This summer my husband, Mark, and I spent a few weeks in the Adirondacks and southern Quebec. We took a ferry across Lake Champlain from Essex, NY, to Burlington, VT, then drove north across the border into Canada and along the Richelieu River, stopping at small towns along the way. This kind of aimless wandering, being open to whatever presents itself, is my favorite way to travel (as long as food is involved!).

Our exploration of and love for this area have been inspired by Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mystery novels. There is always serendipity, and this year we discovered “barn quilts”—quilt patterns painted on barns—along a lovely road near the border on the Vermont side. Seeing them was like sharing a special secret, a palpable symbol of community. (We later discovered that over 7,000 painted barn quilts are part of organized trails, while others are simply scattered throughout the countryside waiting to be discovered (full website). Here are a few:

We stumbled upon another form of culture sharing. In several towns in Canada we spotted tiny “free libraries,” each unique in design and placement. These are small receptacles—like large bird houses—in which people place books to be shared—for free. How delighted I was to come home and learn that the Women’s National Book Association, on whose board I serve, had awarded a prize to the organization Little Free Library that spawned this library movement.