THE 9,000 square miles of the Green Mountain State of Vermont where the kids and I enjoyed the past two weeks is home to only about 600,000 people.
Alameda, with its 12 square miles, has about 72,000 of us. That's 5,800 people per square mile here versus 67 per square mile in Vermont.
Suffice it to say, in Vermont we looked upon many pines and maples, oaks and birches.
In front of our Alameda house, there is just one lonely ginkgo.
In Vermont, about a half mile up Hackett Hill Road, the neighbors closest to my parents' hillside cabin have five Morgan horses, 42 sheep, eight chickens, two dogs, one cat and an occasional rabbit. They drive a beat-up pickup. Well-paying jobs are few and far between there. In Alameda, some of our neighbors have corporate jobs and nannies, new cars and wine cellars expertly filled. While you can't see a light from the nearest house in Vermont, here our neighbor's bedroom is only about 10 feet from our own.
There's something country-nice about the country.
When we visit Barbara and Ed, the kids are allowed into the chicken coop to pick their own eggs. When cracked, the yolks are bright yellow/orange, nothing like — as much as I love the store — Trader Joe's "farm fresh" eggs.
We took a bus to Boston. "We can see more people here," my daughter said looking about on a corner near the city's historic commons, "then we saw the whole time in Vermont."
We also saw the South Meeting House, where opposition to the British was plotted, and the North Church where Paul Revere looked for the lantern signal warning of the arrival of British troops.
Here on the Island, the oldest standing homes were built in the 1850s, but structures in Boston change the meaning of old. We sat in the cozy padded pews of King's Church, first built in 1688.
In addition to its long history, there are geographical mysteries in the land 3,000 miles to the east. Like hot summer evenings, or the possibility that rain might come at any time, the roll of thunder, the snap of lightening.
"It's not supposed to be raining," my son said, looking out the window at the fierce, thick raindrops of yet another midsummer storm. And everyone always asks if we're afraid of earthquakes.
There are cultural differences as well: The sharp, haughty reply of the security guard in the baggage claim area in New York City's JFK when I asked for restrooms. "Mom! She rolled her eyes at you!" The yell of the gruff, suited businessman in Penn Station. "Out of my way kids!"
Everywhere in the country, the presidential election is on people's minds. On the trip home, our flight attendant proudly displayed her Obama button. The 80-year-old passenger next to me had Obama's biography tucked in her satchel. "The cost of oil is driving the cost of everything up," one New Hampshire farmer lamented to me. Will we find a way to stabilize the cost and quality of health care? Is there a way of out Iraq?
Even in our relatively calm corner of this huge country, we have our own issues. A group of Alameda property owners, calling themselves Alamedans for Fair Taxation, has filed suit in an effort to nullify the recently passed school parcel tax, Measure H. And there's always another roadblock/challenge/difficulty/storm brewing regarding development at Alameda Point. How many years has it been now? And how much ire and venom can be generated by mere mention of Measure A, the ban on multiple unit dwellings passed in 1973. For daily updates on these and other goings on check out The Alameda Journal blog at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal. Or check back in this space next week.
Eve Pearlman has two children in Alameda public schools and serves on the board of the Alameda Education Foundation. She also writes the Alameda Journal Blog. Look for news, impressions and opinion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal.