Archive for July, 2010

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Hidden in plain view

July 16, 2010

My first Sunday in New Hampshire (almost four weeks ago now!), I asked Ted, the company manager, to recommend some hiking spots. I’ve spent the last two summers up here, but it’s awfully easy to decide that you’re too tired to spend your one day off being active, so I’ve never figured out where to go, outside of the iconic but often crowded Franconia Notch.

Since it was a little late in the afternoon to tackle an actual mountain, Ted suggested I visit a trail in town, by the little regional airport, that had once been a railway. He gave me directions, warned me it might be buggy, and sent me on my way. I may have gotten a little lost — the sign for the airport road appears in only one direction, and not the one I was taking — but the drive was gorgeous, tall pines and rolling hills with bigger mountains in the distance. There were banks of lupines everywhere; I’m not sure I’d ever seen them in person before, so they were a surprising treat.

The trail itself was flat and straight; there were some pretty views here and there, but I like a little more rugged terrain. And Ted’s warning notwithstanding, I wasn’t prepared for the cloud of black flies that constantly swarmed around my head, threatening to bite if I stood still too long. I didn’t even make it as far as the pond Ted said the trail would loop around, though I suppose the word “pond” should have clued me in to the presence of overwhelming insect life. Of course, there weren’t just flies; I also saw a couple of white admiral butterflies dancing in the air, and lots of what I imagine were milkweed plants, dotted with the frothy white egg clusters of monarchs. I swear I spent whole seasons of my childhood looking for these in vain, but here they were, a completely un-hoped-for gift.

Better still was the surprise I found even closer to the ground. I’d noticed early on that there were a lot of wild strawberry plants lining the path; my childhood next-door neighbor, Mr. Cullen, taught me to recognize the serrated leaves in my own backyard, but since those plants never bore fruit, I didn’t hold out much hope that these would either. But then I saw a spot of red and looked closer. Intermingled with the strawberry plants were the leaves of some other ground-hugging berry bushes. I wasn’t sure if the red berry I’d found was a ripe raspberry or a tart, premature blackberry, and since there was only one in sight, I didn’t want to eat it and be disappointed. Further along, though, were more strawberry plants, and this time, the dots of red were real, live wild strawberries, tiny but ripe.

The taste was delicate and pure, concentrated into a fingernail-sized morsel. I ate probably ten or fifteen of them as I meandered along the path, though stopping to pick them meant risking black-fly bites. (Holding still long enough to take a clear picture was even riskier.) And then I found more raspberries and decided to take a chance, gently plucking one and popping it into my mouth. “Oh,” I said softly. “Oh, man.” It was the sweetest, most intensely raspberry-flavored raspberry I’ve ever encountered.

I didn’t find any other ripe raspberries, but I kept searching for and eating strawberries until I couldn’t handle the flies any more (I got bitten twice, on my forehead and collarbone). I meant to save a strawberry for Ted, but I didn’t have anything to carry it in, and I didn’t want it to get squished or wilted before I had a chance to track him down. So I did the only sensible thing: I ate it myself. Sorry, Ted.

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A memo from the Great North Woods

July 4, 2010

In case the three of you who read my blog were wondering (hi, Mom), I have not been eaten by a moose. But sometimes I forget to check my email for two or three days, and then the next two days the internet doesn’t work, and all my writing/creative-type energy is going into transcribing Haitian folk melodies and tweaking them to match somebody else’s lyrics. I know, poor me, right? But that’s how it is.

For anybody to whom that made no sense, the short version is I’m working in a theater in northern New Hampshire for the summer, and I haven’t managed to post in a while, and I can’t promise I’ll get much better about it. But I hope to spend a while one of these Sundays writing up a bunch of posts, or at least ideas for posts, that I can upload on the fly when I’ve got some internet time but no energy to write.

And I promise to say hi to the moose, if and when I actually encounter one.