The road has not been plowed. We park the truck and trek through the snow. The wind has drifted it and the snow is deeper than my LLBeans. It is a cold, white world where the bare trees make black shadows. Below us the lake is a deep, deep blue. It has only a scrim of ice around the edges. The water ripples in the wind. The sun makes a golden road across the water, and around the golden road there are millions of sun diamonds. They glitter and dance with the ripples. Up here it is quiet. So quiet we can hear the memories. When you are surrounded by noise and busyness, you can hardly hear memories.
We remember fishing in the rain. Smoking salmon in the PNW. Steaks in the moonlight. El Caminos. Peterbuilts. Stories in the sugar house. Oranges on Christmas morning. The laughter of many children. Nights in the fur shack. Gallons of coffee. Ash trays, heaped up. 50 years can make a whole lot of memories.
But most of all, we remember you.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Some days are like a picture. Some days are music. Some days are poetry. And some days are a story. Every once in while you get that perfect October day that is all of them. A picture of blue sky and blue water and all the colors of fall. You know why they call it fall, don't you? The leaves fall. The pine needles fall. The acorns fall. The apples fall. They all fall. A vagabond wind sings through the trees. The music is the swish and crackle and the drum beat is the nuts and the apples. The sunlight filters through the trees and every thing is suffused with gold. The water is flecked sun diamonds.
This day was all that. And it was a story day, too. I think all days are story days. But mostly we don't listen.
It used to be a junk shop. Not a cute name for a vintage store. Oh, no. This was the real thing. The building was junk. The roof leaked and most of the windows were boarded up. The stairs were rickety. And, it was full of junk. Piled high every where, with small paths here and there. There was no way you could ever get to see all the junk, much less buy any of it. Even the proprietor was rather junky. He sat glumly on a junky stool, like he was waiting for the place to collapse and be done. None the less, we always stopped there if the flag was out when we were going by. Then it was closed for a long time. We wondered what had become of all the junk.
This day, much to our surprise, a flag was flying and the door was open and we pulled in. A man was busily sawing and measuring, but he cordially invited us in. It was amazing. It was beautiful. It was perfect. Not the kind of perfect where you have to take off your shoes and speak in hushed voices. The kind of perfect that said, "Come in." The kind that spoke of years gone by, and life and living. Open to the day, mellow with time. Boards and beams that said, "We have been here. We welcome you back."
He said he was Jessi. His muscles rippled under his coffee colored skin. His hands were strong and gentle. He wore a bandana over his hair, pulled back in a pony tail. He had on a carpenters apron. His face was lined. He spoke with a slow, southern accent. Shut your eyes, now and listen.
" I grew up in South Carolina. Low country. I never knew my father. My sister and I were raised by my grandparents. I rarely saw my mother. It was good. Grandmother was loving and grandfather was the boss. But my grandfather was sick. He had tuberculosis and cancer. One day, when I was thirteen, I was sitting at the table doing my homework in the evening. My grand father came in the kitchen and as he walked behind me, he placed his hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. I was surprised, because he never did anything affectionate like that. And he said to me, real quietly, " It's going to be all right." I was puzzled, but shrugged it off and had forgotten about it by the next morning when I went off to school. But when I came home on the bus I saw that there were police and ambulances and all kinds of commotion. My grandmother had heard one shot, and she knew what had happened.
It was all right. Life went on. I finished school. I went to New York City. I got married and had two beautiful children. When my mother was dying she sent for me, and I went. I told her it was all right. I didn't have to know why she did what she did. I had had a good life with my grandparents. I saw that every thing happens for a reason. Life goes the way it is supposed to. No one should fret over the way things go.
After 9 11 I couldn't stay in New York any more, so I moved up here to New Hampshire. I thought it would be all right. But we got divorced and I lost every thing. Now I'm starting over. And it is all right. I was supposed to have my marriage, even if it didn't last, because other wise I wouldn't have those two beautiful children. That was the reason. You can't fret. You have to keep on living and see what comes next. Now I found this falling down building. The town had condemned it. But I cleared it out and I refinished it. And its my home and my business and its beautiful and its all right."
We shook hands and promised to come back. We rode quietly for a while, letting it all sink in. Thank you for a story day!
