More than 40 years ago I learned something about Yankee readers that I have never forgotten: They want to go where we go. It was fall, late 1970s. I wrote about the Maine I once called home—the small towns and villages of Oxford County, a place dotted with lakes and modest mountains, family apple orchards and cider mills. I wrote about a hike up Bear Mountain in Waterford that gave views of a foliage-fringed lake. I told about gem hunting in West Paris, an exquisite little French restaurant in South Paris, a public sauna in Norway. All off-the-beaten-path attractions within short country drives of each other. Yankee titled the article “Small Is Beautiful,” echoing a best-selling book of the time. I turned it in just before the issue went to press. To make the deadline, it ran with not a single photo. Nothing to tempt the reader except black type on white paper.
Within a few days of the issue’s arrival in mailboxes, pilgrims had found this little-known corner of Maine. Tom Fillebrown at his apple orchard told me that people came holding the issue and asked for his autograph. That had never happened to him before. The French restaurant owner, Maurice André, said he was taking reservations for days. More hikers were trekking up 325-foot Bear Mountain than anyone could recall. The little country store that doubled as the post office had never seen so many new people at one time. Yankee had said, Here is a special place and here is what you can see and do. And so they came.
I know the deep trust that readers hold for us. And this year, when we have lost so much of what we once knew as normal, never has it been more important that we understand our need to embrace the lives we knew before the virus. I expect never again will we take for granted the simple act of leaving home; the expectation of finding joy in unexpected moments. Spring, summer, fall, winter—all came and went, and most of us did not find new places. And now here we are. Spring, summer, fall await. We feel a stirring. I feel a stirring.
Today the president announced 50 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. When you read this, many millions more will have been added. We crave the life that includes that joy of setting out for new places. That is what this issue is all about. When you open the pages, in a way you are opening the door. It is the best thing we do, to keep finding the New England we know, then saying, Come along with us.
To catch up on Mel Allen’s monthly “Letter from Dublin,” go to newengland.com/letterfromdublin.