Our Patch Mountain Sunday becomes quiet once more . . . but its atmosphere has changed and our sense of the other, older, time has deserted us. Vanished like vapor. We sit in the shade of this century, a bit lost.
The snarl and whine of a chainsaw drifts down. It’s not hard to imagine the enduring but prone white ash being sawn asunder; cut to blocks; its essence slipping down past us here where we sit. The life of the ash drifts down off the mountain, heading toward town.
“When John Billings lived in a log house, […] and had but a small clearing, one morning his dog began to run and bark through the neighboring woods, and soon be coming stationary, Mr. Billings knew that he had treed his game, whatever it might be. So taking down his old “queen’s arm,” he loaded it heavily with powder and buck shot, and to make it doubly sure, he dropped a skillet leg into the barrel.
I may have found the bird who haunts, but only in the text of a biography. Still I’ve yet to see it. It’s one of Cordelia Stanwood’s thrushes. She referred in her writings to its bell-like peals and wrote of its time abroad, singing in the woods. Her words do evoke a description of my mysterious singer.
Today I was hoping to walk a woodland path along the neighborhood stream with R. The same I walked yesterday, after a few years neglect of it. It brought back the memory of one episode written in the opposite season—autumn—in our most recent Maine Metaphor. Maine In Winter. I have taken to calling this wonderful trail Crazy Lady, The Crazy Lady Trail. Here is an excerpt from the book to get you started on this memory, an episode called “My Ghost on His Periphery.”
Beaver on a nearby stream were responsible for Monday’s power outage. The popple it was harvesting (about 6 in. in diameter according to the paper), toppled onto a high-voltage line. Service was affected in an area of one hundred square miles. The encroachment, back upon us, of this huge furred rodent is heartening.
I have wandered through that beaver workshop as they lay hidden, submerged. Have scrutinized their little pointed stumps, but never saw a stump that size. These beavers are hemmed in by highway five hundred feet along one side, railroad line on the other. At one end is the village, with wood-turning mill. Yet there are the beavers. They work at night, because human presence changes the way to go about it. Like most Mainers they are cozy in winter, provided for by their own industry. Mighty-toothed, strong-tailed, tiny of ear and tiny-eyed. Beasty builders.
Stay with us, beavers. Slap your tails in warning and keep your beasty signals coming. This is my answering, my own peculiar signaling of loneliness and longing. Knock out our electricity. Turn off the lights, shut down the pump, thaw our food, cool the furnace. Remind me of my smallness; if you will. But stay with us. For there are rogues of fear in life; but your disturbing presence has contributed to the recovery of all things.
I decide to tackle, on my new mountain bike, the woods and hills beyond the end of Deer Hill Road—the woods and hills of my big country block. I start by biking the dusty lane: just before the end of the road is an old graveyard, weed-grown and neglected, hidden from view behind a stone wall. I can’t say when someone was last buried here. A weathered granite headstone among sprouting trees and blueberry thickets reads: “Eli H. Cushman … died … 1876. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”
In this entry you find images taken by my friend, Nancy Jacob, when she was in Guatemala. Where celebrations of Holy Week with sculptures and processions were in progress. There will be more images in this series of Holy Week posts.
For Maundy Thursday, day of flesh and blood, of bread and wine. Left my dwelling under a low cloud, a cold calendar-spring day. The only vivid color cold blue, just beyond the western edge of cloud. Descending into the village slung along the highway, I looked out toward brown lands, and dark conifers, toward the somber town mountain across the river valley. Nearer: colorless houses, crammed together. Muddy water ran in torrents along the downhill roadside. For all the darkness of cloud above me, the air was surprisingly crisp. It was one of those cleansing Canadian systems, blowing through Western Maine on the day of broken body and blood.