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The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm for June 2006

June 6, 2006

To the Lake

For some years, I owned a little cottage on a lake just one mile from this house, an easy distance for an evening’s row or a contemplative breakfast on the porch before heading off to work. That’s pretty much why I bought the place when I did. Not too much money and a place to be near the water, which provides summer solace, heat relief and a steady show of living watercolors. Many people who own similar cottages on these lakes live close by, a fact that attests to the tentative nature of these buildings. Only recently has the phenomenon arrived wherein these rustic camps are being bought, torn down and replaced with lavish vacation homes. I wonder how, from inside these fortresses, the movement of the water can be heard or the loons seen popping up from beneath the surface.
My cottage was built perhaps a hundred years ago by a man who worked for the railroad. It was his fish camp, just one room with an old sink and a big porch looking out across the water. Where now there is a road that runs alongside the lake, once were train tracks and trains coming through a couple of times a day. Apparently this man, among the first to build a camp on this lake, would ride in on his train, get off near his camp and spend a day or two fishing before hopping back onboard and returning, refreshed, to work.
Most of these camps were simple structures, even perhaps simply shelter from the rare bad summer weather. Being there was not about the house but about being on the lake, swimming or fishing. Or just sitting, watching the fish pock the surface or the colors of the water change with the passage of the day.
One of the things I liked most about my camp was the smell of the old boards and the reminders left on the beaded pine walls – visitors apparently were invited to carve their initials and the date of their visit into the wall. On the west wall was a black scorch, most likely from the overzealous flame of a kerosene lamp, set too close. I liked to imagine an evening long ago, when a small moment of panic broke out, perhaps among E.G. and A.S. from 1924.
If I looked at that same wall in the right light, I could discern the remains of a phrase that had been written on the wall in twigs, shaped into rustic lettering. The letters were gone but sunlight had printed their message into the wooden wall: The Groves Were God’s First Temples, the stick letters had once proclaimed. I found the message soothing, bringing to mind a shady grove of trees, the perfect balm for what troubles us. But the more time I spent there, observing the graceful take-offs and landings of the great blues or listening to the loons signal back and forth or falling asleep to the rhythmic lap of water against the dock, the more I felt that it was to the lake that we direct our devotion, these small waterside cottages chapels to a deity never named but often worshipped.

Now available: CD of the concert version of Monadnock Tales. Log on to www.edieclark.com for more details.

Selected Works

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
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief