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

Berith Arragh Hogan, Creative Nonfiction, Featured

They, Me & the Sea

by Berith Arragh Hogan

Since first the ticks of time recorded me in attendance I have made a yearly pilgrimage to Cape Ann on Massachusetts’s rocky North Shore – on some lucky, and some sad, occasions the trip has exceeded the yearly dictate. Funerals, weddings, Thanksgivings, spring breaks, and deathbeds dot the calendar in between.

I have driven, flown, or taken the train. I’ve broken down, turned around, and wept as a young lady trying to get from North Station to South Station (or was it the other way around?) to board the commuter rail. I’ve clocked in at six hours flat from my home base in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I have made it in twelve when circumstances conspired against me. I cannot imagine, though, a distance long enough to prevent me from making the trek.

My mother, Jane, married into the deep dark of the North Atlantic when she wed her first husband, David, a thousand ebbing tides ago in 1963. They had a daughter Kira and a son Micheal, my eldest and only sister and the oldest of my brothers four. The marriage to the man did not last, but his mother Nadia, his sister Julia, and the ocean churning invited her back year after year – even after her second marriage to my father Michael, yielded a raucous family with no shared blood. A lent-out lineage legacy lasting generations beyond the dissolved union of its origin.

I joined the family’s yearly caravan north with my natal arrival in 1981. My mind in its infancy had no words or shapes assembled to log the sprawling stays of lazy summer weeks – but by the time my sentience had garnered such capabilities the tidal pools of coastal rocks had always hosted starfish, snails, and younger swimmers. The nooks of the sea-blackened boulders had always offered precarious perches to be shared with mussels, seaweed, and barnacles. Blueberries had always been plucked warm from their bushes along forest paths leading to the abandoned granite quarries we swam in. There is no frame of my memory’s blink untouched by the crashing waves or lazy eddies offered by Cape Ann’s Rockport, and Rockport’s Pigeon Cove.

The water was already haunted by the time I got there, swallowing so many of Gloucester’s fishermen. Even Nadia’s son Daniel had walked out into the hungry sea. But despite, or in thanks, or in indifference, the ghosts I spied in her waves bore power equal in sadness and in peace. Both moonrise by the settled sea and the violent crashes of storm-swelled surf carved an ache out of my heart before the heartbreaks had been enacted. The ocean warned me of the pain there would be.

My brother Daniel was the first ghost of my lifetime. His time on earth ending at the age of twenty-two. My world breaking at sweet seventeen. Nadia left not that much after, my borrowed grandmother with the house by the sea.

The ocean did not change her story. Not once did she ever mislead. Still when my mother passed twenty years after my brother the pain shocked me with its depth and its crash. The worst heartbreak was offered just after. Four months later I lost my infant daughter, my sweetest Margot, now tucked forever in her sleep. The depths of the lightless black pressure of this loss traversed only by creatures designed by its deep.

I return to the ocean in three days now, with my husband Will and our four living children in tow. We will stay at the home of my Aunt Julia, once Nadia’s. The same weathered house perched at the crest of the deep ocean’s shore. We will meet there two of my brothers, Jake and Joshua, their children, and Jake’s wife Hilary who has been joining us for more than twenty years now. My aging father will still venture the journey. The fleeting tick of time grants each gathering an unsolicited nostalgia.

So, gather we will on the cusp of the sea’s rhythmed, beating shore. The children will bathe in her cold majesty. Her magic will render us all under her spell. There will be peace in the calm of her power. She doesn’t lie, no, she could never. She tells a tale and I now know the story. I know more shapes and words than I wish I could assemble. While she smooths the bones of my ghosts, my beloveds, she whispers the song of my spirits in her gale.

Berith Arragh Hogan, Contributors

Berith Arragh Hogan

Berith Arragh Hogan is a writer, a wife, and a mother raising her children alongside her husband in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her first love in both reading and writing is realistic fiction, though she also very much appreciates the unique emotional outlet afforded by the personal essay. She is drawn to approaching personal essays with a similar language and structure as her fiction writing – finding a balm in applying metaphor and symbolism in the processing and retelling of her personal traumas. She is nearing completion of her first novel – but taking plenty of breaks to enjoy the more timely rewards of short-stories, essays, and poetry. More of her work is available at www.beritharraghhogan.com.

Read Berith’s essay in New England Memories:

 

Featured, Poetry, Theresa Hickey

Dappled Days

by Theresa Hickey

The grandeur of sky and sea is awesome, but
in an orchard, one notices
small wonders every season

Each turn of weather
bears fruit, cleaving to the vines
clinging for clemency from storms

Dimpled valentines of berries,
tiny jewels—red and radiant
black and blue—fill baskets

Pierced in their prime, flushed
pinks and reds, noble nectars flow
from peaches, plucked from branches

In autumn, apples line rows of meadows.
Succulent still, as once to Eve; the apple’s
robust beauty tempts each hidden desire

Hardy seeds become the fruit of life
and we, our sight and taste reborn
from fertile soil the farmer tills,
are awed in silent ways
as we eat our fill
to offer thanks and praise
for dappled days

 

This poem appears in Theresa’s poetry collection, Shy, published by Finishing Line Press.