Monday, May 4, 2009

Justice Souter and the rural life

Abby Goodnough reports in today's New York Times from Weare, New Hampshire, population 7,776, where Justice David Souter has maintained a home for years. This is where he lives when the Supreme Court is not in session. The headline, "A No-Frills Embrace for a Low-Key Justice" suggests something about rural culture, at least as manifest in New England, as do many of the story's descriptions of Weare and environs. Goodnough speculates that for Souther, this "rural" place is "heaven." She writes:
Most of all, friends say, Justice Souter can be an ordinary guy here, amid others who are not besotted with the fast track, the high life or material goods. In New Hampshire, where reticence is a virtue, he can blend back into the citizenry without a hitch.
Goodnough quotes a lawyer friend of Souter's, who hikes with him: “But David has got a real love for the people and the land and the simple things here. I’m not sure I know a lot of people who are more connected to a place than he is. It’s a very strong, kind of visceral feeling that he has.”

This quote certainly suggests the sort of attachment to place often associated with rurality, though Souter was born in neighboring Massachusetts and moved here at the age of 11. Not only has he lived off and on in Washington, DC, since he was elevated to the Supreme Court almost two decades ago, he lived in the city while attending Harvard University for both his undergraduate and law studies. Nevertheless, by all accounts Souters much prefers this corner of New Hampshire, whether because it's rural, because it's New England, because it's home--or all of the above.

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