Sunday, May 7, 2017
I have been thinking about those four little words. " I go a fishing." John 21:3.
These men have just lived through a horrible time. They are scared. They just lost their friend to a horrible death. They feel lost. So many things have happened, they don't know what to think or do. So Peter says. " I go a fishing." And his friends went, too, out in the boat all night long. They are cold and tired and hungry. Their faith has wavered.They have caught no fish. But at sunrise, they see a warm glow on the shore, and the fragrance of fish frying comes wafting across the water. Jesus beckons them to come to shore. Their nets fill up with fish. How welcome is that moment. This is one of many times Jesus has broke bread and fishes with the multitudes.
Now. We have the same Jesus. When we are afraid and cold and hungry and our faith is gone. When the nights are too long and our hearts are broken. Look to the far shore. Jesus has sent us out those friends who have taken the time to gather drift wood and build up a fire and tend it until it becomes a bed of coals. They have fried us some fish and bread and asked us to come to the warmth. There we are fed and warmed and we hear the gospel and our faith is renewed.
Have we humbled our selves to be one of those messengers? Are we too clean and good to walk out in the sand and dirty our feet and clothing and hands? Too busy to go out before dawn and find those fishermen with empty nets? We don't have to do miracles or preach sermons. all we have to do is be there. working with our hands and hearts to bring comfort to our fellow man.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I am a ship Builder. I built me a ship of hope. She always sails forward, into uncharted seas. Her prow gleams snow white in the sun, and her sails are filled with the breeze. For hope is the bird that always sings before joy comes in the morning.
I am a ship builder. I built me a ship of dreams. It can sail anywhere, back to the things that I've seen. The moon light turns it golden and the star shine gives it light. The memories are the cradle that rocks me to sleep at night.
I am ship builder. I built me a cargo ship. To store all the treasure I've gathered while sailing the seven seas. I will sail around and give them out to the ones who think they have none. And the rest I will trade for the things that I need when my sailing days are done.
I am a ship builder. I built me a ship 'O war. I flew a proud flag from the highest mast and I plated her hull with steel. I armed her with courage and I sailed around the world. Every part. To secure all the harbors that lay in my heart.
I am a ship builder. I never sail alone. I have a crew that stays on board where ever we may roam. They are strong on the deck and steady at the helm. Our music is the wind in the rigging and our lure is a siren song.
I am a ship builder. Will you come sailing with me?
Monday, May 9, 2016
Friday, November 6, 2015
It's the old Norse in me. I know this. My Scandinavia coming along and getting the beast of me. Of the many legacies I received from my Father, I am gifted with the love of trees, and the love of books. Books covers so many things. things like Words, beautiful flowing words, knowledge, imagination, hope, love. And Trees. Norse mythology is entwined around trees. I know this because my father had books about it. Books that I read. I clearly remember standing in my parents home, by the glass door, in the gloaming light of the Douglas Fir forest, reading one of those books. My Mother said, "You are just like your Father, standing there, reading, when there is a comfy chair right there you could sit in." I stopped reading, for that minute. Something inside of me glowing with happiness. No one had ever said that to me before. "you are just like your Father."
The Scandinavians believed that all life was centered around the tree. And when you examine it? Its true. Life begins in the roots, and lives and breathes, and branches out and makes new growth, and grows and always there are the insects, the birds, the animals, the humans that contribute to its growing. And it feeds them, and shelters them and gives them life. And when it has accomplished every thing then it slowly dies down and feeds the good ground and makes new life.
I think of all this, now under the cedar tree. It was here when I came here, those many years ago. Much smaller, then. Now it is a huge old tree. It measures seven feet around the bottom of the trunk. The Ice Storm a few years ago took off the top half of the tree so it's not so tall any more. But still it flourishes. Generations of children have climbed it and swung from the branches and hid among them. Always it is green, full of tiny clusters of cones. Full of birds and squirrels. The roots and the trunk are smooth and grey. It's a beautiful tree.
