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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Winter Story

            A long time ago. Time before. Time that we can't really know about. We can hear it. We can read it. We can think on it. Can we really know?
            The winter morning was very cold. The snow lay white and wind swept as far as one could see from the window. It was cold in the house, too. The fire struggled . It struggled to keep burning. It struggled to keep the room warm. She had to scrape the frost from off the inside of the window before she could look out. The sun did not come up now, this time of year. Only for a few weak hours. This day would be like all the other days. Cold , and dusky and she was hungry. She was hungry. Hungry for food. Hungry for warmth. Hungry for light. Hungry for some one to love her. Oh, Father did. She knew that. But when Mother had been here, the love was more visible. It was more viable.
             When you are small, you don't always get the right answers from the grown ups. They think you don't understand. They brush things off. The gloss things over. Oh, but she did understand. She understood with every fiber of her being. Her Mother was not ever coming back. Someday, they said, then we can go to her. It will be a glorious meeting. Thats what they said. Sincerely thinking that would give her peace and comfort. They didn't see that she only knew that her Mother had gone away, and her life would never be the same.No some day promises could scab up and heal that loneliness in her soul.
             Every morning she got up in the darkness. Father had poked up the fire and added some meager pieces of wood. He had brought in some water, putting some to heat in the tea kettle over the fire. There was nothing to add to it, but it would be warm. She thought about the lovely feeling of the warm sliding down her throat and warming her from the inside out. She tried hard not to think about how warm, sweet coffee would taste, rich with new milk. Some times there was some small tid bit to eat. A crust of bread, toasted brown and crunchy. Nothing to put on it, but the bread would be nutty and good. If only mother were still here, she wouldn't have to eat her crust alone. Think how pleasant it would be, to break your fast with a smilimg mother! She must not think about it. It would do no good to cry.
           Today was not stormy, so Father had gone off to the hills. To the hills to see if he could snare some meat for supper. Perhaps he could find some dry wood, that would warm the house faster. He had told her she must take the sled and go down the road to the village and ask at the homes. Ask if any one had anything they could spare. She tried to make herself look presentable. That was one thing mother had always insisted upon. Even if you wore rags, you must not have a ragged spirit. She pulled her finger through her hair and braided it loosely. She put on her warmest clothing. Her faded, patched up dress, her woolen stockings,long scratchy woolen stockings, with holes in the heels and her toes sticking out. Fathers old coat. It was too large for her. She had a hard time to button the black buttons, because her fingers were cold. Her shoes. Oh, my they were not fit to be seen. She knew that was what mother would say. She sighed.  She sighed the soft weary sigh of poor girls every where. A silent cry from some where deep down. A cry for something nice. Something warm. Some thing bright and colorful. Some thing pretty.
           She had lost one of her mittens. She couldn't think how she had been so careless. So careless as to lose your mitten! The coat had large pockets. She could wear the mitten on one hand, and keep the bare hand in her pocket , for warmth. She looked askance at the wood pile. It was so very small. Yet she could not let the fire go out, even though she would be gone for a long time. She added two good pieces of wood, stepped out the door into the cold. It was not windy at least. The cold sucked your breath. She put her mittened hand over her mouth for a minute, acclimating herself to the cold. The little wooden sled stood leaning against the house. She loosened it from the snow bank and took hold of the rope.
             The little girl trudged along the snowy road. Her white-gold braid peaked out from beneath her scarf. Her blue eyes looked ahead into the vast white world. One mittened hand pulled the sled, the other hand lay snug in the very large pocket.She did not like begging. If only she could find something to eat some other way. There was no other way. This was the way the world was. She was not the only one who had so little. She didn't know any one who had much.
