From the Editor

New prose & poetry at New England Memories

I’m pleased to welcome Leslie Vogel and Linda Warren to the list of contributors to New England Memories with Leslie’s essay “Climbing Mount Monadnock” and Linda’s poem “Great Blue Heron on the Swift River.” Also, Elaine Reardon has added to her work at the site with two poems: “Winter Sounds” and “Easter Cherog.”

As I write this post, it’s been a year since the pandemic began—a year of loss, challenges, and much New England ingenuity to persevere. Thank you, Elaine, Linda, and Leslie for sharing your work while we wait out the storm.

Take care,

Linda Thomas, Editor
New England Memories

Elaine Reardon, Featured, Poetry

Easter Cherog

by Elaine Reardon

Sleep and stillness cling to my eyes.
Morning light trickles through pine branches
into the kitchen where yeast has raised
soft pillows of cherog dough overnight.
I slide the fragrance of warm yeast
into the waiting oven.

I kept the fire going last night
to coddle the dough,
to be kind to myself.
Now I sit at the window as early fog lifts
in wisps and sip tea.

The world here is quiet, aside from
the faucet dripping and the ping of
the oven as it heats.
Strong tea mingles with the aroma of
rising dough.
Do we not all rise with some redemption,
new each morning?

In other homes people are moving toward family gatherings
or waking to a jumble of legs and arms in unfamiliar beds
while I sit with my ancestors baking this bread.

I receive the old ones and the fragrance and the taste.
I listen to the small kitchen sounds against the quiet outside—
the complete stillness of each branch and leaf,
the warm cup in my hand.

Elaine Reardon, Featured, Poetry

Winter Sounds

by Elaine Reardon

We’ve gotten used to sounds
deep in a winter night,
a sharp ping of the wood stove
reaching some cooler temperature,
muffled tumbles of a smoldering log,
the creak of floorboards
as if someone walked quietly.
Downstairs the refrigerator
hums, the water heater readjusts.
What is shifting inside this house
I wonder, content, then roll into sleep.
Wind buffets the metal roof, snow
falls off in a grand whoosh, louder
than any wild animal out there.

Featured, Linda Warren, Poetry

Great Blue Heron on the Swift River

by Linda Warren

I vexed a Great Blue Heron
as I walked the path
along the catch-and-release section of this stream
that flows year round, gift of the accidental wilderness
around the reservoir that quenches Boston.

She didn’t move far, just to another fallen log,
an easy pebble toss from where I stood.
She looked well fed and feathered,
in this Anthropocene landscape
for which five townships and their homesteads drowned,
and a hundred thousand acres were returned to grace.

She eyed me, fellow wader of this unoccluded water,
then arched her neck and tipped her beak down to the trout
she herself had no plans to release,
a famous beauty deciding which delicacy she desired,
as rich as she needed to be.

Creative Nonfiction, Featured, Leslie Vogel

Climbing Mount Monadnock

by Leslie Vogel

I took a day off today, and a bright and beautiful day it was, too.

I went to hike up the mountain, solo; although you couldn’t really call it solo because Mount Monadnock truly lives up to its reputation as one of the most climbed mountains in the world, especially on a beautiful fall day like today. And it’s just as well. If I were really climbing solo I’d be thinking about bears all the way up the mountain and all the way back down again, and I’d be afraid to bring snacks.

This way I was climbing with all sorts of international families. There was the family with the little boy who was dragging his feet all during the initial woodland stretch of the walkway, but who got all energized climbing up on the big rocks later on, and even found a lucky quarter near the top of the mountain. There was the family who took turns carrying their 14 month old baby in a backpack all the way up the mountain and all the way down. There was the little German girl who showed her mother exactly where to put each foot in each stepping place all during the steep rocky part, speaking rapidly in bright, non-stop instructions. There were the three young teachers, barely out of school themselves talking about teaching in a charter school, and the young woman who was telling her hiking companion all about her latest sad relationship. There were the two young men walking vigorously while animatedly discussing hiking equipment, and the elder couple resting and sipping from their water bottles—wondering out loud to me as I greeted them about how it was that the young ones were constantly passing us by on the trail.

