I knew I couldn’t stay away


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I know I said that I’d be too busy writing to write…..but here I am anyway.

It’s been a strange couple of days. The wind is howling, the sky has been slate gray. Rain poured down on us all day yesterday, and the world seemed dark and threatening.

I set myself to writing yesterday morning. I have made my NaNoWriMo commitment, and I intend to get that story written. I can’t get myself to use the word “novel” because that sounds so official and so serious.  But I do intend to get this story out of my head and onto the page. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, most of yesterday and into a part of today.

And I got to a place in my story where the protagonist (main character? narrator? woman who is sort of me, but not really me?) went through a very sad time.  And I wrote it all down, and created her words and her reactions. And found myself in tears.

“What the heck?” I asked myself, already starting to think like a novelist, “Why am I crying from my own words?” I didn’t know what to think. I was slightly impressed with myself for having brought me to tears, but slightly embarrassed to be sniffling over my own ideas.

So I closed the laptop and started to cook, which is my usual comfort activity.  One batch of pumpkin-apple soup, one tray of roasted vegetables and one pile of cranberry scones later, I decided to head for the hot tub.  Football is on, and Paul is watching.  I have marinating veal chops to go under the broiler at half time.

I wrapped in my robe and stepped out onto the windy deck, listening to the trees as they bent and groaned in the gale.  I sank into the hot water, letting the jets sooth my aching back and shoulders.  I thought about my story, and about the woman who is both me and the product of my mind. I looked into the darkening sky.

And I saw a huge black bird, wings spread wide, soaring on the thermal drafts above.  He was as black as onyx, his wings gleaming as he flew.  He crested the rooftop, and the setting sun suddenly hit him from below.  Suddenly, he was pure gold. He turned, riding the winds, and the golden wave of sunlight moved over him, from head to tail.

I have seen a million crows, a million times, in my wooded yard.  They have always looked sinister and sly, and they have always made me shiver.

This bird, though, shining with golden light, was absolutely breathtaking.  I cried out so loudly at his beauty that Paul came to the door to see what was wrong. I pointed out the golden bird, soaring high above us.

After he drifted off, settling with his outstretched golden wings onto a branch in the woods behind me, I thought again about my story. I thought about every event in every book, like every event in our lives. They can all be either sinister and dark or shining and golden, depending on our point of view.

I’ll never look at a crow in quite the same way again.

And maybe my view of my sad and struggling “lead character” will evolve in the next day or two as well.

Who knows?

Back to Nature


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Why, you might ask, would a slightly cranky aging teacher agree to lead a three day field trip for seventy fifth graders into the wild woods of New Hampshire? Why would she agree to sleep in a small, damp, musty cabin for two nights, knowing that she’d need to walk through the mud and rain to get to the bathroom for the nightly 3AM nature call?

Why in the world would a somewhat demoralized old fashioned teacher agree to eat in a big camp “eating lodge” for three days, passing around plates of chicken fingers and pouring water for the ten kids at the table, when she’d really love to be sitting down to a dinner of homemade ravioli and a glass of chianti at home?

When the weather forecast is for rain and wind and possible lightning, when the trip involves no less than three hours on a packed school bus (each way), and when the camp experience will include at least 5 miles of traipsing up and down various hills and trails, why would the aging teacher agree to go along once again?

Let me tell you why.

From the vantage point of just having arrived back home at last, and having changed into clean, dry clothes, I am ready to share my adventures. From the lovely viewpoint of a woman who has just had two good glasses of wine and a huge plate of Asian take-out, I am ready to share the secret joys of the annual fifth grade trip to the woods.

Please forgive any typos, grammatical errors, confusing references or dropped ideas.  I still have the “Moose Song” reverberating through my skull. I’m reallllllllllllly tired.

But here are a few of the highlights of our three day trip to Camp Merrowvista in New Hampshire.

In the days leading up to the trip, when I thought I had done everything I could to reassure my nervous little travelers, I finally said, “Listen, I know you might get homesick. I’ll be right there with you, and you all know me. I know I’m not your Mom, but I do care about you.”  And one of my sweet little smarties replied, “Well, you’re not Mom, but you’re the next best thing.”

On the bus heading up to the Camp, one of the kids asked me, “If I get lonely at night, will you come to say good night?”

And as we arrived and the kids fanned out to meet with their Camp Counselors, and the teachers and chaperones drew back to let them get to know each other, I was struck by how grateful I am to the parents who are willing to trust me and my colleagues with the care of the people they love the most on earth. A very, very humbling thought.

Late on the first night at camp, I was stationed at the door of the bathroom, shooing the boys to the right and the girls to the left. Making sure that no one would be accused of “peeking” at anyone else, making sure that everyone was clean and toothbrushed and ready to sleep.  I greeted each set of “bathroom buddies” and then wished them “good night” on their return trip.  Finally, after almost two hours of coming and going and washing and brushing and changing and marching to and fro, I began to wear out. My colleagues and I found ourselves telling the kids to just stay in bed already. At one point, as two lovely pink clad ladies wandered back to the bathroom for the fourth time in an hour, I heard myself barking out medical advice. “I know how the human body works!”, I informed them firmly. “You have emptied your bladders. Its impossible for you to need to pee again before six am.  GOOD NIGHT!” I ushered them out the bathroom door and back to bed.

As fate would have it, I woke up at 6 and headed back to the bathroom to shower before the horde of little girls arrived. As I stood at the sink brushing my teeth, who should walk in but the same two little pink wrapped bathroom buddies. “Good morning!”, I chirped, as I tried to casually spit into the sink.  The two girls stood there, mouths agape.  “Um….” one of them began.  The other chimed in, with awe, “Were you here all night?!”

And there were the moments just before each meal, when the kids were all seated and the adults were looking for places to sit.  The kids who reached out, who called my name, who said, “Karen, sit with us!”   The greatest gift in the world. Nothing, nothing, nothing could mean more to a worn out old teacher who is tired of rigorous assessments and data and testing. Nothing could ever mean more to me than those smiles and beckons of welcome.

The beauty of spending three days in the woods with the children is that I become reacquainted with the true meaning of education.  I step away from the worksheets, where I have to poke and prod and beg the children to do the work with focus and energy.  I get to watch them march through the mud, picking up sticks, asking about plants, looking for bugs. I get to listen as they let their minds soar. I am overwhelmed by the sheer power of their thoughts and ideas, and the flexibility and speed of their connections. “Do you think this is a moose footprint?” “No, moose don’t have round feet.” “Deer have pointy feet.” “My feet are soaked.” “You have to step over the mucky spots.” “I think monarch caterpillars have spots.” “Right. And this is milkweed.” “I can knock it down with this stick.” “You can’t knock down a moose.” “You can if its small.” “But not with a milkweed.” “I know. Its because of global warming.”

They might not be scientifically correct, but they are thinking, and comparing, and asking questions. They are wondering. They are filled with wonder.

On the first night of our trip, we went on our “Night Walk”.  The Merrowvista staff dressed up in awesome costumes, and we all walked quietly into the woods, with all lights off. It was a very dark, misty night with no natural light to guide us. The kids walked in a nervous clump, followed by smiling, but slightly anxious chaperones. The Merrowvista leader remained calm and in control as the children sat in a circle on the damp ground. As one of the adults sitting behind them, I tried to stay silent as I listened in.  In the course of a half hour, the young camp counselor taught the children about animal adaptations, night vision, echolocation and why pirates wore eyepatches. He managed to impart all of this knowledge while the kids shared these whispered comments. “This is scary!” “I see a light!” “I think those are zombies.” “Dude, zombies don’t use lights, they just attack.” “I don’t want to be attacked by zombies.” “SHSHSHSH. I’m learning about rhodopsin.” “I still think there are zombies.” “Oh, my God, my tooth fell out!”

