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Friday, November 6, 2015

Legacy of Life

   It's Indian Summer. A day as warm and sun-kissed as June. Yet, the scent of autumn is on the air, for we have had our killing frost, the foliage is almost over, the dry leaves skirl in the breeze. It's early morning and I am out cutting cedar for Christmas decorating. As I gather, the warm cedar smell , faint and elusive, wreaths around me, and I am years and miles away in fragrant dreams.
   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

Let Me Have October

      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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Riding Around New England : Mystic Seaport

         I went a whaling, in my mind, just in my mind. I climbed aboard the Charles Morgan and set sail in search of behemoth.  Oh, yes. But first I went through the town, like a good seaman should. I walked the cobbled streets and I talked to the ones who lived there, and they told me of all the things that must be done.
        The boat shop. all things for ships that go to sea. With a lantern on the table, and a model ship rocking on the window ledge.

 The clock makers shop. The king of England once offered a huge prize to the person who would make a clock that would work on a ship. Hence the chronometer, which is not affected by the roll of the sea.
 The ships carver had many a story to tell. And his shop was full of beautiful, intricate things. Even a statue of Davy Crockett. Did you know he had a ship named after him? He was a United States senator once.
 All the lovely signs. Alas I had no time  to go to Steamboat Landing.
 The lady is getting the horse equipped to pull the wagon.
This beautiful little church. I feel one must stop here, before one embarks on a whaling ship that will sail the seas for years with out coming home.
 Inside it is small and the wood gleams in the filtered sunshine. I can hear the hymns. The old, old ones from long ago, and the thunder from the pulpit is ringing in my ears, even in the stillness of this now quiet sanctuary.
 The grass grows green around the old stones. Stones whose names and days are washed away by the years, and they lean and sink back into the sod.
 The house gardens are beautiful, now, in June. Lush and colorful, sweetly scented mingling with the smell of the sea.
  The cooper is busy with his barrels, so integral to the journey. First they are filled with water, in the hold, for ballast, then hopefully filled with whale oil as we sail on. Did you know that whale oil does not soak into the wood, so a cooper must go with the ship, and water down the oil filled barrels so they won't leak. He is a very important man on the ship.
       Oh, the Charles W. Morgan. The last working sailing Whaler left . She can still be taken out to sea. I think , I imagine, standing there. This boat is not so very big. The whale boat that they launch when they spot a whale is tiny. And they go out, dancing over the huge waves and stab a whale that is bigger than the ship? Some kind of crazy.
The stove needs bars to keep the pots from sliding off. The table has troughs, too, for the reason of not losing your plates.
 The wheel. "All I need is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by."
 The bunks for the crew. Not much head room! But cheery, never the less.
 Captain has all the comforts of home. See those stairs? They lead up to his throne.
 The captains throne. I didn't see any throne for the crew, so I don't know how they managed!
 Seamans trunks. In Moby Dick (an old favorite book of mine) they hoisted the trunk on their shoulder and walked up the plank.?? Looks pretty large to me!
The steps going down to the hold. And we will chase the great whale all over the world. We will let fly our harpoons and go for a Nantucket sleigh ride. We will climb the mast and hoist the sails, and see strange lands, and tell tall tales. May our ship come home with many barrels, and when the sea calls we will haul away on the Morgan again.

 There is a boat works here, too, where they build new boats and rebuild old ones. This rather small tub of a boat, the Gerda, saved hundreds of lives during the second world war. They hid the people under the cargo and brought them from Holland to Norway, where they could be safe. Kudos to you, little Gerda!
And a light house with its Fresnel light. This one is for looks only, now. But in their time, they were a comforting beacon to those at sea. I loved my day here. I learned so many things. The folks who work here love what they do. One told me he studies every night about things so he can answer the questions intelligently.
   I hope you enjoyed coming with me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding Around New England: The Bridge of Flowers

               The Bridge of Flowers in beautiful Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

A bridge of flowers across the Deerfield River.

                                        Wisteria Vine

                      Between the towns of Buckland and Shelburne

                          Pink roses and Allium seed heads

                                        Beautiful Astibille

                             Lillies and Hydrangea

                                   Roses of many colors

                             Yellow Asters


                                   White roses

                               The bird stands guard

                          A bench to rest on.
         Loveliness abides in this best of all possible worlds.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oh! The Places I've Been!

    A year! A year of riding around New England. Oh! The places I've been, and the things I have seen! And I know I've only touched the edges, and the bits and pieces. There's still a whole new world out there to go riding around in! Starting here. Here at the sugar house, here in the Raggedy Garden, here where I hang my hat. Here where my heart is.

    Apple orchards, not yet blooming, not yet fruit filled. Curvy, slender, silver with years. With the grass greening up and the ancient stone walls rambling around them. They hold the future, the hope, the possibilities. Of new life and the circle of seasons.
    Many a path, through many a woods. Enticing, luring, enchanting. What will I find, if I follow this curve of  a pathway?

     In this stony land, where the granite lives, one must build with stones. There is a living, beauty in them. Touch a great jumbled hunk of granite and you will feel it. All the years, and all the seasons, and all the snow, and wind and rain and sunshine. A granite step, in the sunshine, warm and gentle, strong and steady. What New England, and its people are made of.

    Covered bridges. Some still in use. Some only for walking across.

     Killed by a bear, Hundreds of years ago. But the legend lives on. The road is a dirt road. The woods are old, and quiet, filled with sun shine and shadow. We rocked through the ruts, and mud and stones, and we found him. Lest we forget.

     All the old mill buildings. They were run by water power. They gave New England, and a lot of other places, all the things they needed to survive. Still standing. Still hearing the rushing water tumble by. Dreaming of the old times.

    Between the Mountains Road. Some names are too delicious. This is a dirt road, also. Where we jostle and bump along between the mountains.

    A lake, and a float plane. So many waters, reflecting the sky, surrounded by little camps and hardwood forests.

     Huge, old abandoned chimneys. Crumbling and beautiful. All that is left of some ones hearth and home. The woods creep closer. The meadow is lush and filled with life around it. Not sad. Just real life.

    Waterfalls, crashing and splashing through chunks of strewn granite.

    The tracks, curving into the tunnel. Trains still go through here, over the bridge , across the river, and on down the line.

    When the colors begin to show, and the tracks lead onward. Where will the road take me?

    Ahh! The wood piles! In New England wood is a serious business.

    This is a ski jump. At some time, some wild ones did this. It has not been used for ski jumping for awhile. But I know some later wild ones who climbed up it. Which is  another story. It makes my stomach lurch.

    The sun sets over the water, over the hills.

    The dawn comes up, like thunder, out across Frenchmans Bay.

    The mighty Atlantic Ocean crashes against the cliffs.

    All the small, sweet churches. Steeples rising high above every town. Stained glass windows, beautiful doors, plain Quaker meeting houses with out any frills.

    The smallest church that I've found, so far.

     Pillsbury Flour started here. Who would've thought?

    This road, too. Dirt road. Ruts and rocks and puddles. But the name is like music. I hope you enjoyed riding around New England with me last year! Who knows what we will discover in this new one!