Take Your Camera for a Ride

150508 Hicks Sugarhouse

There was a time when I carried my camera with me everywhere I went.  You just never knew when a moment would arise.  These days I usually have my phone but the camera never seems to leave the table at home.  I’m fortunate to have a lot to photograph around where I live but there are invariably those moments as I’m driving that the light is so perfect, the situation begging and my camera is sitting on the table in the living room. Ugh.  The phone just doesn’t cut it.

Last night I was taking photographs for a dear friend.  The sun had just set over the mountain and it was the ultimate spring day.  The weather was perfect, just a slight breeze and the surroundings were defined by the noise – the decided lack of it.  Babbling brook, air flowing through surrounding pines, birds singing their evening song.  There was color everywhere.  The hundreds of shades of green mixed with some still bare earth or last fall’s leaves.  The fruit trees and forsythia showing off.  Bluets everywhere.

I don’t do photography like I used to.  Long gone are the days of proms, weddings and portraits but with that also went the urge to shoot – anything.  I try to make an effort to take photographs for this blog or Instagram but sometimes it just feels like too much effort.  It feels like I have to think too hard it seems.

When I was driving home this spot presented itself.  I heard “Stop! Just stop” in my head and I did.  I stood in the middle of the road and took a couple of frames (are they frames now?).  Got back in the car and drove home knowing that this would be a keeper.

I realized that I really need to just take my camera for a ride every so often – a little after sunset or before sunrise in the morning.  You see the most amazing things and they are quite often things that no one else sees or pays attention to.  So try it, you’ll be amazed at what happens.



Morning Walkabout

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This will be a photo heavy post today – just to give you a glimpse of the place right now.  It also serves as a record for me.

Each morning starts with picking up my handy bug zapper.  It’s deer fly season and this has proven itself to be a necessity.

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The patio garden – to my right as I cross the driveway heading for the back forty.  This is an old garden, a friendship garden with almost all of the plants coming from people we know.  My mother worked on this from the summer we moved in, 1967.  It’s going to be renewed this summer since the lawn is really creeping in at this point and things are really crowded.

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Towards the back of the garage there is the newest perennial garden and in the foreground is the raspberry patch.  The raspberries are in their third year and are just starting to fill in.

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We take the road to the back forty, we being me and the dogs.  They know the drill and love being out there.  On the right is the sawdust building for the sawmill.  I don’t think it’s a crooked as it looks in the photo but you never know.

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As I walk around what used to be the back pasture the dogs spend their time sniffing whatever went on the night before.

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From the same spot (more or less) looking towards a road that goes back into the wood lot.  There’s a branch that goes to a stump dump where I’ve taken some very nice compost for the garden over the years.  Everything about gardening is waiting – years not months.

The tete-a-tete chair my father made is up there and it overlooks the pasture back up towards the house.  It’s the perfect spot to drink a morning cup of coffee or that martini in the afternoon.

140624 (15)As I walk the perimeter I check on the berries, deciding what I will net this year so I get more of a harvest than the birds.  These are blackberries and the birds pretty much get all of them – they probably scope them out more often than I do.

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This is the view from the back of the pasture – the table was too worn out for the patio but too solid to burn so there it sits.  Just one more thing to weed whack.

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From the same spot if you turn around you look into the woods towards the wood lot – there are also some old, empty beaver ponds back there as well.

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Back up into the driveway I noticed that this summer is the summer of potted plants for me.  I love the way they look and I’m here to take care of them now.  This is the well by the driveway.  Years ago we replaced the wood cover with stone fearing our kids would climb up on top of it and fall in.  I think it might be usable in an emergency but I wouldn’t want to drink out of it now.

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This is the view from the patio, it overlooks the vegetable garden, the new garden and the raspberries towards the back forty.  I have annuals in pots as well and tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Yes, cucumbers.  I was skeptical at first.  Bill brought two pots of these up that he got from the plant gypsy we have come to the shop in Enfield.  I told him they would never grow.  How wrong I was.  Now I’m looking for the seeds for next year.

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Across from the patio is another perennial garden that has morphed into all kinds of things over the years.  It’s now overgrown as well but I love having the pots for color.  It is also a place for the birds that we can watch from the table in the kitchen.

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Another crazy potted plant.  Its in a pedestal pot so I guess I could take the hanger off of it now huh?

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Heading for the front yard and looking back over the gardens – this is the relaxation spot for every part of the day.  I swear people that drive by only do when we are sitting in those chairs.  I figure they think that’s all we do.

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This is the vegetable garden from the chairs.  It’s slow but steady this year, about a week to 10 days behind last years.  It’s been quite cool.

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But the potatoes are doing great!

This is what I look at every morning (even if it rains).  I check my plants, take a walk, play with the dogs all in about 20 minutes time.  It gives me time to plan my day.  Look around at what needs doing and try not to get overwhelmed by the list.  Prioritize.  Breathe in the fresh air, stand in the sunshine, hug a tree, center.

New Day

140508 Sunrise

I often post photographs of the sunrise over the weathervane in Rowe but today’s feels a little different.  After much prep I am here full time.  It’s not exactly the way I had anticipated this all happening over the years but really, how many of us can say that things turn out the way we planned?

I understand that I am more than fortunate to be able to do this in a place that is so special to me.  It’s not so much the house or property but the spirit of a place that’s been my home for well over 50 years.  I have lived in other places for much, much longer than the cumulative number of years I’ve lived in Rowe but there is no other place that I feel calmer, safer than here.

The bedroom I’m currently occupying faces east.  I chose this one for the sole reason of seeing the sunrise in the morning.  I just situated the bed so the sun wouldn’t shine right in my eyes should I oversleep and miss it peeking over the horizon. I also crack the window open a bit before I go to bed to have the frogs lull me to sleep at night and the birds wake me up in the morning. To me there is no better way to end or start a day.

The move went like clockwork, my father is settling into his home of almost 50 years.  He slept late and commented on how he hasn’t slept that well in 2 years. Although he will miss the people who surrounded him in his time away I can’t help but think this will be healing in its own way.  Rowe is so much more home to him and Fort Pelham Farm is what he brought into my life.

It’s Here

Adirondacks in the snowSnow on Sunday.  Snowing again today.  Nothing has really accumulated but it’s here.  It’s been quite cold the past week or so, cold enough to break out the winter coat.

This time of year is the most difficult for me in a lot of ways.  The days are so much shorter.  The house is cold a lot of the time. I know this is one long, long slog until spring.  We are talking 5 months minimum on the hill.  Yes, we will have a few of those January thaw days and it will warm up in April so we think we can actually do something outside in the garden but . . . never, ever plant anything before Memorial Day.

So what are the advantages of a long, dark winter?  For me it gives me time to work on many different projects.  I have a lot of handwork that sits idle whenever the weather is good enough for me to be outdoors.  It’s a time for woodfires in both stoves and fireplaces.  I love hearth cooking and that is really only fun when it’s really cold out.  If I sit and watch a movie on TV that’s okay – I’m not frittering away a day when there is too much else to be done.  Did I mention weaving?  Weaving, weaving, weaving, nothing more to be said about that.

I love the beauty of the snow on the trees and ground, how bright it is with the moon shining.  I love the sound of the snow under your feet on those cold, quiet nights with a million stars visible from the driveway.  I love snoeshowing the property lines, it gives me a wider perspective of the land (and I can walk on all those wet, swampy spots that I can’t cross any other time of the year).  There is bird song of a whole different kind.

So it’s now time to ease into a slower pace, enjoy family and friends and work on things left since last winter.  This is what the dogs live for.

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Living in Two Places

130502 Back Forty Pond

I’ve lived in a few places. Work, family, friends, lovers have all taken me all over but I always have come back to Rowe.  A person I grew up with told me that this town was part of his soul, he hasn’t lived here since 1975.  I know that feeling, where you drive into a place over a familiar road not seen in a while and something happens, you feel it in your gut, that little flutter.  You know you are home.

I live in two worlds, fortunately they are close enough in distance so I can escape one for the other. Rowe

Just for my own comparison I snipped out the vital info about Rowe and Enfield.  Rowe with its 24 square miles and 393 people compared to Enfield with its 34 square miles and 44,654 people at last count. That means there is .49 acres per person in Enfield and 39.09 per person in Rowe.  No wonder I feel like I’m suffocating while I’m in CT.  That’s probably not a fair assessment but it does speak to the rural vs. urban/suburban situation I find myself in.

Enfield, CT

You will also notice the difference in temperature and dew point.  In the summer it’s a difference you notice, in the winter it’s night and day.  The growing season is at least 2 weeks ahead in Enfield.  The last frost is something we see at the end of April.  In Rowe there is nothing that goes into my garden earlier than Memorial Day – ever.

The one difference I truly notice is the quiet (and solitude).  In Enfield there is air traffic over our house close to 24 hours a day – we are on the landing path to Bradley in CT.  I think at night I can see the people sitting in their seats as they fly in for a landing.  The street we live on is very busy and we are within hearing distance of the railroad tracks where Amtrak runs during the day.  Yes, planes, trains and automobiles – the noise never ends.  Everyone is always in a hurry to get nowhere as well.  You have to be a fairly aggressive driver in this harried place.  In our spare time in Enfield we can work on the house (with our neighbors chatting us up over the fence), shop or eat at a chain restaurant.  I used to have very large perennial gardens around the house but it’s not the quiet, meditative project that it is in Rowe.  Now I look at what I can dig up and move, turning the yard back into something that can just be mowed.

When I get home to Rowe everything slows down.  The driving, the breathing, the thinking – once I arrive there is nowhere I need to be but there.  There is enough to keep me occupied for days on end without ever leaving the property.  I breathe the clean air, listen to the birds, contemplate life.  My bedroom window is open at least three seasons so I can hear the owls at night and the birds wake me up in the morning.  I can drink my cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the back forty and the mist dissipate in its heat.

I think everyone needs to find a place of peace if they are not living in it.  I think that’s why people appear to be so crazy right now or they have such health problems.  They are so far removed from the natural world that they are never grounded – at all.  The sad thing is so many never know what it’s like to be grounded in nature, they don’t understand how healing it can be.  I know people I see often that I just want to shake and say “Take an afternoon and go to a state forest and walk, breathe, listen!  Hug a tree, absorb the energy around you.”  And they would look at me with those eyes that say “You are nuts.”


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“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have our heart go walking around outside your body.”

Elizabeth Stone

Today is my youngest’s 26th birthday, it is also the week before Mother’s Day.  I’m not one to celebrate mother’s day in an extravagant way.  For me everyday is mother’s day even though my children are well into adulthood.  Of all the things I have done in my life being a mother has been the most important to me.  It defines who I am now.  I just always hope that I have raised kind and compassionate people, both with themselves and others.

Then days come like yesterday when I get to spend an afternoon with my progeny – two that I raised and one I did not and was recently reunited with. It was a quiet time enabling me to reflect on who they’ve become.  A chance to look at them and see my history in their eyes – my mother, my father, my grandparents and marvel at the wonder of it all.  There are so many things they are born with that just need a little nurturing.  The amazing thing is you often don’t see these things until they are adults.

 I wasn’t fully aware how many of our children’s talents are inherited and blossom with a little nurture.  It’s so much like planting a garden.  You put those seeds in the ground knowing what they are and how they will look but you fuss over them and water them and watch over their growth and maturity.  When they mature it is still a marvelous revelation. You think how beautiful even though you knew it all along.

Seeing what they’ve become is only part of it though, there are no words to express the swelling in my soul that encompasses them.  It defies description, yet I know when they have children of their own they will know the feeling.  The idea that your heart is walking outside of your body embodies so many things.  I think I’ll try to remember next time I’m out in the world that every person has a mother who has this same primal desire for her child to feel the sweet kindness of those who come to know them.

Every mom’s heart is out there in the world walking outside her body.