My father loved his trees. When he finally built his own house, he picked a spot in an old growth Doug Fir forest. He only cut enough trees to put in his house. No more. If you have ever been in the Pacific Northwest, in the forest, you know what I am speaking of. Straight and tall, close together. Soft and gloomy, with only shafts of filtered sunlight streaming through the vast network of trees. Damp and mossy, every trunk covered with moss. If I suddenly became blind, and some one brought me there, I would know by the smell that I was among the giant firs.
The trees hid the house from the road, and the curved drive kept you from seeing the house until you suddenly came to the clearing. At night it was dark in those woods, for you could not see the stars. Only the owls talked in the scented darkness, and the coyotes called from the hills. But he loved those trees. Never would he cut one down, unless it clearly needed to be gone. One day he took me out through the dim path to the edge of his property. He was already old and ancient as his trees, I walked behind him. He was unsteady on his feet. But he pointed out certain trees. Trees that he loved. And we came to the prize of his forest. He knew how wide it was. How tall. How many board feet of lumber it would make. We leaned against it and looked up, up, up, into the heavens and we didn't have to talk. My Father and I. We knew that he would never need to make lumber from that tree.
I married a man that also loves trees. But in a more practical way. Our life revolves around trees. Here in New England there are more trees than any thing else. We stay warm with trees. We manage our woodlot, so there will always be trees for us. Interesting to note: the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house. (Taking care of your house!) We built a home with those trees. We cut them down and we saw them up and we split them and pile them and lug them in the house and feed the wood stoves. The stoves warm us, and cook for us, and make cheerful crackling sounds and dry clothes, and yes..they make our life.
Every spring, we tap the maple trees, collect the sap, and boil down that beautiful amber syrup that sweetens our lives and helps sustain us. My children grew up to love trees, too. And my grandchildren. And hopefully, my great grandchildren. Many generations. Some of them are loggers and sawyers. Some of them draw them and paint them. Some of them write about them. All of read about them. And we love trees. The legacy goes on.
An old Scandinavian poem reads:
" Talk of what Home is -
snow and forest is home.
From the first moment they are ours.
Before any one has told us that it is snow and forests.
They have a place in us, and since they are there,
Always and always. Come Home.
Go in there bending branches -
Go on till you know what it means to belong."
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
So, there we were. Living in October. October in New England. Some of us had never done this before. Early in the morning I went out on the long porch with my coffee. Every one else was still sleeping. It was chilly, damp, misty. The Green Mountains that we had gazed at the night before were shrouded, seeming elusive and far away. It was quiet. That foggy morning quiet. The kind where you can hear your thoughts. I could hear the leaves falling. Like rain, like tiny bits of gold. There was no wind. The little birch leaves were just tumbling down, dancing, whirling, falling like rain drops on the damp forest floor. It's the loveliest thing to hear. In October. In New England.
I saw, through the mist. Looking through the misty years behind me. I searched for shadows, for pieces of the past, for long ago voices, for surely I could hear them in this quiet October morning. My sisters, the younger ones were only two and four when I left home. My brother had not yet been born. So we don't have a past the way my other sisters and I do. It's like we are learning our lives all over again. In a different time and a different place. But we still find that we are sisters and brother, linked by all the generations that have gone before. We have read the same books, like the same food, hear the same music. Its a beautiful thing.
So, we drive around October. Take a trial through the woods to where the water fall crashes from the cliffs. Drive up a mountain, with edges and curves, and see the hardwood forest turn to scrub pines and rocks, great granite out croppings, where the wind shakes us and the Long Trail goes off through the stunted trees. We admire the mountain chapel, tiny and staunch. We window shop in quaint mercantiles and eat deli lunches. We watch evening creep over the town, and we go to Ben and Jerry's and have ice cream for supper.
We drive over Smugglers Notch. A long time ago, I went through this place, and it stayed in my heart ever since. You can feel it, you can picture it in your mind, this wild, boulder strewn mountain. Desperate men sliding through the boulders, hiding among them, bringing goods down from Canada, risking their lives, thumbing their noses at a government that is letting the people starve.
All through the glorious October hills, over the October roads, over state lines, along rivers, past covered bridges, past farms and sugar houses, through many towns. We talked of years, and people and places, and we laughed and cried, and we were sister and brother for ever and always.
A rainbow. A promise. forever and always.