              She knocked timidly at the doors. They were opened angrily. These women were angry, because they had nothing to spare. Nothing to give to this small girl with chapped cheeks and sad eyes. They were angry because they would help if they could, but they had nothing. It was easier to be angry, say harsh words and slam the door. Slam it against cold and hunger, and orphans, and a government and a God who allowed these thing to happen.
                She didn't know that, though. She thought they were indeed tired of her, little beggar girl, going from house to house every day. Why would they want to be kind to some one who was so untidy and ragged and poor? She didn't know that they she only reminded them that one small twist of fate would make them the same way. No one wants to think about that.
                 The little wooden sled slid easily over the snow. She found a few twigs and put then carefully in the middle of the sled so they wouldn't fall off. At one house some one had thrown bread crumbs out for the birds. Imagine being wealthy enough to give your crumbs to the birds. She stood there watching them hungrily, She wanted to run over and grab some of those crumbs and stuff them in her mouth. The little birds twittered and fluttered and daintily picked up crumbs. They sounded so cheerful and sweet. She remembered that Mother had always told her that birds were Gods special creatures. They sang and made nests and raised their families like God wanted them to. They enjoyed life and were thankful. When you heard the birds sing, you knew they were thankful. You could hear praises in their songs.No, she could not take food from the birds mouths. She trudged sadly on.
                    All those homes, all those doors. Sometimes when a door opened you could smell good things cooking. Sometimes you could hear a fire crackling. Sometimes you could hear childrens voices, or you could hear some one singing. She had walked down all the roads. No one had given her one thing. Her two twigs rattled as she walked back home. Home would only be silent, and dim and dusty. No one to greet her. No one to help her take off her big coat. No one to ask  her any thing. She stood her sled back up against the house, and opened the door and walked in. She put her twigs in the fire, and put the kettle on. She was so cold. So she crawled into her bed, under the shabby coverlid and drifted off to sleep.
                     Then she seemed to feel warm and something smelled so good, and the fire light gleamed  and the kettle sang. She thought she must be dreaming. She heard Father humming softly to himself. She wanted to stay sleeping so the dream wouldn't go away. But she sat up, dazed, and saw that it was true. Father had meat cooking, and water boiling and a crust of bread, and wood was piled against the wall.
                      She threw back the covers. Something flew out on to the floor. Her lost mitten! How had it gotten under the covers! The little girl and her Father laughed, and had a merry supper, and he told her all about his adventures of the day. They were happy and gay. She felt that Mother knew about this and she was glad. She did not tell Father about cold hands, frost bitten cheeks, little birds, or angry women. She said her silent thanks to her heavenly father, and slept , warm and content.
                      Winter would one day be over, spring would come. Things would be better then. The little girl never forgot, though. Always she welcomed into her home the hungry and the lonely and the orphan, and the odd folks. Always she worked hard to have a clean, inviting home. Her door was never slammed angrily. She told this story to her children. She was my Grandmother, and now this story is handed down to me. I wish to give a portion of her spirit to each of you. A portion that never forgets a wainter day  and a little wooden sled. A day with anger and slammed doors, that became a miracle of the wonder of life. A portion of compassion. A portion of love for your fellow man. A portion of thankfulness for what you have, whether it be a crust or a whole loaf. A twig or a fine chunk of oak. A mitten and a pocket, or many pairs of warm gloves. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
          From stories my mother told me on January afternoons.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notes From The Woodpile

        It's up across the pasture, around a little bend, nestled in to a copse of trees. Bordered on two sides by a wide, ancient stonewall. There is an old blue van, all rusty, no engine, tires mouldering into the grass. It holds the things you need at the wood pile. Things like gas and oil and sharpening equipment and extra chains and wrenches and screw drivers. Other things, too, that have collected dust and rust for many years. There is a pile of granite slabs. Wheel barrows. Plastic milk crates. The splitter. An old manure spreader. An old wagon from a long ago tractor that is heaped with fence poles. A wobbly picnic table, faded blue, also, and chunks fall off of it sometimes.

       This has been his "office" for over forty years. When you heat your house only with wood, and also burn wood in your sugar house, you need a lot of wood. Many cords. Way back then, in those early, glory years, he worked at brick laying all day. Nights and Saturdays, though, were spent at the wood pile. At first it was just us. Sometimesd we would get behind and bundle up and bring lights in the cold November evenings to get it all finished. When our sons got big enough, they went with him. Learning work ethics. Learning caution and safety. Learning team work. Learning respect for thier father. Some learning to also love wood piles. Some learning to hate them.
        Eventually they were saavy enough to be able to work the wood pile by themselves. Now they have sons who also come over sometimes and work the wood pile. It is a beautiful thing, to see the knowledge passing on to the generations.
        Now. It is just us again. He  has retired. He  can't go so fast anymore. He faithfully makes his way up to the wood pile every day and works it into shape. The wood sheds are full. Next years wood is piled neatly along the edge of the woods. It's a comforting feeling.
      Down at the house I can hear him. The smooth purr of the sawrig. The zing - zing of the  logs as they go through. The thunk - thunk of the splitter as the woods splits apart. All clean and yellow/white and fresh smelling.The chunk- chunk as he throws the wood in the trailer. The chug of the tractor as he brings the wood down to the wood shed. As much a part of my day as bird song and wind in the trees and wheels going by on the road. Always there, in the back of my mind, sounding of comfort and warmth  and sweat   and love and contentment.
      Any one who comes to see him, knows where to go. So often I see trucks heading up through the grass, disappearing around the curve. Then I hear the silence as he stops what he's doing and sits on a log or a tail gate to visit. Now sometimes he just stops to rest, too. The years come drifting back to him. In the warmth of the sunnshine, he thinks about them. The years, and the old friends and the old dogs. The children. The laughter. The smoke . He doesn't smoke anymore, but he can taste the memory of it on his tongue. He can squint through the smoke rings of his mind and conjure up the past. If he just turns quick enough, the old brown dog will be there. Where she always lay, under the trailer, in the shade on warm days. Or in the sunny spot in front of it on cool ones. When he stopped, then, she would come over to sit beside him. He would ruffle her ears, and he talked to her as though she was a person. She loved the sound of his voice, whether he talked to her in Finnish or English. She wagged her tail happily. He always said she was bi - lingual.
         He hears the words. The ones the old friends said when they came up behind him. They are almost clearer now, than then. Clearer from remembering them so long. They have left him, one by one. He can feel the loneliness, sometimes, up there at the wood pile. But it's a good kind of lonely. Because he knows how beautiful it was, and how beautiful it will be. The young man he was stands there in the shadows, too. Not mocking the age that has come to him. Just reminding him of how life spins an eternal circle. He smiles to himself when he remembers me. Young and pregnant, up there helping him in the cold and the dark. He remembers how impatient he was at times, when the boys were young. He sees the old many of them were there, over the yars? All Fords, of course. He remembers the old tractors, the old saws, the old Model A sawrig. They are all there with him, now. Now when he sits in the sun and looks at his wood piles.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Riding around New England Part Three...My Town.

Where would you like to go? Directions here, at the Birdhouse Swamp. How do you wish to go? Well, there is always your imagination. It will take you anywhere, and return you home with a
smooth landing when you get lonesome.

        Can't find your dream spot? Just make your self a sign.

When you are young, you want to get out of the old town and move on to the new. Alot of times, though, you find out you just need to go back.

Here you can free Tibet can just smile. Our ancesters came here the long way around. They sailed over from Europe, went to Michigan, and then came back to the east. Here to this little town that had already been here for a long, long time. And they stayed. Lots of them. Look in the phone book! They farmed, at first, in those long gone days. There is still a few farms around, gentleman farms mostly. Just folks that like to do it. Raise pigs. Milk cows. Work with horses. Make hay. Raise chickens. Raise families.

             Actually, no Native Americans ever lived here. They came here hunting and fishing. The Souhegan River, which starts here and flows down to the Nashua and then to the Sea, was named by the native americans. The name means waiting place. It was here that they stretched their nets across the river and waited for them to fill with fish. My children and I have also waited here on the river bank many a time, for fish. Lovely brook trout that cannot be beat for frying up and eating.  So when the first settlers came here from Massachusetts they were not bothered by Indians. Many of the surrounding towns had much trouble with them. But here they never had to build a stockade, fort or watch tower.
     Still looking pristine and wilderness like today. We swim here, put in our boats, kayaks, canoes, the wild goose makes her nest  here, the kingfisher and the heron show off their entirely different fishing skills. The moose stands back against the trees, the deer drink, and the bears, the foxes. The coyotes cry, lost and lonely in the foggy dusk and legend stills catches a fleeting glimpse of the panther.

      There's still wood piles all over my town. Nice straight ones, tumble jumble ones, some covered, some weathering the rain and the snow and the sun.You will see alot of saw rigs and splitters and tractors and wagons. There are even some comercial wood piles, great heaps to sell, and all the commercial equipment. Saw Mills, too that will saw your logs into boards for you.

    The mills were the first businesses in the town. Besides a sawmill, there was a grist mill and this town had the first woolen mill in the state and the first cotton mill. That Souhegan River was first rate for water power. There is still a running mill on the site of that first cotton mill. Its not the same building, but the same place. Generations of towns folk have worked there. Now they make the fabric for bullet proofing our finest among other things. Along with these mills, came the men who made the money. So many lovely old homes still line our streets, built by these innovative and resourceful people.
     The numbers on the lintels of the house are not house numbers. They are the year the house was built! The Appleton Manor was the home of the Appletons, mill builders, inventors, politicians. Henry Wadsworth Longfellows wife was Fanny Appleton, and President Franklin Pierce also married an Appleton lady, Jane. The Barett Mansion is open to the public, preserved for a glimpse into those long ago days. Built by the father of the Groom, furnished by the father of the Bride. A movie, The Europeans, was filmed here. amazing how they turned the town back in time while they were filming. Iron Horse Cowboy drove the trash truck at that time, so he was able to meet all the VIPs.  (He was not impressed.)
    Appleton Academy. (Also named and mostly funded by the Appletons.) The second academy in New Hampshire. It has been a school all these years, first chartered in 1789. At times a private school, but it was also the public school for a long time. It sits empty right now, because it needs to be brought up to "code". Any old timer can tell you a host of wonderful stories about those old days, when there was no codes! They actually make it sound like school was fun!
      There are still some dirt roads, in my town. lovely ones for leisurely rides to spot deer and wild turkeys and bears and a mother partridge herding her line of chicks. Yes, mostly people have four wheel drive vehicles, for mud in the spring and snow in the winter.  I like driving on them. You have to go slow, so you can feel the stillness. The hawk swoops and cries his harsh cry. the little birds sing, and twitter. The sunlight falls through the trees,splashing the forest floor with gold.You will spy a golden rock, a golden fern, a golden fallen leaf, on a dirt road in my town.
 These roads have been here all along, too. They have been here for ox carts, and horses, and the marching feet of the Revoltionary  soldiers, and the  civil War soldiers and they have been here for the horseless carriages and now for our SUVs.What stories they could tell if we would only stop to listen! The farm where the colonials would go to Muster is still here. Musterfield Farm, the name on lintel says. The roof has a little bit of a sag and the huge old oak tree still shades the door.

Now we have three huge schools. We have a resturant, a couple stores, some garages, a couple pizza shops,  a gourmet coffee shop, a junk yard, antique shops, gas station, churches..everything one needs to get along in todays world. Todays world would not be here without yesterday. We need to have yesterdays memories to make our town better for tomorrow.We need the oldtimers with their stories and their legends. We need the old remnants to make the new pieces of the world.

Hobbit house? Gnome house? Troll abode? Being of scandinavian descent I favor the trolls. The kids think hobbit. I've only seen an old toad here, sunning himself, But the ferns rustle. The trees whisper. The rain patters on a fall day. The snow hides the doorway in the winter. My town. Come explore it with me. You will be glad you did!

And in honor of my Finnish ancestors, "Tervetuloa".


Monday, July 15, 2013

Finding Mary

         Riding pillion on the iron horse, we have the wind in our faces. The road winds along the Contoocook River. Called so by the Abnakis. Meaning "place of the river near the pines". We are indeed  "near the pines". Things have not changed so much, then in the years. Still we travel along the river, in the pines. The road winds up, ever up, twisting and turning beside the river. The river dashes, gurgling and splashing over the rocks. The coolness of it slips upward and we feel it as we go. The pines shade the road. The ferns are green and they wave in our wake-wind. We see nothing but the road and the river and the trees.  Some of the road is dirt, some paved. At the top we lose the river. Sometimes, there is a clearing, with a breath taking view. All around, stretching the horizon, there are the green New Hampshire hills. They roll away. fading into the distance. until your eyes can't see any more. The sky is blue above them.
          We ride past  a house then, shadowed by trees. An old house, its two identical chimneys visible, the windows catching the sun. I tap his shoulder, because the rumble of the iron horse and the whisper of the wind throw my voice off to the sky, and he can not hear me. He pulls over so we can talk. The silence overwhelms, for a split second. I tell him we need to go back. That house. I can feel it. My skin prickles. I feel I have been here before. I need to find my way back.

             When I am a girl, I am blessed with a love of reading, and a book mobile, that stops within a bicycle ride of home. I was a Lois Lenski fan, and if you were, too, you know what I mean. I hungrily read all of her books, checking out ones I had already read, if there was no new ones. Her drawings were delightful. Her stories spoke to my child heart. ( I still read them, if I happen to find them!) She wrote America, through a childs view. She wrote Ocean Born Mary. That was the first time I met Mary. I was almost as far away from New Hampshire as one could go, but I knew her, as girl, she in colonial New Hampshire, I in Washington State, centuries later, living her life through a book, while the Douglas Fir trees dipped rain drops and the Cascade Mountains thrust up on sunny days.
            Never had I dreamed I would one day live in her neck of the woods! There is a wonderful legend about Mary. And of course, legends are legends. Who can distill the truth from the romance? Who really wants to?
            In the year of our Lord, 1720, The Wolf came sailing across the great Atlantic Ocean to the new world. She came from Ireland, and her passengers had land grants in Londonderry. One young couple were awaiting their first child. The mother giving birth in the small wooden vessel, a girl child was born. But the dreaded had happened. Bold pirates had boarded the ship. A handsome young pirate he was, too, dark and mysterious, pretnding to be Don Pedro, but for real an Englishman, scouring the seas. He has just ordered everyone killed and all goods transfered to the pirate ship. He stops suddenly, listening. The cries of a newly born babe have reached his ears. Bring me the babe, he orders. Trembling the young mother stands before him. He gently pulls the blanket and looks at the child. " If you will name her Mary, then I will spare the ship", he tells her. So Mary she was. The pirates angrily going back, empy handed to their own ship. Don Pedro, too, goes back, into his rooms, and sends over a package to the babe with his first mate. 'Tis to be used for Marys wedding dress, he sends word.
           So those two ships sail away, in different directions. Angry pirates, and thankful settlers. A first hand account from Mary, in later years.."Indeed, I was born neither on this side or that side 'o the water, nor any where else on Gods green earth." So she grew up, in those hard days of the settling of America. She was described as magnificent, over six feet tall, with beautiful red hair, green eyes and a lovely Irish lilt when she spoke.
           Mary married Thomas Wallace, in a silken gown, given her by a pirate so long ago. Teal green brocade, from China, with small teal flowers  and white stripes. It was worn, too by several descendants of Mary, Pieces of it now can be seen in the DAR meuseum in Washington DC. Faded teal green silk, stolen by pirates and coming to raw New Hampshire  to save a small ship load of lilting Irish and gracing America yet today.
           That much we know is true. We also know for truth that her husband died, leaving her with five children.She also came to Henniker New Hampshire, and lived there the rest of her life. I found her again one day. Henniker calls itself "the only Henniker on earth" . So one doean't have any confusion about where she is. Center Cemetery is of course, in the old Henniker center. Its a small place, ringed in by a stone wall, mellow old spruce trees stand gaurd, and the intricate iron gate is rusty, and locked.

         I scramble over the stone wall. Ancient. The trees, the granite markers, crumbling and faded, the moss. the quiet peaceful air that hangs above. Twelve rows back, to the right. Those are my instructions. So I have found you again, Ocean born Mary. Widow Mary, says the stone, with dates. But only the dreamers and the readers know the rest of your story.

           Legend has the bold pirate giving up his life on the high seas, and getting a chunk of land in Henniker. His ships carpenter builds him a house, up a hill with beams  and detailing like a ship. Here he lives as gentleman with servants and books and fine food and clothes. But, he is lonely. When he hears that Mary is left a widow, he sends to ask her if she will come and be his housekeeper. Mary brings her family , then, and keeps his home, and hosts his guests and his parties. Some times. crusty old sailors come, too, and whispered talks, and walks out in the orchard, and angry silences come into the home. One day, the pirate is found dead in the orchard, stabbed by an unknown hand. Indeed, does your past wickedness come back to haunt you?
           Mary lives here the rest of her life, with her son and his family. Sometimes, when the mist hangs in the trees, a shadowy coach and four pulls up the drive, and the tall, beautiful red haired lady alights to walk up the granite step and go into the house with a rustle of silk. I suppose, why not? The house still stands, half hidden in the green trees. The orchard still behind it, the lawns and gardens kept smooth and lovely. The road still quiet and not much used still runs by. Now I can go past. I do, once a year or so. I feel her story, just an ordinary story 'bout an ordinary life. Time doesn't fade it. Dreamers like I can still conjure it. History is what makes today what is , and tomorrow what it will be. Every where you are, there are the old ones behind you. If you can find them, you have a richness that money cannot buy.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Charlottes Web

                                " "Come into my garden, said the spider to the fly....."

Walk on in. It's beautiful here.
      "If you have a garden and a library, you have enough."

   Full of summer.
        A sensitive plant
 in a garden grew,
        and the young winds fed it
 with silver dew,
      And it opened its fan-like leaves
 to the light
     And closed them beneath
 the kisses of night."
      Percy Byshe Shelley

.Patriot Hearts."Every heart beats true, for the red, white and blue.." My father was a veteran who cried every time he heard The Star Spangled Banner. My son in law, a more recent veteran has a hard time hearing the noise of fire works. Are we leaving a legacy to our future generations? Long may she wave!

I must go down to the sea again,
To the lonely sea and the sky.
And all I ask is a tall ship,
And a star to steer her by."


Linens on the line. Any laundry actually. Nothing smells so good. Nothing is more sleep inducing than sheets that are crisp and fragrant from sunshine and summer breezes.

This crab apple tree has a story. Looked like a puny twig, when we planted it. Grew into a fine shapely tree. Made lots of crab apple jelly, rosy pink sweetness, for toast. One slippery, slidey early morning there was a great pounding on our door. Sleepy eyed, we answer it. A very upset young man tells us he has just missed the curve, wiped out one of our cars and knocked down the tree. His car teeters on the edge of the hill, none the worse for wear. Thankfully, insurance takes care of the car. Tree, not so much. Insurance adjuster offers to buy a new tree. The iron horse cowboy sulks. No. He bought that tree for his young wife, its been a symbol of young love all these years. Money can't replace it. New trees can't replace it. So, he props it up, with stcks and baling twine. Lo and behold, it some how grows back together, and thrives. Beautiful, this tree. (If you ever see this, Matthew, thank you!)

Where the uncaged birds sing.
   "He will give beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise insted of heaviness, for the glory of God."
            Isaiah 61:3
Every morning I hear it, a great chorus of bird song, as the dawn breaks, and the sun sweeps over the hill.

                                                   Thanks for visiting. Come again!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Riding Around New England Part Two

        When you think Massachusetts, you think Boston, traffic, congestion, and other sordid things. Boston is not really sordid. It is a beautiful city and it is so full of history. You can feel it in the air. You breathe it when you are there. But getting there makes you sigh, just a little. Surprise! There is a lot more to Massachusetts! Head to the west and it doesn't take long to be in the wilderness. It is lovely. Hilly, forested, green. Rivers, wildlife, the works.
         We headed out to the Deerfield Valley. Here you will find no traffic, winding roads, peaceful scenes. Not much different than when the first brave settlers came here all those many years ago. After you cross the French Kings Bridge, you are there! It's a beautiful, high, arching white bridge, as far as bridges go. I am not a fan of bridges. We parked in the pull off after crossing. Brash teenager walked across. I stood near the towers, my heart doing flips as the semis rolled across and the big bridge trwembled and shook. Thats where I found this swallow tail, lying lifeless near the curb. It is still beautiful, soft and the wind flutters the delicate wings.

               The view from here is lovely, though, all rushing mighty waters of the Connecticut River. Green hill upon hills fading into the distance. Not much human habitation to be seen.

               I had conjured up ramantic reasons for the name. What wonderful things had french kings done in Massachusetts? But I find it is named for French King Rock, a formation near by. No one can tell me why they named the rock that, either!

          The road takes us along the old Mohawk trail. It is still here, the tress come right up to the edge of the road. I think some shadowy warriors still walk silently through this , their old traveling places. I think they hear the fluting song of the wood thrush, like I do. I think they hear the splash of falling water. I think they hear the whisper of the summer leaves. There is much history here, too. Once these woods were all cleared away, and farms filled the valleys. Cows grazed. Orchards bloomed. Corn grew. Mill wheels turned. Every small town you go through has crumbling old brick factory buildings by the rivers.

           Therer are still sweet little farms here and there. Farms with tractors, and cows and meadows and orchards. They sit snuggly in the valleys, still. Mostly there is no manufacturing any more. Thats the way of progress. The Deerfield River is wild and foamy after all the rain. The white water rafters and kayakers are out gleefully bouncing along.  Oh, I remember the stories I read. About the Indians who swooped down and burned and destryed, and brought their captives walking through the dark forests to Canada. That would be an awful long, weary hike.

              We come to the Hoosic Tunnel. Trains still come through it. Not like they used to, in its heyday, but they still do. You don't have to walk in very far, and it's DARK. Dark and dank and cold and clammy. It is four and three quarters miles long. It goes through Hoosic Mountain, called so by the Indians, meaning place of rocks. It was the only way to get through to Albany N.Y. They wrangled over it for years. The official ground breaking on the north end was in 1851. They began the east side in 1852. The official opening was not until 1876. Hundreds of men worked three shifts, blasting and pick axing through the mountain. Hundreds of them died. Some years nothing was done, because of money and changing government, and the Civil War. Lots of money was spent, and wasted. But it did get done. For awhile it was the longest tunnel in the United States. Lots and lots of trains went through it.

         Now only a few freight trains go through, The lonely track goes on, out of sight, winding across the country. Of course there,s plenty of Ghost Stories. It did have a bloody past. People hear horrible noises when they go deep inside. Why do they go? I wonder..the very rocks probably moan and the winds are frightened when they blow through that utter darkness! I'll stay on the outside, thanks.  Wild strawberries grow along the tracks, and thimble berries, and wild flowers.

        We wind along the river, past housed and hills. Past towns and bridges. Up into Vermont, and home. Someday, go to Old Massachusetts. Let your imagination run free. Feel the sunshine. Hear the birds. Smell the new mown hay. You won't be sorry.

              See you in the misty hills!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Girl Who Loved Horses

  She came reeling in through the door. Her eyes were glazed. Her long hair was tangled and red with blood. Blood ran down her legs. She only wore one shoe. She cried, leaning into the wall. She didn't talk. Her mother took her into the wash room and cleaned her up. She staggered to the sofa and curled into a ball, crying silent tears. Her brother went looking for the horse. She was calmly grazing in the neighbors lawn. Farther on, he found her shoe, lying forlornly in the ditch. The ER finds she has a severe concussion. She lies in limbo for three days. Her heaad hurts. Her eyes can't stand any light. She's too dizzy to walk. Food and drink make her nauseous. She mutters gibberish about snakes, and the horse's legs, and her leg. The purple bruise on her calf looks just like a horse hoof.
   Her father paces the floor, and winces every time she cries. Her mother gets up every two hours in the nights to check on her. Her friend comes every afternoon. She sits patiently beside her, rubbing her hands, smoothing her hair, trying to get her to drink something, not talking, because noise hurts her head. She sits in the dark, because light hurts her eyes. One day she guides her, staggering to the kitchen. They try to get her to eat. Some icecream? A popsicle? No, nothing. She asks for some carrots. But when she gets them, she puts them in her pocket, and they stumble out to the pasture. They feed a carrot to each horse, and she touches them, blindly, her eyes covered with a dark mask. Satisfied, they make thier way back to the darkened bedroom. We cry,because such a true friend is so rare.
    She had wanted a horse all her life. Every night she had prayed the good God to find her one. "All girls go through that stage," they said. "She'll get over it," they said. They were wrong. She didn't get over it. She didn't just go through a stage. She wanted a horse. She found an old neighbor who needed help with her ponies. She helped. Faithfully, every day, learning how to love and care for the ponies. They were show ponies. They had traveled far and wide in the show circuit. Now the ponies and their owner were all too old for shows. Smoke was the girls special pony. He was dappple grey. His mane and tail were as white-gold as ripe wheat. As white-gold as the girls hair. Smoke was a little stallion. He loved getting his coat curried. He loved getting his mane and tail brushed, and braided and beribboned. He loved being hooked up to the pony cart, and trotting proudly around. He loved it when she drove the cart. He loved it when she gave the children rides. At first, she was small enough to ride on his back. All the proper things and manners, and grooming and carting, she learned from her small, old friend.
      Finally the old neighbor sold the other ponies, and gave Smoke to the girl. How unbelievably happy she was. How faithfully she cared for Smoke. How hard she worked to earn money for supplies, feed, hay. How much they loved each other, Smoke and the girl. But she was growing up. She could no longer ride Smoke, but she still cared for her faithful friend. And having seen the power of prayer, she prayed for a real horse. "They cost too much money," they said. They are too high maintanence," they said . "You have to wark hard on your schooling."they said. "you won't have time," they said.
      The girl did not hear them. She saw beautiful horses walking through her dreams. She searched ads in magazines and papers, and Caigs list. She believed a horse was coming her way. Lo, and behold, one did. She was a chestnut mustang. A wild mustang from Montana. Caught by the Bureau of Land Managment, United States Government, because the herd was starving during a drought. She was pregnant. She was chased by coyotes. She had lost her foal. She was afraid of all dogs because of this. The man who had bought her named her Missy. He had tamed her and taught her manners and trust. Then he became partially paralized and couldn't care for her. He asked at the feed store where the girls brother worked, if anyone knew of someone who would want a horse. The girls brother talked to the man about the girl. The man liked what he had heard, and called her to come meet him and Missy. It was love at first sight. The man worked out a deal with her to pay him some money every month until Missy was paid for.

