Very few know that 75-year-old Vermont photographer Peter Miller is also a talented writer. Those who carefully read his "Vermont Trilogy" (including Vermont People, Vermont Farm Women and Vermont Gathering Places) knew he could craft words but his ability stands out starkly in "Nothing Hardly Ever Happens in Colbyville, Vermont", a collection of stories, articles and letters that span three decades of writing.
Colbyville is the tiny hamlet where Miller's home and studio have been for over a quarter century. That blip of a town on the radar between Waterbury and Stowe is made larger than life in Miller's latest work.
Miller, concentrates on his storytelling skills in Colbyville and treats the reader to a no holds bar look at the lay of the land beneath the window of his writing desk, perched above an ever expanding Route 100, as well as his own backyard that shares a property line with Vermont's empire of ice cream also known as Ben & Jerry's. The immediacy of his observations lend a gravity to his critique of the forces that would transform the State from a shining example of self reliance into little more than a plastic snow-globe for tourists to a have a shake at.
Some of the essays contained in the book have appeared before in the pages of various regional magazines and these are interspersed with photos and newer works, but some of the book's most enjoyable moments are held in collected letters to the editor of a Stowe newspaper. Wit and wisdom coated with a not so subtle sarcasm abound, and I found myself returning for re-reads of these laugh out loud looks at the denizens and politics of Vermont's ski capital caught in the author's crosshairs. Miller proves himself unashamed to say in print what many of us fear thinking too loudly and for that we are indebted to this septuagenarian.
Miller began his career as a reporter for Life magazine in the late 1950s after a stint in the army and some time taking photos in Europe. He returned to Vermont to practice his art and craft without compromise.
He takes advantage of the journalistic instincts he's developed over a lifetime to immerse the reader in relevant and poignant detail in his work, deepening our understanding of everything from the love and loyalty of a duck-hunting dogs to the differences between a woodchuck and a fisher cat, the human kind that is.
One of the book's prized works is "I Poach: Confessions of a Duck Hunting Addict Gone Astray"-a hilarious revelation that a popular glossy Vermont magazine refused to print after deeming it 'too controversial'.
This is followed by another hunting story of a stumbled upon a crime scene, a suicide, that reveals Miller's compelling, almost obsessive sensitivity to his surroundings.
"Nothing Hardly Ever Happens in Colbyville, Vermont" is published by Silver Print Press in a handsome hardbound edition. It will be thoroughly enjoyed by any literary local-vore but also by anyone interested in sharing in the unique perspective of Vermont's most loveable curmudgeon -a man who champions what is true and best about our State while offering a reasoned resistance to its rapidly changing landscape.
The values reflected in the book are perhaps best summed up in the author's own words: "I feel there is a lack in the 21st century, of the qualities that made this country great: honesty, integrity, common sense, simplicity, frugality and responsibility to your neighbors, your community and the land...I have learned," he says, "that it sure is fun to travel, but the best material for photographs and for writing can be found in the region in which you live."
Book reviewer Scott Broderick lives in Charlotte.