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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Riding Around New England Crawford Notch

        In New Hampshire, we have notches. Notches between the mountains. This is Crawford Notch. Along time ago, when I was a small girl who read a lot of books, I read Nathaniel Hawthorne. I loved his stories. The Great Stone Face. The House of Seven Gables. And the short story, The Ambitious Guest. This story intrigued me, way down to my inner core. It was based on a true story. I never dreamed, that small girl on the west coast, that I would ever get to New Hampshire and find Crawford Notch. As far as the east is from the west.
       So life goes, and one day I found myself living in New Hampshire. Raising a family and becoming a real "Live free or Die" girl. Still, down in the southern part of the state, the White Mountains were as far as the north is from the south. It was many years before I finally got there.
        So, all those years I wondered. Why? What would make a man take his family to such a place? Far from friends and neighbors. Only wilderness. Mountains and rocks and trees and wild rivers and wild animals. Why did Samuel Willey go there in that spring of 1825? His wife? Did she like this adventure? Or was she afraid and lonely? His five children? Yes. They must have loved the wild freedom of this place. The two hired men? I guess they needed a job!

        When I finally got to Crawford Notch, though, then I knew. I knew exactly why he went there. I sit there now, on the foundation stones of that little house, and I know. The mountains are a presence. You can feel them. Down in the notch you can feel the great height. You can hear the great echoing silence. If you were blind, you would know that you were small and insignificant. That you were surrounded by something mighty.
        Here the Saco River is small and it curls around the boulders and runs chuckling over the rocks. Waterfalls roar down the steep mountain and crash and roar into the  little river. I know. Further down the Saco widens out and deepens and is a mighty river. Here it is gentle and lovely. On that night of August 28, 1826 they say the river rose twenty feet. I try to picture it, but it's impossible.

            You can see where there have been recent landslides. Where the rocks and earth have slid down the mountain leaving great, bare gashes. I've tried to imagine what it sounded like that rainy summer night. The Willey family snug and cozy in their little house. Reading in the fire light. They say the Bible was left open to the 18th Psalm. That Psalm, that speaks about thunder and lightning and shaking the foundations of the earth. I picture Samuel reading those words to his family. Reading them while the rain poured and the river rose. " Thou hast given me the shield of Thy salvation; Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great."

       They had seen many slides. Samuel had built a cave as a safe place for his family to go to if one came near the little house. This night when the earth shook and the mountain roared, they tried to go to their safe place. But the big rock behind the house parted the land slide. It divided and made two slides. One on either side. And the little house stood. All calm and serene and safe in that sea of rocks and trees and mud. And they were all crushed  and gone. When searchers came to find how the Willeys had fared, the fire still smoldered in the hearth. The table and chairs sat empty, The dog whimpered in the stillness.

           "All things comes to him what waits" said my old friend Pete, when I told him that I had finally found Crawford Notch. I have been there now many times. In the summer when it is crowded with tourists. In the fall, when the mountains are misty and half hidden in the clouds. When the leaves are umber, and mahogany and gold. When the snow is high and the mountains are white. In the spring, when the water rushes and the wind blows cold. Always I sit on the wooden steps of the forest service building and drink my cup of hot black coffee. And I listen. I listen to the silence and the majesty. I listen to the shrouded past. I feel the smallness of life. I leave refreshed.   "Thou hast enlarged my feet under me, that they will not slip."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Riding Around New England (Lost Nation)

       Some just happens. You might have a different name for it. But I call it Magic. I mean - if you suddenly came upon this sign? There is nothing else you can do. You follow the arrow! It's so delicious. I say it over again now and then, to myself. "Lost Nation". It's a narrow little road. It goes up hill. Around every corner. on the top of every crest, I am holding my breath. What will I see? What will I find? In a Lost Nation? 

       I don't know about the rest of the year. But in October the Lost Nation is made of gold. The bright reds and oranges are gone past. But the gold! As if old Midas has swept through. The Tamaracks. Golden trees. The only needle tree that turns color and loses its needles in the fall. The ferns. The sedge grass in the swampy places. The little birch leaves, dancing in the wind. The wild apples. All along the road are wild apple trees. Loaded with golden apples. We stop and pick one, eating it in the cold mist. It's sweet and juicy, and every bite has a savory tang that you will never get from a domestic apple.

       We don't meet any cars. We don't see any people. We're all alone on the road to the Lost Nation. Is this is? Is this all there is? Just the wind, skirling through the treetops? Just the river, purling along beside us? Just the clouds, hanging low over the mountains? Just the mist keeping the wipers swishing across the glass?

         Just an old barn and a few scattered out buildings, leaning forlornly into the wind? The road is rough, with pot holes and rocks and cracks. We joggle along, enchanted. We come upon a For Sale sign. Just sitting there. On a steep gully. With a dirt drive wandering out of sight. Almost, we miss it. " Can we back up?" I ask him. We can. It's the tiniest house we've ever seen. Half hidden by the birches. It's golden, too. I DO believe in magic!