And finally, on this last morning of our trip, as I sat in the dry dining lodge, nursing a second cup of hot coffee, I looked out the windows to the garden area just outside of the lodge.  Two children were playing in the rain, completely unaware of any watching adult eyes.  The girl was wearing a pair of pink flannel pants and a bright kerchief.  The boy was in muddy jeans and a gray t-shirt.  The rain that had been pouring down all night was now falling in a gentle mist. The kids were already wet, but they had just finished breakfast and were eager to set out on their next adventure.  Each one stood on a wet gray stone, and they were face to face.  Although neither of them spoke, they began to jump from stone to stone, in a perfectly synchronized rhythm.  He jumped to her stone, splashing the water that lay on top. As he did, she jumped to the stone where he’d been standing, turning around at once to face him again. Their heads were bent, toward the muddy ground. The rain fell steadily and gently on their shoulders and heads. They didn’t speak, but both were smiling.  After a few minutes, the sun began to shine its way through the melting clouds, and the kids were almost coated with light.

I stood inside, looking at them. Realizing that without a single word or plan, two children had instinctively created a beautiful, natural dance pattern on the wet stones. There was no competition, no sense of purpose. They simply jumped and danced and changed places. They were simply there in the moment, enjoying the fact that they were alive and young and dancing in the warm rain.

Who knows what lessons were learned in that brief time while the sun worked to show its face? There was no rubric. No data was collected. I can’t begin to assess the progress of the children toward any academic goal.  But make no mistake: those kids were thinking and cooperating and problem solving and taking in the lessons from all around them.

That, my friend, is education.  And that is why a tired old teacher finds it worth her while to give up the comforts of home for a few short days to have adventures in the woods with the kids who are entrusted to her care.

That magical moon


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It was a normal morning. Boring and prosaic, completely devoid of magic. A shower, a coffee, the long commute. The students, and math and emails and correcting. Busses, a hair cut, home to feed the dogs and sweep the floor.  An unremarkable dinner and a glass of unremarkable wine.

And then the day was over.  I yawned, stretched, trudged down the hallway to my bedroom. Wrapping myself in my furry red robe, I rubbed my tired eyes and stepped onto the deck.

And magic poured down over me like honey.

The moon was full, or near enough to make no difference.  I slipped into the hot tub, and the briny mist rose past my face and reached into the sky. The black tops of the pine trees made a curtain of lace in front of the moon’s silver face.  I lay back in the water, watching the sky above me.

I know that I can’t describe it. I know that I lack the special talent that it would take to let you see and feel and hear the wonder of tonight in the skies above my house.

I don’t have the words to catch and hold it, but I can tell you that the sky itself was further away than I have ever seen it. It was stretched above me, so very far above. It was a deeper, richer blue/gray, and tonight it looked like the vault that it is so often called.  And up there, so far up, there were glittering, dancing stars, high, high up. Clinging to the deep blue velvet sky.

Below them, in the magical air between the moon and stars, great piles and pillows of the whitest clouds were rushing northward, moving up and over me as I lay there in silence below. The moon was closer to me, just rising at this evening hour.

I could see the layers of the sky!  Closest to me, closets to earth, were the tips of the pine trees, tossing back and forth in the wind. Dusted with silver from the moonlight that lit them. Above them were those rushing piles of stacking white clouds, running away, brightly lit from below by the huge white moon.  And then the farthest layer, the so distant sky, displaying its tiny diamond chip stars. So far away!

The stars were still, held in that blue ceiling. Below them the clouds were moving, marching, flying north. They raced past the winking stars, giving a rare depth to my view of the sky.

And far below, nearest to my view, the strong old pines stood tall, held to the earth by their solid roots. As the stars winked, and the mountains of clouds marched on, they reached out their lacy hands and waved goodbye.

That, my friends, was a true glimpse of nature’s magic.

Sudden Sunset


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It’s early fall here in New England.  As is typical for this time of year in this fickle place, we have been swinging gently between cool, crisp air and the heat and humidity of summer.  The air smells of late summer; browning leaves, cooling earth, a breeze from the north.

