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Thursday, December 11, 2014

It"s Christmas, At My House!

       It's Christmas, at my house! How I love Decembers short days. Mornings and evenings are for the candles glow. I sit in the warm silence and feel sated with happiness.

        All my little angels are up and singing. In the stillness of December, I can hear them, faint and far away.

       Birds nest, for luck, and oriole feathers and egg shells.

         A chickadee on my window.

       Felted blue mittens.

        All the Christmas books.

        Bells against the lace.

        Food and flowers.

        Cedar and red berries.

       Boots and socks, and plaid blankets.

        The desire of the heart.

       The Holly and the Ivy.

      A tea party.

        New fallen snow.

       The sun, setting in the west.

                  When the sky is heavy and grey, and the big, wet snowflakes kiss my face. When suddenly the sun tries to part the clouds, but all I see is a golden glow for a brief moment. When the wind skirls in the night time, and I am warm under the quilt. When the fire crackles in the morning. When the children come in with rosy cheeks and wet mittens. When the smell of cinnamon and vanilla and pine and cedar are in the air.  When friends come, and the coffee and conversation flow. When we have secret surprises waiting for some one. When all the Decembers, all the Christmases past, shine dreamily before me, settle in around me, leave me mellow and thankful. Thankful for the birth of a Saviour. He came here for me. In a manger, in Bethlehem.  No greater gift was or will, ever be given.

                           It's Christmas,, at my house!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Riding Aound New England: One November in Maine

     For the love of Maine. On a gray November day, we headed up, to go "down east". In Bangor, we hit snow. Suddenly it was winter. The sky was gray, the trees were dark and gloomy, the snow was white. The air was damp and chill. We cut across, then, to head for the coast. For Calais, for Eastport, for Lubec, for all those towns by the sea. We have been here in the summer. Now we brave Novembers changeling days. It's different now. No tourists. Most of the motels and restaurants and shops are "closed for the season". There is no traffic. We have Maine to ourselves.

       We find rose hips in the snow. Bright red, bright green leaves. The only bright things on a gray foggy day. Across the river is Canada. Here we are, at the edge of our world. The tides come and  go on this river. A bridge goes across. We can see that there it is just as here. Church steeples, buildings of brick and stone, street lights, and cars, docks and boats. Old fishermen and the sweetness of teen agers. Good folks and bad. In all the world. In every country. Life lived. We are all the same.

       We hit the Waco Diner in Eastport for breakfast one morning. The oldest diner  that has been continuously operating in the United States. The rain pours down. We are right on the docks. Inside it is warm and bright. The old men drink coffee and razz the waitress. We have smoked salmon and eggs. And homefries, done the real New England way, and a bagel with cream cheese. The town is quiet. No shops are open this early in the morning.

       We walk off our big breakfast, up one side of the street and down the other. Gazing in the windows. Talking to the man getting his boat ready to go out. Smelling the sea. Listening to the ravens croaking on the roof tops, and the sea gulls mewling as they fly overhead. Checking out the free library. Waiting for nine thirty, when the Hardware store opens.

        The hardware store. Run by this family for many generations. It started out as a ship chandlery, selling goods for the ships going out to sea. Changing with the times. Now selling almost any thing you might need! And, yes, S.L. was an uncle to Henry .

        Eastport is the eastern most city in the country. Here is where the night fades and the dawn comes, first, before it spreads light over the rest of the country. The Indians here were called People of the Dawn. The road goes down a steep, steep hill. Down to the sea. In the rain drops we see the beautiful church, with a gull perched on the cross at both ends.

        We visit the Quoddy Head lighthouse. All white and red. The fog horn booming. The light flashing. The waves crashing and roaring on the rocks. The bell bouy sounding. Its lonely here and wild, and far away. You can feel it in your heart. Then Schoodic Point. We have spent many hours here, before. Now we have it all to our selves. This day has dawned bright and full of sunshine, after a full moon night. It's cold. The wind roars and the sea roars, and the waves blow high against the cliffs. Even the gulls are quiet. A flock of ducks bob and dive, not minding the wild sea, at all, at all.

      We drive slowly. Past all the old places where we have been. The towns, the docks, the sea glass beach, the lobster boats. The wind whipped cemetery, where lie fisherfolk and families, and Katie. And next to Katie, Jean, "like a daughter to Katie". Does any one know, any more the story? I feel the story here, standing in the wild windy sunshine.

       I like these little towns, with colorful buildings, and lobster bouys and narrow streets. I like the town docks, with friendly people, and friendly dogs. With small working boats, and fancy yachts. Where good smells come from the restaurant kitchens. Where you must shout to be heard over the wind and the tide. Where the night falls soft over water and land.

       I like these places, with tug boats and high masts, and bridges to walk across. With smokers cooking barbeque and  lobster traps, all crusty with salt and sea weed.

       I like how inland the blueberry barrens are most beautiful now, all pink and mauve and reflecting the morning sun. We have felt the heartbeat of the real Maine, now in November. The hard working, down home Maine. The shabby at the edges Maine. The beautiful, salty spirit of down east. I will come again, thank you!

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.