The Old Man’s spirit lives within us
The same awesome forces of nature that carved the profile of the Old Man millions of years ago surely shape us
Living in the North Country is often like a country-western song. We have our troubles and challenges. The North Country is defined by two factors – a love of the land and struggle to make a living. The Old Man of the Mountain represented that spirit -- that toughness that makes people tender.
There is a powerful sense of place that draws and holds us to this seemingly inhospitable spot. We are connected to this land and humbled by it. We lack the power or the inclination to change it, fortunate to simply endure it, and in the end we are all defined by it. Those same awesome forces of nature that carved the profile of the Old Man millions of years ago surely, and ever so slowly, shape us.
The Old Man was a symbol of this land, and to some a point of demarcation of where the true North Country began. But it is also about our people. As Daniel Webster famously noted, “In the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”
This is a place of tough people – not tough in the popular sense of the word. It has nothing to do with bravado or competition. It is an inward quality – it is in the eyes of our old-timers and the heart of our children. It’s a kindness, a sympathy, rooted in a common struggle formed by a hard life. Failure is never far away, and while that keeps us on our toes and also opens our ears to the secret whispers of nature, life and God himself.
The North Country has taken its hits these days, but we know how to take a hit and to get back up, and we know how to love and care for neighbors when they are in need.
The spirit of the Old Man of the Mountain lives in us and still inspires us. We need to look for new symbols but there are no shortages in the wilds of this place and spirit of our people.
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, represents the 58 communities that make up the North Country of New Hampshire.