New England Love Letter, part 2

Enough biofuel to power a small SUV.
My garden after five months away-sad and lonesome and oh-so-weedy.

We are back home if not quite back in the swing of things, and are so busy getting everything back to normal it’s hard to think of anything else, but Harvard Forest sneaks up and grabs me by the throat when I’m not looking. It’s hard to believe I can’t just turn the corner and pull up to Benson House anytime I want. I miss it, miss all my friends new and old, miss the place absurdly and rather painfully. I imagine it grows more beautiful every day and those sugar maples must be about to put on a splendid show of color. I imagine a lot of things.

Oklahoma, bless its Southern heart, is putting on some welcome-home autumn finery, too, albeit a subtle variation of the Northeastern version; here the light is growing honey-colored as the days grow shorter and the prairie strikes those burgundy tones as the grasses flower and go to seed. The sky, however, is where the real action’s been. Grand storms cruise like frigates above the endless horizon. There have been very fine skies following the latest hurricane activity- Gustave and Ike both brushed past us and gave us good rain and great sunsets.

Gustave's last gasp...
Gustave's last gasp

I spent nearly a week pulling giant weeds- there was a ragweed forest nearly nine feet tall surrounding the house and some of those stalks called for a saw; telling your housesitter not to worry about keeping up the garden while you’re gone for an entire growing season has some consequences when she takes you at your word.  We’re back down to the bare dirt now, and the surviving plants suggest a Tex-Mex style garden:  yucca and salvia and one desert willow.

Returning to my previous mash note: just so you know- this is an abiding relationship and not some harmless crush. I’m getting ready to send New England a bouquet of roses and a box of candy and ask it to marry me. So here we go again- some of my favorite things, part 2.

5. Teetering Rocks
People have put rocks to interesting use: stacked stone walls, house foundations, or just plain old whimsical cairns and balancing acts.

A cairn in Harvard Forest

A Petersham cairn, at the Swift River preserve.

Stacks at Halibut Point, MA
Stacks at Halibut Point, MA

The latter seems to be popular for some reason. Has it always been so? This spring I found a cairn in the woods and it looked like a gentle breeze could blow it over but months later, the day before we left, I visited it again. All is fair and balanced in the Petersham woods. What is this obsession with balancing stones?

6. Whoopie Pies. A Maine traditional dessert to which Cindy introduced me. I’ve found them since at farmer’s markets and country stores, each made locally by farm wives sweating over hot wood stoves and packaging them in clean, natural cellophane. A whoopie pie is a pair of chocolate cake buns with a creamy white sugary filling. It’s a guilty pleasure, and one you should have at least once in your life, if not twice. What I don’t understand is how you can make one of these from scratch and have it taste exactly like a Hostess cupcake.

A perfectly done whoopie pie, grand finale for your New England meal.

  • A perfectly done Whoopie Pie to top off your New England meal. This one followed a boiled wharfside lobster.
  • 7. Really Weird Wildflowers.

    It's pink, it's stylish, it's a Lady's Slipper
    It's pink, it's stylish, it's a Lady's Slipper.
    weird and sticky, eats bugs
    Weird and sticky, eats bugs- it's a Sundew!

    8. Sugar Maples and Maple Sugar. Beyond wonderful. A grand tree of great strength and character in every knot and twist, it gives shade and sweetness in equal amounts and turns a glorious red hue every autumn. Plus I’m a sucker for pancakes with bacon and a fried egg on top, doused with maple syrup. I know I’m not the only one who does this. Anyone up for breakfast?

    The sugar maple at the end of the road, Petersham
    The maple at the end of Benson House driveway, Petersham

    9. Friends. I am blessed with having many fascinating, talented, warm and loving friends. Some of them I’d known already, some of them became friends as soon as I met them, all of them are close to my heart. If you can have many BFFs (Best Friends Forever) in your life, quite a few of mine will come from the New England states.

    Mike DiGiorgio and Barry Van Dusen at Hammanassett, CT
    l to r: Mike DiGiorgio and Barry Van Dusen at Hammanassett, CT
    Cindy House with yours truly at Plum Island. Don't we look like a pair of Venuses rising from the sea?
    Cindy House with yours truly at Plum Island, looking like two Venuses rising from the sea.

    10. Benson House. The sweetest little cottage in the lane, right at the edge of Harvard Forest, an artist’s retreat and a birder’s heaven. I think, of everything I love about New England, I will miss Benson House most of all.

    Our little house in the forest.
    Our little house in the forest.

    5 thoughts on “New England Love Letter, part 2

    1. Janet Wilkins says:

      Welcome back to the blog world! Ah, the infamous Lady Slipper (or Moccasin Flower). I posted one of those on my blog before it had fully blossomed, if you can say that about a Lady Slipper, and then had to promise to post an image when it finished turning pink. Another of those instances where I’ve just grown so accustomed to them, I guess. As to why New Englanders stack stones? I don’t really have an answer … we have got A LOT of stones around these parts … from the glaciers and all. Stone walls I understand but stacking???

      By the way, when you’re finished weeding your yard, you could start on mine. At least it could be an excuse to come back to New England soon! 😉

    2. gatoscuro says:

      You yanked my ragweed! It took five months of carefully choreographed neglect for me to grow that thing. All that inaction, lost in a moment’s rush of enthusiastic gardener. Egads.

      Lovely pictures and drawings, by the way. They make me push the NE towards the top of my vacation list.

    3. Ken Januski says:

      The downside of gardens and vacations, or at least the downside of combining gardens and vacations…………. It’s interesting that you chose the abandoned garden photo as the top one. I assume because it just can’t be ignored!

    4. Kathiesbirds says:

      Hi! I found your blog from T.R.’s. I had to come and see since I am a native New Englander who now lives in AZ. I am also a birder and sometimes artist. Your work far surpases mine though. It is just beautiful I, too, love maple syrup and refuse to eat anything else on pancakes. It also tastes great warm and poured over vanilla ice cream. Walnuts are an added treat. I never heard of Harvard Forest. Is it open to the public? I’m assuming it is near harvard but I could be wrong. Nice blog you’ve got here. I shall come back again. BTW, I love the drawing of the maple tree.

    5. chris wood says:

      Hi there you certainly seemed to have enjoyed your summer ! Life can be so tiresome – lobster, chocolate cakes, punctuated with the odd spot of creativity ! I have been so busy lately that I’ve not had time to visit your splendid blog – however, spurred on by it I now have my own, but its only in it’s early days and it only has the odd rambling with the odd photo – I’ll shove some drawings up when I can. I’ve been working on a large oil painting of a naval battle involving lots of research and lots of different ships.
      I’m glad the hurricanes passed you by without any drama – my wife has a cousin who is a Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans and it looked like the poor devils were in for another pounding but they seem to have been lucky with this round, although the images we got on Sky News looked bad enough. Keep up the good work and if you fancy some weeding in the UK let me know !

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