“Isn’t that their job, both on the trail, and otherwise?” I wondered in return.

And then there were the four young people at the very top of the mountain who looked at me curiously and just had to ask:

“What era could your leg warmers possibly be from?”

I had forgotten about my leg warmers.

I was wearing the very same day-glow rainbow leg warmers which, over ten years ago, my youngest daughter had expressly forbidden me to wear in public ever again. I had put them on today to keep my sixty-five year old leg muscles from cramping up on such a long hike, and there were no daughters around to fuss about it; but now here we were.

I had to laugh with the quartet of young people and remind them that if you were going to go ahead and actually wear leg warmers (era of the ’80s, I explained: original purpose to warm the legs of dancers in rehearsal) then you might as well go all out and wear rainbow ones. Besides, you’d be easier to find out on the trail after dark if you got lost.

But here’s another thing that happened. When you hike a well known and familiar trail each rock, step, crevasse and chimney stirs your memory: there they are, as they were before, unchanging. As they were the time when I climbed solo and barefoot in my early thirties, and the other times when I climbed with my friends, or with my sister, or with my own children.

And the early years when I climbed with my brother.

Now the voices of the families climbing nearby fade away, and I am climbing with my brother again. Here  we are at the rocky part, and each step I step for him as well because he can no longer climb these earthly mountains.

“Don’t step on the ground, only rocks” he says—a favorite game of ours when we were young. I play it now; blithely leaping with my sixty-five year old legs that have suddenly become twelve year old legs, and landing precariously on one good stepping stone after another in my tired old sneakers.

I’m in this earlier world, just for a moment, stepping from rock to rock on the side of this ancient granite mountain. It is almost my brother’s birthday, and I place a small rock for him on one of the cairns, and then another.

I am glad I could climb all the way to the top of the mountain today, for my brother, and also for myself.

The voices of the other families climbing nearby fade back in again, and I enjoy being a part of the international chatter around me; the children, the young people, the parents, and the old folks like me.

I had given myself five hours of daylight, lots of snacks and water, a warm jacket; and of course, the leg warmers.

All well, and a day well spent.

Contributors, Leslie Vogel

Leslie Vogel

Leslie Vogel lives in Greenfield New Hampshire with her husband and partner, Fred Simmons. With their home organization, Folksoul Music, they have been bringing music of all kinds to the communities of the Monadnock Region and beyond for the past three decades.

As a child she spent summers with her family at the back end of Gregg Lake in Antrim where her parents built a rudimentary cabin. This was the beginning of her love for all things in nature.

When not actively playing music, Leslie spends her quiet time writing prose and poetry as part of an ongoing journal about life in New England.

Read Leslie’s essay in New England Memories:

From the Editor

New work published at New England Memories

Wallis Sands Beach, New Hampshire
Photograph by Linda J Thomas

I’m pleased to announce new work in New England Memories in which three writers eloquently guide us—to the shore of the multi-natured sea, or through ripening orchards, or to blueberry fields—as they share their memories and reflections.

Berith Aargh Hogan shares her story of family, loss, and solace in her lyrical essay “They, Me & the Sea.”

Theresa Hickey’s poems “Dappled Days” and “Of Water and Sea” show us awe, comfort, and strength found in nature’s land and sea.

Elaine Reardon’s poem “Nan” invites us into family traditions across cultures, and the gifts they bring.

I know this is a challenging summer for all of us as we cope the best we can during the COVID-19 pandemic. So I’m especially grateful to Berith, Theresa, and Elaine for the time and creative energy they gave to share their work with New England Memories.

We hope you enjoy reading their work. And we hope it brings you inspiration during these daunting days.

Take care,

Linda Thomas, Editor
Pine Siskin Press