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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 July August 2011

June 26, 2011

With a Little Luck

I once realized with sudden clarity that owning a home, a home that has some land and a few outbuildings, perhaps some animals, is no different from owning a small business. I manage the budget and prioritize the needs the same as any shopkeeper, lying awake with worries as well as hopes for expansion and improvements. One thing I lack in my little affair here are employees. Good help is not only expensive (budget item) but hard to come by (human resources). Especially in the summer months. Once in a while, with a little luck, the right person comes along at the right time. But there is usually a catch. Take, for instance, the Irish fellow who flew in and out of here like a rare bird on the wing. Friends told me about him. “He’ll do most anything for a very reasonable price. And his work is good.”

I didn’t need to hear much more so I called him. He had a gorgeous Irish brogue, the kind that is so easy to fall into, once you hear it a bit. “Howareya?” he sang out as he emerged from his older model Volvo. “Aye, gurgeous place here! Yuh’ve gut a bit o’ chores ta doo, have ye?” He was tall with silver hair, spiked up, not a young man but the piercing gaze of his blue eyes flashed intense energy. I showed him the gardens, the lily beds in particular, that had fallen into disrepair. It’s hard to give over a garden, only I know what’s in there and, oh, how well I know the weeds. “Nuh problem,” he crooned, “Oy ken doo that up in nuh time.” After I had shown him around, we sat on the porch and he told me the story of his growing up years in Dublin – Ireland. Eight children, hardly enough food to go round. They were hard years, worthy of the teller of Angela’s Ashes.

The next day, I went away. I hadn’t expected him to but he came while I was gone. When I arrived back, the lily beds behind the house were transformed, neat as the squares of a quilt. I was thrilled, even though he had left my garden tools strewn about and the wheelbarrow filled with weeds. It was more than I’d expected or hoped for. His muddy shoes were on my porch and so was his sweatshirt. But he was not.

A few hours later, he drove in. He was in a hurry, collecting his shoes and the few tools that were his. He asked for a nominal sum in return for his work. It was a bargain, by any stretch of the imagination. “Ooo, donchee worry now, el’ll be beck and take care of all ye’re gardens,” rolling those r’s to a fare the well. I couldn’t believe my luck. I wheeled the cart out behind the barn and dumped the weeds and picked up all the tools and returned them to the shed. If he came back, even twice, my place would look like a page out of Martha Stewart. I don’t, usually, but I whistled for a little while, as if my life had suddenly become care free. But, summer came and went and I never saw nor heard from him again. My gardens returned to being less than perfect. But I can still hear the musical manner of his speaking, the stories he told, and the promises he made. Aye, in this business o’ mine, ‘tis so.

(For more on this subject and on the subject of angels, go to my blog, www.edieclark.com/blog. And good luck in your gardens, wherever you are.)

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