quiet. Was this because of the dog, our presence, or the relaxing intangible presence of the hollow-ways, drawing us up? It did not occur to me that there might be something else...


The summit is flattish, with a beautiful circlet of tall pines. A wonderful spot for a human settlement. When reached, we explored a little. We looked for the eagles; none in view, although the updrafts were strong. Still no bird-song in a prime neighbourhood that I anticipated would be replete with twitter. The quiet was almost uncanny. I greatly appreciated your invitation to meditational privacy, and then descended a little to the bluffs, finding the rock. It was sufficiently flat for me to stand securely, with the ‘Bird’ Form, by then, in mind. I sat in half-lotus for a while, then, feeling settled and tuned-in with good earth and cosmic connection, stood for the Form, with not an eagle in sight, after looking. I did wonder what I would do if one actually came to check-out this strange human behaviour, swooping down with ancient ancestral memory!


Five animal Qi Gong is a very ancient Chinese practice, with I believe, tribal–shamanic roots. Master Xhixing Wang, who has developed this practice in the UK/Europe along full authentic lines, tells a story about a Native American doing a particular sequence of movements. ‘You look like a bear’, someone said to him. ‘Look like a bear? I AM a bear’! In doing this, and other practice or ’Gong’, we experience our own non-substantiality/intangibility; perceiving energetic flow within, around and through our bodies. Major qualities of Bird, include lightness, strength, grace, economy of effort, with receptivity and directional response in context. The Form starts and ends with ‘sleep’/relaxation, and moves through take off, strong flight, hovering and landing, while maintaining a sense of aware earth- and cosmic- connection all the time. It has a symbolic, initiatory significance.


So, I released any concern with eagle-absences, or presences; and with a light focus, enjoyed being a Hua Gong Bird in that very special place. I repeated the movements, felt the timelessness, the non-action. (Bird was moving me, stretching; no struggle; a sense of privilege, freedom and deep communion. )

[Caption: Black Mountain with eagle]


Eventually, you called, and, releasing from an already grounded and rested position, I collected my sac and walked back up to the summit plateau, enjoying the deep green and shade of the trees, distinct but not discrete from the more exposed white of the rocks.




Almost immediately, there was an extravagant explosion of fierce twittering and tweets from all around the crown. What was happening? We looked up. As literal bolts from the blue, two huge Eagles swooped down very low, at and below tree-top height. They above and around the canopies, but not inside the circlet. They were tiny-bird-mobbed from safe distances, but persisted in their investigations-of us? They did not appear to be hunting in the bird-multitudes which had been there all the time, in that previous, strangely intense silence.


Had I actually summoned -or provoked the eagles? You told me that you had never seen them fly so low...


Challenging to remain grounded! Would those Eagle Braves have just stood there, so securely-rooted and receptive that they could sustain a closer ‘communing’; or, like us, show respect by retiring from Eagle territory? How would Bill Yidumduma Harney have been with equivalent totemic creatures within his Wardaman natural neighbourhood/the Cosmoscape? I am reminded of Hugh Cairn’s description in ‘Dark Sparklers: ‘To him, animals feel and communicate, trees bleed and speak, birds understand and sing, rocks have inside secrets and weep—everything on earth is family. Eagle transforms in the spiritual way from egg to predator, from lord of the skies to the ritual human, imperious in initiation education and ceremony.’


This experience, for me, was a wondrous education, and Bird-Form remains even more poignant. What would have happened if you had not called me, and they had descended whilst I was still on that rock? ‘Transformation of, all through all’ might have gone farther than I bargained for! How far, and with what quality had my intangible presence, more coherent through the Practice, and relevant to place, extended beyond my body envelope? I was nearly tangibly, as well as intangibly-touched by true wildness. Alternatively, These eagles had been watching me/us from their exalted height, beyond vision, and had tolerated, accepted my own birdy presence, inherited a healthy wariness of men, and descended only when


Perhaps, though, as I said to you as we quite quickly left the summit area, they were not interested in me/us, but the dog as their next meal? Eagle presences remained with me for a long time that day, and after. It remains when I most need it.


This experience also illustrates, for me, the importance of Qi Gong practice; more fully inhabiting my body than when attempting to knock myself into shape intellectually, attempting to grasp those elusively-classified, very small, or very large scale physics-processes in esoteric, abstracted language...meanwhile, I did not recognise the geo-cache, and left it for someone tuned-in a in different but related mode, to find. It is wonderful to be gifted with the photos.


I will always be grateful for this walk, and our conversations. My respect and very good wishes to Parker, and Brattleboro’ friends.


Ken Masters

Meeting Mrs. Roosevelt

Phil- You may have seen an earlier post from a month or so when I was reminiscing about Eleanor Roosevelt visiting our school in Collingswood NJ in 1962- the year she passed away. I was nearly finished 9th grade, and I remember her like I just met her yesterday. She was absolutely magnificent in her flowy brown dress, tilted hat, and coordinating sensible low heeled shoes. Her energy was enormous and her voice seemed to shake the rapters in the school gymnasium, as she talked about the pursuit of Peace through cooperation and service (at least that what my heart remembers)! The story goes that when she arrived, she needed to use the ladies room, which had been gussied up and locked before her visit. Somehow, the key got misplaced, and she had to use the filthy boys room!! She took it all in stride! The teacher who'd made all the arrangements was mortified!

Elizabeth J. Hill