Today was a steamy day.  My classroom was thick with heat and moisture and excited fifth graders. I came home with my blouse damp and clinging, my hair lank, my spirits slightly sagging.

The sky was a uniform slate gray; we desperately need rain, but we seem to be limited to occasional cloudy days.  Rain has been glaringly absent for the past couple of months.

I made dinner, cleaned up the house a bit, checked my email.  I set up tomorrow’s coffee and made my lunch. Paul came home and we ate supper quietly. The air stayed damp and warm, the sky stayed gray.  I thought for sure that rain was coming.  I thought that the solid silver cover over us would be there for a long time.

When dinner was over and all cleaned up, I sat on the couch, ready to do some lesson plans.  The news was on in the background, but I wasn’t fully tuned in.  The big bay window on my left showed the yellowing leaves of the trees against the dark metallic sky.

But all of a sudden, without any warning, the sky turned the most beautiful shade of rose gold. The clouds lit up, the air suddenly felt cool.  I ran outside to try to take a photo, knowing that I couldn’t possibly capture that beauty with a smartphone.  Still, I gave in to the powerful demand to capture and hold the image of that sky.

I was right.

I couldn’t really grasp it. I couldn’t hold onto the shifting shades of pink and salmon and mauve.  I couldn’t find a way to frame the golden leaves against that amazing backdrop.

Still, I had to try.

A sudden, unexpected burst of glory like that has to be grabbed and held and described, no matter how feeble the effort.

Otherwise, how can I be sure that it was even real?

Early Morning Thoughts


Last night I dropped into bed while the sun was still lighting the sky.  All of my exertions of the weekend finally caught up with me, and I took my aching back to bed nice and early.

Slept the dreamless sleep of the innocent for seven blissful hours.   Heaven!

Of course, the downside of being in dreamland by 9pm is that I was up for the day at 4, but I’m not complaining!

It is a cool, clear morning.  There are a million birds singing in the woods and the sun is just beginning to show itself through the trees. I decided to pour an iced coffee and go into the hot tub to watch it rise.

Can anything be more indulgent and more soothing than that?

I don’t think so.

I lay there, listening to the birds, watching the sky turn from gray to palest blue.  I felt the hot jets massaging my neck muscles.

My eyes focused slowly on the leaves of the nearest trees, and I realized that I was looking at a tall young oak.   It got me thinking, which shows you how well I slept last night.

When we moved in here, 24 years ago, that little oak was a tiny sprig. It was in the grass, in the yard, but I didn’t want to kill it with the mower.  We left it to grow.

Nine years ago, when we got our little puppy, Tucker, that oak was about twice as tall as I am.  I remember a summer day when Paul and the kids had gone hiking.  Tucker and I took a nap in the shade of the little tree.

Now it is some 30 feet tall, rising above our deck.  It looks like a real tree, not a sapling. It is spreading its branches out on all sides, reaching for the sunlight.

And it no longer stands in the yard; I hadn’t really noticed it, but the woods have crept slowly closer to the house over all these years. Now the oak is at the edge of the woods, surrounded by smaller saplings of pine, maple, ash and birch.

I wonder when the acorn that formed it fell?  There are no other mature oaks near this one.  Did a squirrel drop the acorn that managed to root here? Did it roll down the hill in a storm?

I have no idea, and I like it that way.  I am just an observer, watching the sun rise, the sky clear and the trees growing taller.SONY DSC

When wimps have adventures.


Sometimes even the most timid among us go out and have adventures.

Think Bilbo Baggins, for example.  Just a simple chubby guy, hanging around the hobbit hole eating seed cakes, minding his own business.  Then, bam! Before you know it, he’s out fighting a dragon and finding a magic ring.

It can happen to anyone.

It happened to me this past weekend.

I went on an adventure!

It all started a few weeks ago when Paul announced his intention to drive partway up Mt. Washington’s Auto Road, and to hike into a beautiful area called the “Alpine Garden”. To his surprise, (and maybe a little bit to mine), I asked if I could go, too.  I know how much Paul loves to hike, and how much he loves being up above treeline in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Back in the day, we used to hike up there together.

But now I am, like Bilbo Baggins, both chubby and timid.  My arthritic knees rebel when I try to take them up mountains, and my vivid imagination sees me plummeting to my death off nearby cliffs when I venture up above the trees.  So it has been a few years since I last hiked with my honey.  When I heard Paul talking about “walking” and “Alpine Garden”, I was eager to join him for a day in the fresh air.

Yesterday morning we woke up in our hotel room in New Hampshire, I laced on my comfy Dansko sneakers and we bundled up for the wind and mist. My heart began to flutter just a tiny bit as we approached the Auto Road.  I wasn’t exactly scared, but I knew that we would be driving seven miles up a winding, narrow mountain road.  I kept my eyes on the sky as we wound up, trying not to think about the cars passing us or the mists that sometimes obscured the view. By the time we got to the seven mile mark, this is what the road looked like:

The Mt. Washington Auto Road.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road. GULP.

We parked in the little turn out, and walked onto the trail.  I was excited, but also a little bit nervous; we were up REALLY high, and clouds filled with icy drizzle kept sweeping over the mountaintops, embracing us with their cold breath.  The trail that we had chosen turned out to be far steeper than we thought, and the first half hour of our hike consisted of me whining, “You said it was flat. You said we wouldn’t be hiking, but we’re hiking and I’m in sneakers….”  If you have ever tried to climb straight down a path made of various sizes of granite boulders you will understand that a pair of Dansko sneakers were no match for the terrain.  Combine that with the fact that I was wearing my bifocals, and you can probably grasp why I was pretty shaky. I griped and moaned and moved inch by inch with both hands in a death grip on the rocks to either side.

At last we reached the “flat” part of our hike, and began to carefully move from one giant stone cairn to another, watching in awe as clouds rose up from the valleys and flew across the mountainsides and summits.  It was beautiful beyond description.  This scared little hobbit started to enjoy herself in the air above the clouds!

Of course, it was a little foggy.

Of course, it was a little foggy.

For a while the path was fairly level, and the sun even came out.  We were marveling at the beautiful little plants that grew around the gray stones, and at the muted colors of the rough grasses, blowing and waving in the wind.  In spite of my shaky legs and my wind chapped cheeks, I was really having fun. Every now and then the clouds would part and we would look out at the ski slopes across the valley; the mountain looked small, dwarfed as it was by the vastness of the summit on which we stood.

As we continued our walk, though, the path meandered closer than I wanted to the edges of the ravines that make the Mt. Washington valley so impressive.

Looking down into Huntington Ravine.

Looking down into Huntington Ravine.

I got just close enough to take this picture, but my heart palpitations wouldn’t let me move to where I could see the bottom. Every minute or so, my brain went into a little spasm of imagination, and I’d picture Paul getting too close and dropping off the edge. My toes were hurting from trying to grip the earth beneath them.

Finally, we made it back to the road, exhausted, wet and ready for some physical relief (and by that I mean a bathroom, a dinner and a good drink, in that order).  We realized pretty quickly that the road down the mountain was going to be quite a bit hairier than the ride up.  See, the downward side of the road is the one that is next to the ravine.  The upward drivers get to hug the mountain.  There were two moments where I was almost 100% positive that I was using my last breath to scream.  At one point, a guy in a HUGE suv was inching his way past us, and we were so close the edge that if I had opened my door I would have traveled the seven miles down in about ten seconds. When we finally got past him, it took me two minutes to dig my fingernails out of the dashboard.

At last, at last, we made our way back to the entrance, and found a bathroom and a meal.  Now that I knew I would live to see another day, I was happy to talk to Paul about how much I had enjoyed the day.

“After all,” I chirped cheerfully, “This is the first time in my life that I have ever been able to look down on a rainbow!”

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A tiny slice of heaven


It was one of those nights last night.  The kind where the room feels alternately too hot and too cold, the dogs make noises in their sleep and the little worry goblins in my head refused to quiet down and let me sleep.

Between laying my head on the pillow and rising with the sun, I got up four different times.