        A golden house, tall and slim, with a cupola and a small red chair. With windows, for the sunlight and moonlight, and a door for friends to come in. We sit for a while and feel the hominess of it. Little lost house in the Lost Nation. So, we travel on. To one more magical moment. There is a small church. Here. Where we have found no people. Its' so tiny, and well kept, and charming.

       No parking lot. Nothing but the peaceful green meadow surrounding it. The cheerful red door. The clean white steeple. The sparkling windows. The drifts of fallen leaves. The misty mountains in the distance. We read the sign.

         We have found Lost Nation. It's right here. It's a winding road. It's thing of great, golden beauty. It's apples. Its the kiss of rain on our faces. It's a tiny house with a red chair. Its a little church in the valley. It's in our hearts, from now on.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Listening Point

       Everyone needs a listening point. A place where you can hear silence. A place where you can be still and know God. A place where you can hear when He speaks in a still, small voice. A place where you can hear the whisper of your own heart. Life is so noisy and busy, some times you can't hear any thing. So you go to your listening point.
      I found mine a long time ago. I had permission from the owner. I would take my coffee and go listen. They called it Reflections at Turtle Cove. I called it Moonlight Cove. Long before they named it. Long before they built a house there and I couldn't go there anymore. It's still Moonlight Cove to me.
     Because, you know, when you find your self some where on a full moon night. When the air is warm. When there is no wind. When there is not a ripple on the water. Only the huge moon above you, and the water is golden and there are no shadows and you can see the past and the future. Then you fall in love with that place. It will always be yours. Though you be far away, though you cannot go there. It will forever be in the very core of you.
       I know why they called it Turtle Cove. I saw them there. All summer and spring and fall. Turtles. Big ones and wee baby ones and in between ones. They hung out there, like teenagers in a parking lot. Little fish darted there. Frogs boomed and caught unwary dragon flies. Dragon flies with iridescent wings. King fishers croaked from the trees.
      In the mornings the water was gauzy with mist. Mist rising with the warmth of the sun. Mist hiding reality and making it swirl. Then the sun would slip up and the mist would rise, and there would be the shore line reflected in the mist and in the water. Three paintings, beauty tripled. Then the morning breeze would break up the painting. Pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. Just before it disappeared.
      The afternoon sun . Once I saw it turn the pickerel weed golden. Shimmering golden in the blue water. I reached out and picked one, but in my hand the beauty faded. Evening has mist, too. Eerie mist. Then the geese talk, but you can't see them. Only their voices float over the mist. Bats dart, and swallows.
       Starry nights. When the sky is velvet and there is no moon. When the owls talk. And the coyotes call. Sometimes the wind whispers in the pine trees. Some times the rain dimples the water. Sometimes little wavelets splash, splash against the shore. Sometimes boys skinny dip on the other side of the point. I hear them running through the woods, and I turn my back on them. They never know I am there.
       I tell the owner my adventures, and he loves them with me." You should have seen last night," I say. "The moon was so beautiful, reflected in the water." Later when he lives there, we have coffee and he says" You should see, Annie. Our Christmas tree is reflected in the water at night. It's beautiful." We laugh, he and I, because we both have this place in our hearts.
      Now he can no longer be there. At Turtle Cove. The house is cleaned out. It will be sold. I go for one last tryst . When I know no one is there. I walk out to the listening point. It is fall. The trees are a blaze of glory. The water is still. The spot where I sit is shadowy. The old magic is still there. I can hear the silence. I can feel God. I can hear my heart. My heart sings a song. About moon light cove. About years gone by. About old friendships. About the times and the seasons. About reflections. Good byes are only reflections of hellos. Sadness is a reflection of joy. Here my heart will always find a listening point. Because it is here in my heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Adirondacks. What More Can I Say?

       Septembre! Beautiful month to hit the road for a few days.
        Saranac Lake. Where the morning sun lies warm over the water. The sky and the water wear the exact same color. The loons yodel to offset the stillness. The little waves whisper to the shore.
         The mountains rise up and surround you.
        The leaves also whisper, "Septembre. Septembre."
       Tupper Lake reflects the heron and the clouds.
        A little bridge, over tumbling water.
        An old and weathered barn leans into the trees.
        Is this the place of castles and romance?
        And church steeples from afar?
         A beautiful duck, with his one spot of blue.
       And a Pirate ship. "Don't tread upon me." and "Don't give up the ship" say her flags, snapping in the stiff breeze.
         Wild flowers every where.
       Drift wood on the shore.
             Need I say more?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Of Long Ago and Far Away

