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Jack Zaleski, Published October 22 2011

Zaleski: You know, I could do this every day …

The other day I was telling a friend how I imposed a news blackout on myself when I was in Vermont last month. He was incredulous.

“How can you, you of all people, do that?” he asked.

He was referring, of course, to my 40-year occupation as a journalist and my affinity and fascination for all things newsy. He wondered how I could cut myself off from newspapers and broadcast news for more than two weeks.

Nothing to it, I said. It was easy, I said. It was like therapy, I said. Two weeks was not hardly long enough, I said.

The setting was vital to embracing a near-hermit mode. Most of my time was spent on 500 acres of beautiful Vermont countryside – rolling meadows, farm ponds, woodland streams, dense stands of sugar maples, miles of winding/climbing/ descending trails, wild blackberry thickets and apple-heavy orchards, two grand 19th-century homes and a weathered post-and-beam barn that became my carpentry workshop on rainy days.

Ah, the workshop. My daughter’s triplet girls signed on as my helpers/ advisers/critics. We built shelves for their room and a firewood box for their mom’s stoves and fireplace. We repaired a partially rotted compost bin and nailed together a crude sluice to channel water away from a corner of the house. All of it was done with hand tools. Most of the wood came from a stack of weathered barn boards.

One morning before breakfast – mist and fog still hanging low over the forested, autumn-tinged hills – the girls and I hiked into the woods. Harper, McKenna and Bennett led the way to a trail they knew, and as the sun warmed away the fog, we emerged in a hilltop meadow some 100 yards above their house – a beautiful spot, overlooking a vast valley that faded into the morning mist. Experts that they are, they pointed out where the big sitting rock is, the small spruce they’d chosen for their Christmas tree and the location of their secret blueberry bush near the house at the bottom of the long slope.

It was a very nice chat with three delightful little girls. We made no news that day or any other day during my time with them. I got by without news. No headlines. No breathless broadcasts about the latest scandal or war or political debate or disaster. No phone calls from crazy people.

I thought to myself as I watched the girls laugh and run in the dewy grass and new sunlight: I could do this every day …

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.