I woke up groggy, unhappy and anxious.  My back hurt, so I decided to have a soak in the hot tub before starting my busy day.

The air on the deck was cool and crisp. The sky was a perfect, flawless blue.  I lay back in the steamy water, letting my head rest as the jets massaged my neck and shoulders.

Most of the forest was still in shadow, but there was one small patch of emerald green where the sunlight broke through the dense leaves. From where I sat, that one little spot glowed like a patch of Irish hillside. It looked like magic.

Far up above me, I saw the slightest sliver of a crescent moon, barely visible in the morning sky.

As I lay there, nearly dreaming, a tiny something hummed past my right ear. I turned my head quickly, just in time to see a glittering jewel of a humming bird, paused at the red feeder. She held herself poised there for just a moment, her little wings moving so quickly that she seemed to be wrapped in a gauzy cloak. One sip, and she darted away.

After a moment, I rose from the water to face the coming day.

Threads


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I have a friend who likes spiders.  She admires their usefulness, happy that they eat so many bugs and garden pests.

She is supremely tolerant of her eight legged friends, even living in peaceful harmony with a black widow spider who lives behind her house.   As my friend told this story, I shuddered in disgust and horror.  I am the proud owner of a serious case of arachnophobia, and I could barely imagine lying down to sleep at night, knowing that just outside my window there lurked a venomous and deadly guest, busily working to ensnare her prey.   I said as much to my friend, but she shook her head at my foolishness.

“But they eat bad bugs.”she said, trying to talk me out of my fear.  “And they build such amazing webs.”  She went on to describe the densely woven tapestries, stretching from wall to wall behind her house, providing a place for the little spider to hide, as well as a source for her sustenance.

She didn’t convince me of the benefits of spiders, of course; I could no more live in the company of  a black widow than I could bring an alligator into the living room as my pet.   But she did get me thinking.

She got me thinking about the threads that form our own life webs.

The black widow conversation took place at a gathering of old friends, people I’ve known for more than 4o years.  As one of our group put it, “These are people who knew me before I had any idea who me would turn out to be.”  Some of us met when we were twelve years old; some even younger.  I’ve known one of them since we were in the second grade!

And here we were, gathering to eat and laugh and catch up with each other at the age of 57!

There are threads that bind me to these people, as surely as the spider’s web connects one wall of my friend’s house to the wall on the other side.  Those ties, those filaments of friendship, bind my life to the lives of my old classmates, and they branch out to the spouses, partners, children and parents of those friends, too. I pictured those little strands of silk being reinforced and strengthened with each visit and each shared memory, like the web of the spider being strengthened as she passes back and forth across it.

Each of us has a web like this, made up of the connections to all of the people in our lives. I know that the strongest, most durable threads in my life are made of the links to my husband and children, and to my parents and siblings.  But each of those links branches off, too, to their friends, loves, partners, parents.

There are threads that bind me to the people at work, and to the people in their lives.  And there are more and more threads, going out and out, building the web that is my life. Threads that spread out to my students and their families, and to the people in my town, and to my doctor and my hairdresser and to the mechanic I’ve known for 23 years now!

And just like the beautiful, intricate web that shelters and nourishes the black widow, the web of my own life provides me with support, shelter and nourishment for my heart and my soul.  And I know that each time I connect with another human being, I am adding a thread to the web of that person’s life, and that each web is joined to millions of others.

I’m still afraid of spiders, but I have become a huge fan of those artful, delicate, ever changing webs, and of all that they provide.

A toast to everyone in my web: thank-you!!!

Yesterday’s gift.


Sometimes life surprises you with a gift, dropped right in your lap when you least expect it.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It has been very, very hot here in the Northeastern US for the past week, so we’ve been trying to stay near water as much as possible. Anything to keep cool!  We’re lucky enough to live in a place with many small lakes and ponds, and we’re extra lucky to have good friends who like to kayak with us. So yesterday, after doing our errands and household chores in the raging heat and humidity, we wrestled our boats onto our car roofs and headed off for a paddle.

Lovely little Comet pond was filled with sailboats, kayaks, canoes and even some waterskiiers.  The sky was hazy, the pine trees growing along the shore seemed to droop in the heat.  We paddled away from the boat launch, hugging the shoreline to avoid the speeding motor boats and the waves they created.  After a while we pulled out our usual kayaker picnic of wine, fruit,  cheese and crackers and ice cold beer.  We floated together, each with a hand on another’s kayak, to keep us together in a happy little cluster, loving the sunshine and the gentle breezes. We were chatting, and laughing and just enjoying each other’s company, when suddenly our friend Doug called out, “Look!”

He pointed up, into the dazzling blue of the summer sky. At first I only saw a few wispy clouds, and the tops of the hemlock trees that surrounded us. But then my eye was caught by a dark, sweeping motion, gracefully arching above me.

We all knew at once what we were seeing: an eagle. An American eagle. Right there. Soaring, rising, looping in the air above us.  A sight that none of us had expected, but one that left us breathless.

Paul had never seen an eagle before this one.  For me, it was only the second time in 57 years of life.  But there he was, so big and beautiful and strong; so absolutely in his rightful place.

We watched him for about ten full minutes, craning our necks and paddling furiously to turn our boats, desperate to keep him in sight.

An American eagle.  Right above our heads.

It was a gift.

We live in a very small town, in a largely ignored part of our affluent state.  We often feel slightly ashamed of this poor, struggling community and its lack of amenities.  We sometimes wish that we could live in a more respectable part of the state.

Yesterday  changed my mind.

I didn't take this photo, but he looked just like this.

I didn’t take this photo, but he looked just like this.

Going wild.


Sometimes when I walk around my quiet neighborhood, I wonder what it would be like if all the humans disappeared.

I know that’s a little twisted, but its an intriguing idea.

This is a very quiet place most of the time.  There are no kids here, and people are at work during the daytime.  So sometimes as I walk around in the summer, I feel like I’m the only person left.  Sometimes I wonder how long it would take for the woods to come back, for the forest to reclaim our yards and driveways and streets.

Today as I was walking my dogs, I stopped in front of one of the abandoned houses on our street.  It makes me sad to be there, to think about the people who no longer live in that little house.  I stood remembering my friends, thinking about the kids who grew up with mine.

The house has been abandoned for about two years now.  It stands alone at the top of our street, empty.  It used to have a wide cedar deck, wrapping around two sides. Now the boards are warped and buckling, and the steps have fallen in.

I stood there for a minute, the dogs panting in the bright morning sun. I looked across what used to be a big sloping lawn, and I saw a meadow.

Daisies, yarrow, coreopsis, Timothy grass.

Daisies, yarrow, coreopsis, Timothy grass.

When I looked a little bit closer, I could see that young trees are already springing up, ready to take over now that the mower is gone.  There were tiny sumac, some baby birches and even a little cherry tree.

A cherry sapling.

A cherry sapling.

I saw my friend’s garden, turning into a meadow far more quickly than I would have thought.  I saw weeds crowded together where her foxglove used to stand, and grass as high as my knees surrounding her little patch of phlox.

Phlox and weeds, side by side now.

Phlox and weeds, side by side now.

We finished our walk, the dogs and I, leaving the lonely house behind us. We headed down the hill, following the road as it would through the thick woods on either side.

As we walked, I looked around me, more closely than I usually do.  And you know what I noticed?

There are trees creeping slowly into the edges of every yard, saplings standing where just a few years ago there was a baseball diamond.  Where there used to be small dirt roads, there are now groups of slender maple and oak saplings.  Ferns and daisies fill every open spot on either side of the street.

So now I think that the famous New England forests are poised and ready, waiting to rush back in as soon as our backs are turned.  I think that if the mowers and trimmers were suddenly rendered powerless, all of our carefully cultivated civilization would disappear and we would go back to the tree covered wilderness that we were three hundred years ago.

And you know what else I realized?  I think that’s a pretty cool idea.