I’ve been in Rowe for the past few days, needed a retreat of sorts.  The weather is beyond beautiful and there is so much that I wanted to get done.  What I’ve found is that I’ve been most distracted by the quiet – in a good way.  The lack of activity all around you helps to bring you back to yourself, it helps to restore your soul.  Very few cars go by, very few planes fly over, there aren’t any people that I run into that I don’t already know.  My shelves are stocked if I want to make myself something to eat.  There is no schedule. The only thing you really have time to do is think.  It’s as if your entire day is spent in meditation.  It’s a good thing.

Sophie likes to spend her day on the pillows on the sofa.  As you can see she has no trouble relaxing at all.

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6:30 this morning this is how it looked toward the back forty.  The only place where you can see bare ground is the driveway.  The difference is how it sounds.  Spring is here, the birds know it, they are all singing their spring songs.  The woodpeckers are all around rapping away at the dead trees. They have all returned from some warmer climate to sing spring in.

Bill doesn’t understand why I sleep with the window cracked open this time of year.  I’m a very light sleeper and there is nothing that compares to having the birds sing me awake at dawn.  As the sun is coming up their songs build to a crescendo.  By the time it’s 10:00 they’ve settled into whatever they do for the day but there’s nothing like dawn in a quiet country meadow.  When I was a kid I used to love to sleep in a tent out in the yard just so I could hear that.  The sun would come up and heat up the canvas (yes, before nylon) with the birds singing away.  I’d open the flap to see the dew rising over the grass and smell that sweet smell of morning.  Then I would just sit and listen to the birds.

While there’s too much snow to sleep outdoors right now each morning you can walk out early and just be quiet and listen.

Hello Old Friends

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Yes, by now everyone has heard about the snow in the northeast.  We left for Rowe in the morning on Friday after finding someone to clear our driveway in Enfield after that fateful event.  It snowed, it was a blizzard but waking up on Saturday morning with the wind still blowing and it being in the mid teens in temperature we stayed inside next to a fire.  Reports began to come in from the daughters – one in Enfield, one in Boston about the amount of snow and their cars being buried or nearly invisible.  They had their shovels and food, hadn’t lost power, were working their way through the mess with everyone else around them.  What they had in southern and eastern MA and CT was not really what we had in Rowe.  We had a good snowstorm – anywhere from 15 to 18 inches of white, fluffy snow, what they had was monumental.  The problems in those urban areas were compounded by an inability of the cities and states to handle the amount of snow they received.  I can tell you there are a lot of trucks today with blown transmissions that failed the task of plowing out streets, parking lots and driveways.

Sunday morning the winds had died and the temperature rose to a balmy 30 degrees.  We decided to get the snowshoes out.  We use beautiful vintage models made in Maine in years gone by.  The problem was that my leather bindings had broken beyond repair over 2 years ago.  I had scoured the internet and found someone out west that made bindings for these in neoprene.  They’d been kicking around the house for almost 2 years since there really hadn’t been enough snow to take them out (or I was too lazy to rebind them).  I was also a little skeptical that they would be as good as the old ones and was really contemplating dusting off the old leather working skills to just make another pair.  The weather was just too nice to watch Bill snowshoe away and sit in the house so I dug those neoprene bindings out.  What a chore that turned out to be.  The instructions were vague at best.  I’m pretty good at reverse engineering something but none of the new straps were marked so I had to guess.  Fitting my boots into the bindings on a table was a lot easier than doing it in the snow and finally we were ready to go.

Chester went with us, the little dogs stayed behind.  We have learned from experience that if you take them out in deep snow with snowshoes all they do is walk on the backs of your shoes, not fun or funny. So Sophie spent the entire time we were gone looking out the window from the back of the chair at a snow bank barking – she couldn’t even see us.  Chester took this opportunity to bring a tennis ball and played an extended game of fetch.  Extended because he continually lost that ball in the snow and would take forever to find it.

It was nice to walk out to the wood lot, a place we have difficulty getting to in other seasons due to beaver activity.  It was so quiet and beautiful out there.  The only noise was an occasional crow or chickadee with the sound of the snow beneath our shoes.

This is winter as it should be, outdoors, quiet.  And those new bindings?  Spectacular!

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