   Long ago and far away. That's when I knew him. His hair was black. Black and silky. Iridescent. Like a crows feathers. It was long. Touching the collar of his shirt.  His cheek bones were high and his nose was straight and sculptured. His skin was flawless, coppery. He was skittish and wary. Like an untamed colt. I didn't know what to do with him. He was there, and I was too young to know that I didn't know any thing.  I was a moth to the flame of his presence. Once , unable to help myself, I reached over and ran my fingers through that black silk. It was clean and smooth and full of life.
    The day was hot, and humid, and as dusk fell, I walked down to the river. The water was fast and cold and milky , coming tumbling down from the snowy mountains. I stayed in the shadows of the bridge. Sitting on a rock. Feeling the cool dampness of the river swirl around me.
    Then I saw him. Poised on the edge of the bridge. Ready to dive. The freedom of his spirit rose with his arms. His face was lit with the light of reckless joy. His hair flew out behind him as he arced through the dusk. Almost he was a bird, glossy and black and flying and free. My heart twisted, because I fear heights. but his friends laughed and shouted for him, and he came to the shore shaking the water out of his hair and eyes.
    He came, then and stood in front of me. His eyes were black and undecipherable. We said no words. Only I knew then that my life had taken a new path. I would never see the world the same again. I don't know what he saw in my eyes. but he lifted his hand in a farewell salute and he melded into the dusky fir trees.
    I sat for a long time there, in the star light. Cool and unafraid. Strangely lighthearted. Ready to go to the grown up world. Knowing I would be sure and free to be me.
     Many times since, I have found crows feathers. Those who know me, know that I treasure them. They bring them to me, and watch me smile. And I run my fingers over them. And they are clean and smooth and silky. And I think about long ago and far away. And I wonder. Is he still reckless and free? Did some one tame him? How is it now, is that black silk tipped with white? Can he still fly? Are there still friends to shout and laugh with him? Where have his restless feet traveled?
     I doesn't matter that I will never know. But I will listen to the crows when they talk in the tree tops. I will watch them, feathers iridescent in the sun light. I will save me a crows feather. For long ago, and far away.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Stone For All The Soldiers

      The real Wall, in Washington, D.C. is of course, more imposing. Larger. Stiffer. A Capital City monument. Still and quiet, you feel the grandeur and the heaviness of its meaning. The people come to see it.
       The Moving Wall. Well, it's moving. It has heart and compassion. It gets up and moves to the people in the small places. The people who will never get to Washington, D.C.. It comes to the people who know. The mothers, now little and old. The ones who shed their tears so many years ago. It comes to the old shakey fathers with walkers and canes. It comes to the friends who have never forgotten. It comes to the children who have heard only stories. The children who wondered what was behind all the silence. It comes to the slender, lovely teen age girls with daisies in their hair. It comes to slouching teen age boys who never had to know about being drafted. It reaches out to them.
       It was late when we got there. Warm and humid. A three quarters moon hung above us, and the purple clouds scudded across the sky. We have been to the Moving Wall before. Each time it is just as startling. This was our life. This defined what we are today. When you turned eighteen, you got drafted. Lots of boys went to Vietnam for their senior trip. These names on the wall are our friends, our contemporaries. All these names are our lifetime. We saw them go. We saw them come back. No one was ever the same.
       The staff at the wall are gentle and kind and helpful. Finding the name you are looking for. Seeming to know which ones need comfort and words and which ones need to be left alone. We have taken rubbings before, so now we zero in and find our place.


         Now we just walk along that long black wall and we find the names. We reach up and trace them with our finger tips. All along the wall others have left tokens of love and memory. Pictures. Flowers. Poems. Flags. Beer cans. Cigarette packs. We watch those around us. Those men with the long grey pony tails. The big brawny ones with their Harley jackets. The ones still in uniform today. These are the ones who know.
        He  came walking slowly to where she was standing. She traced the name with her finger and looked at him. "Touch it," she says gently. "I don't know if I want to," he answers. His reluctance pours out from him. She turns, away from the raw emotion in his eyes." "It might be your only chance. Reach out and touch him." Her voice is breathless, annoyed, compassionate. His hand trembles. Slowly he reaches out. His hand is work worn. Carefully he traces the small letters. Once, twice, three times. He removes his hat and holds it over his heart, his head bowed. He is crying. Tears splash on his hat brim.

     They walk away, down that long black wall, holding hands as though they were young lovers again. A church steeple stands shadowy in the back ground. The bell rings from the bell tower. Deep and solemn, it strikes the hour.
I have my stone in my pocket. The Jewish people don't leave flowers for death. Flowers are too fleet and fading. But as a sign of respect, when they leave a cemetery they leave a stone. Because a stone will always be there. Love and memories will be as that stone. I like that. I always leave a stone. A stone for all the soldiers. A stone for all the names. A mans lips move, but no sound comes.
"Speak our names in voices like thunder." the song says. "Touch our names with your hands, so we know you have not forgotten us." Some silence sounds louder than thunder. The lightness of a finger tip across etched granite can be felt around the world.
To whom ever is responsible for bringing the Wall to the American people,
our heart felt thanks.