     So Missy came home. The hot North Carolina sun beats down on the pasture. The two horses stand there, nose to tail, in the shade of  Crepe Myrtle tree, with its bare bones trunks and its high leaves , and its patch of shade. Their tails swish . They nudge noses. She towers above him. They nicker to eachother and whoosh into the grass. Some times they walk slowly, grazing side by side. Sometimes Missy lifts her head. She whirls and gallops along the fence. Her shiny chestnut coat ripples as she goes. For a moment you are in Montana. In the wild wind, hot and sweaty, the tall grass parting beneath her hooves. The shadow herd runs with her, wild and free, thundering unhindered by fence or folks. Is she remembering?  Is she breathing in once more the air coming down off the mountains?  She stops at the end of the pasture and walks slowly back. Smoke noses her affectionately.
      The girl lives in a little cottage here by the pasture. The windows smile and the doors swing open easily. Flowers spill down by the steps. Honeysuckle grows over the fence. There is an old barn. Its metal roof is saggy. It is rusty metal from years in the sun and the rain. You can see through it. The cracks in the walls are wide. No one uses it any more, except her brothers have painted a bulls eye target on one wall. The horses that stand in that barn are play horses, ridden by long ago children. A new barn shaped shed is there , too. She has painted the trim bright red. A hitching post stands by the porch. A hitching post with a black horse head, given to the girl by a far away friend.

      Every day the girl brings the horses out. They take their turn at the hitching post, while she grooms them, checks their hooves, washes them, sprays them with fly spray. When it is Smokes turn, Missy paws the ground, making the red clay fly. She whinnies and snorts. She doesn't like it when Smoke is out of her sight. True friends, that little dappled pony and the leggy chestnut mare, and the girl who loves horses.
    The girl is feeling better. She is not afrid to get back on the horse. She knows this: Dreams do come true. Horses come walking out of the mist. Little girls grow up to be strong young women. God is there, in every thing we do. The Girl Who Loves Horses.    
        Long ago a little boy loved this horse. Now it stands gaurdian between the barn and the pasture, looking longinly at the girls horses, day by day. Perhaps it still wonders where the little boy went, Perhaps it knows. It has aged gracefully, patiently waiting. The girls knows about him. Perhaps that is why she loves horses.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Riding Around New England, Part 1

            It's an old dirt road, that goes to nowhere. Really. It ends,with a muddy bump at an iron gate. You can go no further. It was muddy, in spots, and rough. It was narrow. The branches brushed against the sides of the car. Shy violets grew along side of it. "The worst road I have ever traveled on," wrote a revolutionary soldier in his diary. "All mud and ruts.." He was slogging through in September of 1777  with General John Stark, from New Hampshire, through Vermont, to fight the British in the Battle of Bennington. Perhaps some things haven't changed much!
          The sun shines. The sky is blue, with white fluffy clouds. The wind is chill. New England has turned green after the snow melted, we had some warm days, and then a few days of rain. The leaves are all unfurled, every different shade of new green that you can imagine. The dandelions bow and nod in the breeze. I konw they are just a pesky weed, but when you see a meadow flooded with those yellow faces, its  beautiful!
              The fruit trees are all a blossom. Even here out on a dirt road to nowhere, you see them shimmering in the sun shine, left over from days gone by.Days when this road went to farms and homes and pastures and barns and orchards. I see the stone walls, the granite foundations, the stray daffodils, the huge lilac bushes. A granite post says this was the town center. Here stood a church, a school, a post ofice. Here people walked and rode their horses and buggies. Here they worshipped, learned to read and write. Here they waited for a letter. An old, old cemetery sits in the sunshine. The walls around it are still straight and true. The gate is gone, but the path through it is still discernable. Here people mourned. I ponder the brevity of life. Once a thriving living town. Now a forest. Only a trace of humanity left behind.

                   A hawk soars and dips. Turkey vultures ride the wind with out moving their wings at all. The farmers have begun plowing. The crows hop in the newly turned earth. The river rushes white over the rocks, foaming and swirling.

      There is a tiny house, all made of stones. It's like a fairy tale house. The three bears could have lived here. It has sturdy wooden doors and windows that look out from deep with in the thick walls. I am enchanted. It half  hides behind the trees. You could drive by, and not see it.

            There's a fountain.Cold clear water slashes from it. How many years has it bubbled here? It's a memory fountain. Chiseled into the granite, it says " Barna A. Clark. A true friend and a good man. 1896." What a good report, of a man. Could we ask for more than that?
           A break in the trees reveals the mountain.Just standing there like it always has, patient and strong and beautiful. I know why people live here. And why people like me go riding around looking for these things.

            Did I say it was a road to nowhere? Look where it brought me! I rode into yesterday. I lived on it today. I could see tomorow. Give me a road to nowhere, any time.