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Dear Newsletter Subscriber September 2015
This month’s essay, “Weather or Not” was published in September 2000. May we also bring your attention to a new video you might be interested in – about Edie’s life on “Mary’s Farm,” produced by Yankee magazine and offered here. This link will take you to the video. http://www.yankeemagazine.com/video/marys-farm-septoct-2015
And, finally, the new book, As Simple As That, should have a live link for ordering in about a week. Please watch for notification. Have a happy day.
Weather or Not
New England is not known for its hurricanes. We had our 1938 doozy, which had been predicted as nothing more than “strong winds.” Bricks, firewood, even apples from the ripening trees became bullets, puncturing walls, felling cattle. After the storm had passed, farmers one hundred miles inland told of saltwater streaks on their windows. Nearly 700 people were killed by this unforecast nightmare. 300 million trees were lost or damaged, giving rise to the term “hurricane lumber.”
With each hurricane season that comes, there lurks the possibility of a rerun. The weather channels track them, the Glorias and the Bobs, as if they were the criminally insane, escaped from their hold. On the nightly news, forecasters pinpoint the storm, days, sometimes weeks away, give it a name and mark its progress. Like an unfolding drama, we watch the great wheel of catastrophe that rolls up out of Africa, careens through the Caribbean and wobbles onward up the East Coast. With the camera’s eye, the TV tells the story, so far. In the tropics, roofs lie scattered. Palm trees bend and touch the ground. Waves crash through living rooms. But Septembers come and go and the storms blow away or change course before they reach us here in southwestern New Hampshire.
Last year, though, they felt sure we were in for it. It was early September, a beautiful mild time here. We had not yet had a frost. The air was close. Sitting outside in the evening still seemed like the best idea we could think of. It seemed much too early to carry in the lawn furniture and evacuate the porch. But Floyd, an enormous coil of thick clouds with a hole in the center, was on every channel we can get. “This is a huge storm,” the forecasters admonished. And the map showed its fury could reach from Maryland to Maine.
Inside, I flicked on the evening news. Aerial photos showed a traffic jam leaving the coast of North Carolina like a line into infinity. Heavy surf crashed through the kitchens of oceanside cottages and flattened garages.
In my TV-charged imagination, I pictured uprooted trees and felled power lines; my innocent lawn furniture became lethal weapons. And so in came the chairs. And the tables and the birdhouses and feeders. Even the wind chimes, which are made of clay and have the contemplative sound of Buddhist bells, were taken in. Like a bankrupt cafe, our summery outdoor living space went dead. I walked around the house and barn one last time and on the final circuit, hefted the birdbath and set it in a horse stall in the barn and latched the doors.
That night, it rained. There was a bit of wind. And, in the morning, the sun lit up the garden. Could that have been it? On the television, the big wooly wheel of Floyd was turning toward the Maritimes. That evening, listening to the radio, I heard a man who had evacuated from Florida say he would never, never leave again, no matter if he had to be arrested. His home in Florida was completely untouched by Floyd, which collided with the coast of North Carolina and then veered out to sea. The people who suffered most were the inland farmers of North Carolina who were completely unprepared for the flooding that followed the storm. It rained for days and their houses filled like empty buckets. In spite of the days and days of watchful advisement, no one warned this would happen.
Do we really know how to do anything but photograph the weather? In the clear, post-Floyd morning air, I set the chairs outside again and hung the feeders and the wind chimes. There would be another month of summer, surely. I carried dinner outside on trays and we ate into the warm darkness, to the sound of the crickets. I felt a sense of relief mixed with sadness for those who had been so devastated by the unpredicted floods. A week or so later, I woke in the night to the howl of high winds. Rain rushed against the windows with hurricane force. The house timbers creaked and wind chimes rang wild. In the morning, the lawn chairs were scattered in the field, as if from a night of reckless partying. My wind chimes lay in pieces on the ground. The forecast had been for rain, some wind.
The Write Step
A recent radio interview (half an hour)
New Hampshire Public Television Author Series
View my February interview on New Hampshire Public TV
In this isolated place, the woes of the rest of the world sometimes seem very far away, quite imaginary. But I have an apartment in the downstairs of this house that I rent out in the summertime. Guests come from all over – California, England, Belgium, New York City, Saudi Arabia – proving to me that I need go nowhere; the world can come to me. I meet the most interesting people this way. A weaver. A documentary filmmaker. A writer of scripts for real-life TV dramas. An artist.
The apartment was home for some time to the grandfather of the big family who once lived here. I’ve scrubbed it up and painted it over but there are still residues of its antique beginnings – the old brick chimney that passes through the kitchen to the upstairs, the deep pine cupboards, the light over the kitchen sink that keeps vigil. Guests seem to enjoy this bit of antiquity. They sit on the porch rockers and take in the untainted air, the silken quiet, and the unadorned view of our mountain.
Last spring, a woman about my age called to see if she could rent the apartment for her parents. She was staying nearby but had no room for them. I booked them in for a week in July. When they arrived, I greeted them and showed them around. They spoke to me in the musical lilt of the Deep South. It was haying season, the only time of year when there is a lot of traffic, tractors and trucks coming and going. I apologized for what I knew might be a noisy week. As we spoke, the big green John Deere wheeled into the drive, towing the baler, and headed for the back field. The father smiled broadly. It seems he had grown up on a farm in Arkansas and had done his share of haying in his day. Evidently he loved nothing more than a farm scene, noise and all.
It was not only haying season but also peak season for berries. I have blueberry bushes and a blackberry bramble that yields good, sweet berries if you can get to them without drawing blood. And a few raspberry canes that came to me from a neighbor a few years ago, humble beginnings for what’s now a darn good raspberry stand. Early mornings in July, I like to make a quick tour of these bushes, carrying my breakfast bowl with me as I pick. When I do this, words such as manna and ambrosia come to mind.
That week, I was busy, not home much but whenever I was, it seemed to me that my southern guests were resting contentedly on the porch. The week passed quickly and soon, I looked out to see them packing their bags into their car. I hurried down to say goodbye. It was yet another of our glorious blue sky days. The mother stood for a long moment beside the car, looking around her, and then, sounding like a character out of Tennessee Williams, she said, “Yue know, Aah feel as if we ah in heaven.”
“I know,” I replied, “I often tell people that I live in heaven.” She turned to me then, a look of surprise on her face. “Yue mean, we agree?”
“Oh yes,” I said, “we do agree!”
“Well then,” she went on, “if we agree, then it must be true! We ah all in heaven!” We all grinned and nodded conspiratorially.
The green tractor worked in the distance; clouds drifted across the blue skies; berries ripened silently on their branches. It was hard, very hard, not to imagine that all was right with the world.
To order your copy of The View from Mary's Farm, click on the links on your left or send $18.95 ($14.95 plus $4 shipping and handling) to Mary's Farm, PO Box 112, Dublin NH 03444. Make checks out to Edie Clark and be sure to include your mailing address. Thank you!
In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith.
Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever.
Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.)
The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened."
Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family.
Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire
Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief