Share |

Hallway of Ghosts

Island Life

I have been locked into a different routine as of late. My day generally begins with a plate of eggs and a cup of coffee that I carry out onto the back deck. Rather than staring into my eggs, my gaze generally migrates from the back field to the top of the row of pine trees to the sun coming up over Mount Kearsarge here somewhere near the southern middle of New Hampshire. My dad was always fascinated by “the mountain”, and given that it is a kind of bump in the road compared to what we have in the west, I can see why his excitement over seeing Rainier on a clear day made the view from the deck here somewhat pale in comparison.

I am now near the end of a garden tour around the foundation plantings of the house. This has been a bit of a chore, since aside from mowing the lawn, not much has been done here in nearly three years. It is not a nightmare, as it would have been had this house been situated west of the Cascades, but here in the rolling hills south of the White Mountains, gardens don’t go crazy as much as they slightly expand and meander. My favorite tree on the property is an Amur Maple, which I have always liked because of its shape and profusion of small blooms and large bouquets of seeds, which is where it is at at the moment. It is the seed clusters however that stand as both a fascination and a curse, since they all seem to be viable, and as  a result there had been a hedge of seedling amurs along the east edge of the breakfast deck that I spent the better part of an afternoon crawling amongst with blue gloves and black kneepads while ripping roots from soft soil as I went. As with thoughts of saving some of the knick knacks throughout the house, sympathetic inklings of saving the saplings to plant elsewhere soon were subverted by my ruthless, weed killing mindset in order to just get on to yet another area. Sometimes ruthless is a good thing.

Another part of the routine involves going to Clarke’s Hardware almost everyday for various implements and accessories needed to complete the assortment of tasks and repairs: a box of brads for the paneling pulling away from the studs in the basement; a new folding saw to replace my years old one I had brought along but wound up breaking while sawing out pine tree roots that had pushed up a brick pathway. I am now a familiar face at Clarke’s, and am usually greeted with the question: ”what is the project for today.” Part of the reason I like going to the hardware store is that the parking lot which sprawls from Clarke’s past the liquor store and on beyond Hannaford’s grocery to the post office is decorated with squiggles and drips of sealing tar that were laid down to repair the ravages of winter. I’m sure that in some circles I am now known as “that guy who is always taking pictures of the parking lot”. I just can’t help it- whoever does the patching has a good hand, and the patterns and scrawls seem to be something between a southwest petroglyph and a Franz Kline or Jackson Pollock painting. I could probably spend days photographing the petroleum based patterns and calligraphy, but I have other, not necessarily better, things to do.

There is also the sorting to be done throughout the house, which I am not allowing myself to be either daunted or intimidated by. Instead, it is a fascinating journey of surprise and discovery with something new and different in every drawer and closet. I opened one drawer this morning that had black and white photo Christmas cards from the fifties and sixties which caught my attention for perhaps a little too long. One of the cabinets I opened the other day contained an old, hand carved wooden box that I remembered from years past. I picked it up and opened it, and even though it appeared empty, the particular spicy, woody fragrance that emerged and engulfed me sent me spinning backward through time to thoughts and memories of long ago. Another sensory thing I have engaged in is reviving my Dad’s old clocks. There was a time when he had them all going, and each hour and half hour were a chiming cacophony throughout the house.   I was sad a few years back when I visited to find that the clocks had all become silent because he just hadn’t bothered to wind them any more, and the only sound in the house was the blaring from the Fox News channel, which generally was a lot less informative than even one clock bing-bonging the hour of the day. So, having found all the keys, I have successfully reactivated the hourly chime fest, and the tick-tocking as well as the bells has given a new life to the silent house.

Another thing I have done is open doors that I had never seen opened before. There is one short hallway between my parents’ master bedroom and the living room that was almost never used. My nephew informed me that he and his siblings used to call it the hallway of ghosts, since the only thing in there were pictures along the walls of our relatives from long ago. I have no idea who they are, but they do serve to reinforce the belief that people in past times never smiled. They are not, however, all stern, and one woman has the hint of a Mona Lisa smile just starting to happen. Some day I hope to have the time and the ability to figure out who they all are, but at the moment I have to get up to Clarkes’ to get some caulking supplies, and maybe take some parking lot pictures, so that perhaps at sometime in the future somebody pawing through all my stuff will be saying to themselves: “this looks just like tar on asphalt, what the hell was he thinking?”