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Edie at home in her kitchen.

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The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm for December 2005

December 15, 2005

Hello, friends,
Thank you for the overwhelming response to the collection of essays, published just two months ago. Very gratifying and heartwarming.
As of September of this year, the barn site, described below, was an emerald green lawn, flat enough for croquet. In the spring, apple trees will be planted. The barn is an indelible part of my existence here, but I'm so glad not to have to worry about its possible collapse this winter. Not everything always goes as smoothly as we hope but, a few months later, it's hard to remember all the turmoil over a small project. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a new year filled with many blessings. Love, Edie

Seven Years on the Farm

Some of my friends believe that every seven years, a cycle completes and another one starts. Roughly, in my mind, I think this has been true for me. Now, again, I seem to be closing a cycle I never knew Iíd begun. On December 12, 1997, I signed the papers that deeded over to me the place everyone around here knows as Maryís farm. Since my date of purchase, much work has transpired here, but the first job, performed by Ethan Tolman, from the neighboring town of Nelson, was triage for the sagging barn behind the house. He used an iron brace to reinforce the barnís rear entry and his excavator to try to keep the ancient barn from falling down.
The building has held since then, all through the many storms and the enormous changes that have taken place within and without the house. But my search to find a way to save the barn failed and so, late last fall, after I had emptied the barn of its contents, the process of taking it down began with the arrival of a barn broker named Ernie LaBombard, who dismantles New England barns and resells them all over the country.
He arrived with a crane and set right to work, climbing up into the rafters to first pull out the pins, the little magic fasteners that have held the barn together all these years. On the ground, I watched what was both fascinating to see and painful to hear. His efficiency went against the grain of my reluctance. With the pins removed, his crane operator plucked the posts and beams one by one and laid them gently on their flatbed trailer. The air filled with the shrieks and groans of the ancient barn coming apart, mixed with the blunt growl of the machinery. Up in the hayloft, Ernie walked about like an aerialist, gesturing and directing.
What likely took a summer to build, was coming down in a trice. Within the span of five hours, they eviscerated the old structure, essentially filleting it like a fish, plucking the bones and flipping shingles and boards to the side like so much waste. By three in the afternoon, the old barnyard now silent, the men were strapping down the long, straight, handhewn pieces of the frame to their truck, wrapping up just another day of barn harvesting.
It was odd, indeed, to see the trucks driving out the driveway, my barn on board. Even odder was to see what was left of the barn, standing as it always had, roof completely gone but nearly all siding boards upright, as if its support system were still intact. The remaining boards soared into the air, in place but askew, a suit without the man. What could possibly be holding them up but centuries of habit? Some weeks and several wind storms later, a different crew came to gather the boards, another surprisingly swift and deft operation that left, at last, a huge pile of rubble, rife with the scent of history.
In strange synchronicity, on the week of December 12, Ethan returned. Light snow falling, he worked, delicately clearing the site with the heel, hand and toe of his excavatorís bucket, erasing the visage of a structure that had stood stoutly on that land for nearly 245 years. It wasnít until he drove away with the remaining bits of the old building in his big red dump truck (the last thing he loaded on was that iron brace he had installed seven years ago) that I thought of that seven-year cycle. I have no idea what it all means. I donít plan to leave this place but I plan to plant an orchard where the barn once stood. No doubt another cycle, its significance as yet unknown to me, has already begun.


A collection of Edieís essays, The View from Maryís Farm, is now available from www.edieclark.com.

Selected Works

Articles
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 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
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.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
Fiction
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief