Bob’s Corner Store: Part One

Bob’s Corner Store: Part One

Last week’s story by Sam Wheeler in the Bethel Citizen, “Looking back at Bob’s,” brought on a wave of nostalgia, as I recalled my own eleven-plus years behind the counter at Bob’s Corner Store in Locke’s Mills.

I set out to write about those years, but quickly realized that my connection to Bob’s extends back much further than May of 1978, when I was 19 years old and had just landed my dream job—running the cash register, stocking the shelves and beer coolers, and pumping gas for Bob Coolidge.

So I’ll save my reminiscences about working there (and I have many!) for my next post, and, for now, write about my earlier memories of the store and its longtime proprietor.

Bobs Corner Store 3_26_2011 003

This photo was taken in 2011, when Bob was no longer the owner of the store, but except for the paint colors (it was always white, with green trim, when it was Bob’s), it didn’t look much different.

Like many “summer people” on North, South, and Round Ponds in Woodstock and Greenwood (I didn’t yet know that we were sometimes referred to as “summer complaint”), I traveled to the store by boat nearly every day in July and August from the time I was old enough to walk, talk, and demand penny candy.

My sister, Leslie, and I would take the family motorboat, a 1958 13-foot aluminum Duratech Runabout (my brothers will be sure to correct me if I’m wrong about those details), from our camp on the east shore of North Pond to the village of Locke’s Mills to pick up bread, milk, and the daily newspaper at Bob’s Corner Store (or, as it was known until the early 1970s, under the ownership of Lee Mills, Lee’s Variety).

My sister was nearly ten years older than I, and was therefore in charge of our mom’s list and, of course, the money.

She also always drove the boat. It was powered during those years by a cranky 18-horsepower maroon-and-white Johnson outboard, which was really far too much motor for it. We always carried a splintery old canoe paddle with us, and when the motor broke down, as it often did, we had to take turns paddling back to camp.

Quite often, there were visitors at camp—cousins, friends, or, later, nieces and nephews—and there would be five or six kids in the boat, all of us clad in bulky orange kapok life jackets. The weight of extra passengers came in handy when the water level of the lake was high, allowing us to sit low enough in the water to get through Johnny’s Bridge without scraping the steering wheel on the rough concrete overhead.

We still had to duck our heads to fit under the bridge, of course, or even lie down in the bottom of the boat, where spilled gas and oil mingled with remnants of the bacon rind and freshwater mussels we used for bait when we fished for white perch and sunfish.

Then it was on through “the channel,” where we tried to avoid letting the propeller hit any of the dozens of underwater stumps (we always carried extra shear pins just in case), past the picnic area, through the taller bridge under Route 26, and on to the store.

Damp and smelly, we jumped out onto the dock and clambered up the steep slope to the parking lot, dancing across the hot pavement in our bare feet. (There was never, that I can recall, a “No Bare Feet” sign on the door of Bob’s Corner Store.)

After picking up the items on our mom’s list, my sister doled out the change into our waiting palms. This was the moment we had been waiting for, and we swarmed the old wood-and-glass candy counter, filling tiny brown paper bags with penny candy for the trip home.

When Lee owned the store and presided over the cash register, he would dump each bag out and push our licorice sticks, Swedish fish, Mint Juleps, Tootsie Rolls, and Atomic Fireballs around on the wooden countertop with a thick, grubby finger as he carefully counted each piece. But after Bob took over, he just asked us how much we had in our bags and took our word for it. None of us wouldBob at store ever have dreamed of cheating him out of so much as a penny.

One evening at camp when I was five or six years old, for reasons I can’t remember, my sister took a red felt-tipped pen to my face, adding a sprinkling of bright-red freckles to my cheeks and nose, and I refused to wash them off. When Bob spotted them on our trip to the store the next morning, he began calling me “Chickenpox,” and he never really stopped.

Although I already knew that Maine was the only place for me, and that one day I’d come home and never leave, at the time, I was just a “summer person.” I always wondered if Bob would forget me during the long ten months of the year when I was exiled in Connecticut, but on my first trip to the store each summer, he’d call out, “Hi there, Chickenpox!” and I’d know I was back where I belonged.

Eventually, when I turned twelve, and the family rules permitted me to operate the boat by myself, my mother bought a new six-horsepower outboard motor that was slower, safer, and less prone to breakdowns.

Jen Will & Tide in boat 002

Oh, yes…we still have the 1958 Duratech boat!

By then, Leslie was out of college, grown up, and married, and it became my job to lead the daily expeditions to Bob’s. I became the keeper of the money and my mother’s list. After I’d paid for the groceries and the newspaper, I divided up the change and we’d each fill a bag with penny candy. Then I’d shepherd the younger kids back down to the boat, and make sure they were securely buckled into their life jackets before we pushed off from the dock.

We’d try to ration our candy to make it last until we could make the trip again the following day, but somehow most of it seemed to disappear in the boat on the way back to camp. Someone usually remembered to save a stick of black licorice and a fireball for my mom, although I have a feeling that an hour of peace and quiet back at camp was all the reward she really needed.

Ten Good Things About April

T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.”

Here in the mountains of western Maine, it nearly always snows in April. I know this, but it still gets me every year. There’s usually ice on the ponds for at least two thirds of the month, and a big, dirty pile of snow on the north side of my house until almost May.

A hundred miles south of us, people are raking their lawns by April first and posting photos of April laundrydaffodils on Facebook by mid-month, while, this year at least, we haven’t even started to think about putting our boots away. We’re still looking ahead to the satisfying ritual of watching the mud in the driveway dry up, because we’re still waiting for the snow and ice on top of the mud to melt.

April is when we pay for every sunny day in the 50s with three days of mixed precipitation and below freezing temperatures.

The icicles that have dangled from the eaves for four months finally give up and crash down into the still-buried flower gardens, only to be replaced with new ones.

It’s cruel, all right.

Okay, so I do realize that when T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month,” he wasn’t talking about the weather, or at least, not the kind of April weather we’re accustomed to in northern New England. (Eliot spent most of his life in England, where apparently there is such a thing as spring, and his biggest quarrel with April was that its mild weather and blooming lilacs were incompatible with his morose state of mind.)

But there are other reasons that I find April a hard month to love.

There’s April Fool’s Day, for one thing. I hate it. I’ve hated it for about as long as I can remember. Wikipedia describes it as “an annual celebration commemorated on April 1st by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes.”

I don’t like practical jokes. At all. I believe that, in general, I have a pretty good sense of humor, but on April Fool’s Day, I turn into a cross between someone’s straitlaced grandmother and a petulant four-year-old, declaring, “That’s not funny!” when I turn on the kitchen faucet and get doused by the sprayer, around which someone has wrapped a rubber band. (Okay, that hasn’t happened in about twenty years, but, clearly, it left me with long-lasting resentment.)

As far as “spreading hoaxes” goes, why anyone finds that funny or clever in this age of everyday misinformation, disinformation, and manipulation by Russian bots is beyond me. It’s hard enough to distinguish between factual reporting and hyperbole in the media without devoting a whole day to deliberately spreading “fake news.”

There’s also the fact that my mom died in April, fifteen years ago. It was a cold, crappy, drizzly day, which is pretty much how I think of all of April now. Not only that, but I’ve always considered eleven my favorite, luckiest number, and she died on April 11th. And it was Easter. While I may still love Cadbury Creme Eggs to dangerous excess, Easter hasn’t felt quite the same for me since 2004.

April may well be my least favorite month—especially in a year when the snow began accumulating in mid-October and is still piled high on the north side of my house, and on the trails I’d like to be hiking in sneakers instead of snowshoes by now—but I’m at an age now when I’ve begun to really understand the wisdom of the folks who have always admonished, “Don’t wish your life away!”

In the spirit of finding something to appreciate about every minute, hour, day, and month—even the cruel ones—here, in no particular order, are Ten Good Things About April.

1) My parents’ anniversary was April 6, 1942. Although they were married for only sixteen yearsApril parents wedding before my father’s sudden death, their union made possible not only my own life (which is pretty great), but those of my four wonderful siblings and all of our own offspring. It also gave me rich fodder for my writing, real and imagined, about their lives and times.

2) April 10th is National Siblings Day. Mine are simply the best. I think of them all every day, but having a day devoted to siblings gives me an opportunity to celebrate not only the five of us—siblings in the “traditional” manner, by birth, and united in our fierce and steadfast love for one another—but also my four amazing grown kids, who include every possible combination of full siblings, half siblings, and step-siblings, and love each other just as fiercely.

April sibs in boatApril kids

 

3) Author Beverly Cleary was born on April 12, 1916 and is still going strong, having just turned 103. Her children’s books about Ramona Quimby showed me that an ordinary kid with an ordinary life could get through the rough patches by being smart, outspoken, and a little irreverent, and taught me that “great big noisy fusses were often necessary when a girl was the youngest member of her family.”April Ramona

4) April is National Poetry Month, and I have always been grateful that my mother, an English major, read to me throughout my childhood, and that, interspersed with Ramona and Beezus, Pippi Longstocking, and The Big Book of Fairytales, there were selections from The Complete Poems of Robert Frost, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Now We Are Six, and many other well-worn, much-loved volumes of poetry.

5) Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills, has designated April as Maine Libraries Month, and I couldn’t love her more for it. In my family, libraries have always been regarded as hallowed ground, and librarians as somewhat akin to rock stars. My mom was a librarian. My son is a librarian, and so are at least a couple of cousins. I serve on the board of the Bethel Library and my niece is a board member of the Forbes Library in Northampton, Mass. You could say that the love of all things literary runs strong in my family.

6) My second birth daughter, the irrepressible Caitlin, was born on April 8th and I don’t think anyone who knows her believes that it would be going too far to say that the world has never been the same since she arrived (yes, during a snowstorm) and loudly announced her presence on…

April Cait

7) …Opening Day of Major League Baseball season. Cait was born an hour or so after the Red Sox defeated the Yankees, 9-2, at Fenway Park. Both Dwight Evans and Jim Rice homered in that game, and I’m pretty certain that the fact that I watched the entire nine innings while in labor has something to do with Cait’s lifelong love of baseball in general and the Boston Red Sox in particular, as well as her ability to name every member of the team by the time she was three years old.

8) National Pet Day is celebrated on April 11th, and even though my own pets are convinced that April pet dayevery day is National Pet Day, I always enjoy the opportunity to share yet another photo of them on social media.

9) April contains a week-long public school vacation, and even though I graduated from high school more than forty years ago, I’ve never forgotten how it felt to leave school on a Friday knowing the next nine days were mine to do with exactly as I liked. And even though I haven’t always worked at jobs with a school schedule, whenever I have, I’ve come to realize yet again that it wasn’t just the students who left school the day before vacation with an extra spring in their step. There may be snow in the yard and mud in the driveway, but April vacation comes along at just the right time to let teachers believe they may survive the school year after all.April empty

10) In addition to the aforementioned (alleged) nationwide celebration days that fall in April, the month contains several others about which I (and probably most of you) have been woefully ignorant…but no more!

From now on, I’ll be helping to combat my generally negative feelings about the month by April grilled cheesecelebrating National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day on April 2nd, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on April 12th, and National Pigs in a Blanket Day on April 24th.

How on earth did I never know that April 4th is National Hug a Newsperson Day? Plumbers have their own day, too—April 25th is National Hug a Plumber Day.

April 18th is National Velociraptor Awareness Day, and I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to best celebrate that one, but it’s fast approaching, so let’s all see if we can figure it out.

And perhaps it would be best not to warn my boss about this ahead of time, but tomorrow, April 16th, is National Wear Pajamas to Work Day.

April pajamas (2)

 

The end of an era

Cynthia and Peg (2)

My camp neighbor and friend, Cynthia Lamb, passed away a couple of weeks ago, after a long and quietly remarkable life.

“It truly is the passing of the last torch from the early settlers on the Mann Road,” wrote my brother Andy when I shared the news in a family email.

In 1954, when my parents bought a lot on North Pond in Woodstock, Maine, only a few camps had already been built on our road.

Two had been built before the road was put in, by floating the lumber and other materials across the lake. One, known as “Camp Comfort,” had been there in some form since the 1890s, tucked into a cove on the wild shore; the other was just a few years old. Four more had been built in the past year or so.

The road itself had been roughly bulldozed along a mile-and-a-quarter stretch of the pond’s east shore when the owners of the Mann Company, which operated mills in West Paris and Bryant Pond and conducted logging operations throughout the area, came to the realization that waterfront lots had a value beyond that of their standing timber.

The ponds of Greenwood and Woodstock had been home to a scattering of summer homes since the late nineteenth century, but post-WWII prosperity brought a bit of disposable income to both local families and vacationers “from away,” and rustic retreats quickly gained in popularity.

My brother Steve was old enough to recall that, although the Mann Company was selling lots for camps, they were priced according to the worth of the harvestable timber that grew on them. Our parents chose our lot in part because of its location and the huge boulder that sits at the water’s edge, but also because the trees on it were predominantly hemlock, making it cheaper than the pine lot next door.

They paid two hundred dollars for a steep but buildable lot with a hundred and fifty feet of lake frontage.

Sixty-five years ago, a pair of Mainers living in exile in New Jersey but longing for a piece of their home state to call their own, and their four young children, ages almost five to almost eleven, could afford to make their dream of a lakefront camp come true.

So could a young casket-maker and undertaker from West Paris and his wife, a beautician. Like my parents, Sayward and Cynthia Lamb purchased their lot in 1954 and began to build their camp the following year.

For three summers, my father and Sayward loaned each other tools or ladders or an extra pair of hands as they built their camps, a hundred yards or so apart.

After my father died suddenly at the beginning of the summer of 1958, my stricken mother (who was—unwittingly—pregnant with me), in addition to planning and carrying out his funeral, consoling her children, and attending to various end-of-the-school-year details, made the same preparations for the yearly escape to Maine that my parents had made together in previous years.

She also made the decision to keep the family station wagon and sell my father’s “get-to-work car” (“a green ’53 Chevy sedan with 3-on-the-tree,” recalls my brother Greg, to whom such details were important) to Sayward Lamb.

Sayward, who surely bought the car primarily as a way to help my family out, was nevertheless glad of the opportunity to purchase a rust-free “southern car” that had never been through a Maine winter, and he drove all the way to New Jersey from Maine with a friend to pick it up.

“It was a combination of comforting and queasy to come in the road and see it there in back of their camp,” says my brother Andy, who was eleven that summer.

I was less than four months old the first time I met Sayward and Cynthia, and they will always be a part of my earliest memories of camp.

Sayward was the president of our private camp road association from the time it was formed until the day he died. He was a fixture on “road work day” each summer, standing up to ride on the ancient grader as it was towed behind someone’s car, working the levers to smooth the spring ruts.

Cynthia occasionally did my mother’s hair at the beauty parlor attached to their home a few miles away in West Paris, where she went to work a few days each week, returning to camp in the afternoons for a walk on the road and a swim.

Her daily walks on the Mann Road formed a habit she maintained throughout her life, and while my own mother had a definitely relaxed set of standards when it came to “camp clothes,” in all of her summers at the lake, I never saw Cynthia out walking   in anything that couldn’t be called an “outfit”: often she wore tidy capri pants with a matching top, coordinated sandals, and earrings, and she always—always!—had perfectly polished toenails.

Growing up on the lake, my sister played with the Lambs’ older son. (I wish I could find a photo that I know exists, of Leslie and Jimmy proudly paddling their just-completed homemade houseboat, taken just moments before it sank.) When I was old enough to learn to catch frogs and salamanders, I hero-worshipped the Lambs’ daughter, Natalie, who was a few years older and knew all the best places to find them.

Cynthia Rhubarb Festival

After I joined the same UU church in West Paris that Cynthia had attended all of her adult life, I got to spend time with her there on Sundays and at special events.

By the time I was three or four, I had taken to escaping out the back door of our camp, climbing the steep hill to the road, and trekking over to the Lambs’ camp, where I would press my nose against the screen door of their kitchen and ask Cynthia for a peanut butter sandwich.

My exasperated sister would usually show up a few minutes later to retrieve me, at the behest of our mother, who was mortified to think the Lambs would assume she never fed me.

Between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s, the number of camps on the Mann Road grew to about twenty. Of those, several, like ours, are still owned by the offspring of the people who first built them. But Cynthia was the last of those original “early settlers,” as Andy called them.

After Sayward passed away a decade or so ago, I stopped in to visit with Cynthia as often as I could, and often joined her on walks with our neighbor Joan. We would walk the mile from Cynthia’s camp to the Gore Road, where she always insisted on touching the edge of the tar road with her foot “to make it count”—even though it meant climbing a steep hill to reach it.

Cynthia had boundless energy. Even after a fall outside her camp, when her family put its collective foot down and forbid her to stay there overnight alone, she would sneak up to camp from her home for the day to sweep the steps, wash the windows,  and go for her walks on the road.

It will never be quite the same on the Mann Road again. In my sixty summers at camp, there has never been one without Cynthia. It really is the end of an era.

Cynthia and me

My last visit with Cynthia, last November.

 

 

 

“The dearest friend I never met”

Sandy

Last Sunday, I lost a dear friend. Sandra Martin Morgan made my world a brighter, better place with her sharp wit, her plainspoken wisdom, and her genuine kindness…and all without us ever having met in person.

Four years ago this month, I took over writing the Locke’s Mills column for our local weekly newspaper, the Bethel Citizen. In my first column, I included some bits of news about the municipal budget, wrote about attending Maine Maple Weekend at Brian and Suzanne Dunham’s farm, and added a link to this blog, with a note that “my latest entry includes some reflections on Locke’s Mills and why it means so much to me.”

Soon after that first column appeared, I received a comment on my blog from a new reader.

“Loved this!” Sandy wrote. “I mentally went on the journey with your descriptive walk through Locke’s Mills…I moved away 40 years ago and still miss my home town. I was born in Greenwood Center near the shores of Twitchell Pond and still write a blog about growing up there. Your blog was like a trip back home and oh, so well written. Thank you and I will be looking for more of your columns in the Citizen which I receive each week by mail!”

She signed up to follow my blog, I signed up to follow hers (pasturetopavement.wordpress.com), Sandy and I began corresponding via email and Facebook, and our mutual admiration society was born.

That’s how it began—as a mutual admiration society. It wasn’t exactly a friendship—not yet.

After all, Sandy and I had never met; she had moved away from her beloved hometown just about the same time I landed here, and we had just missed each other.

Before we could really be friends, we needed to learn more about each other. Facebook helped, and so did our respective blog posts, through which we learned about each other’s childhoods, families, and friends.

I learned that she was Brian Dunham’s mother. And Ethel Martin’s daughter. And Roland, Rex, and Curt Martin’s Sandy and Rexsister. And a cousin (first, second, third, or a few times removed) to just about everyone else I had come to know in my 40 years in and around Greenwood.

I came to Greenwood just a year or two too late to read her weekly columns in the Norway Advertiser-Democrat. For a decade, from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s, she kept the world abreast of the happenings in her Rowe Hill neighborhood, and, in particular, at “Rocky Top,” the hillside farm where she raised her four children, chased after wayward livestock, and, whenever she could, found a few minutes’ peace to write.

Sandy and Alan before concert 1981I arrived too late to hear her perform, often with other members of her musically talented family, at talent shows and other events at the Locke’s Mills Town Hall.

And I was too late to sit down with her in person, perhaps over a cup of tea and one of her Gram Martin’s toffee squares, and hear her stories of growing up in Greenwood Center, or of skiing over the pastures of Rowe Hill, or of bravely making a new life for herself in middle age.

But, through our lively correspondence, we soon learned how much we had in common, not only our love of Greenwood, but also our affinity for—among other things—cats, cookies, quirky characters, Kris Kristofferson, and the poetry of Robert Service.

Now and then, we exchanged small gifts through the mail. I sent her Christmas cookies and homemade granola, and she sent me a copy of her book, Just…Thinking, a collection of her newspaper columns, which her four kids had surprised her by publishing in 2010.

One day last summer I tore open a package from Sandy to find two volumes of Robert Service’s poetry, and a note in which she chided herself for not being able to locate the third volume, which contained some of our favorite poems.

A couple of months later another package arrived, and another note—unable to find her own copy to pass along to me, she had scoured eBay for a copy of The Spell of the Yukon for me, to complete the set.Sandy_RS books

Some of our most satisfying online conversations were about our shared passion for writing, and what it has meant to us both.

“Writing has saved my life several times,” she once wrote to me. “If that is too dramatic, it has helped me climb out of dark holes a number of times. It has kept me on an even keel and keeps me from feeling sorry for myself.”

After her success as a local columnist for the Advertiser-Democrat, Sandy went on to cover human interest stories, take photos, and write a regular feature for the paper’s monthly supplement, “The Western Mainer,” in which she interviewed local entertainers.

She also covered local stories for the Lewiston Sun and wrote occasional features for the Maine Sunday Telegram and Portland Press Herald.

She freelanced for regional magazines, as well as for Grit, Farm Journal, and Yankee, and published several volumes of her poetry.

Sandy_house

Although Sandy left Greenwood more than 40 years ago to live in Albany, New York, she never lost her love for the characters and special places of her hometown.

Just a year ago, with the help of her son Gary, she published her memoir, Salt Pork and Dandelion Greens: Growing Up Greenwood, a collection of essays she originally wrote for her blog. Poignant, evocative, and often hilarious, it immediately struck a chord with her many friends and relatives back home.

Sandy and I jokingly called each other “the dearest friend I’ve never met.”

“You have become such a good friend without our ever having met and I feel as though I have known you forever,” she told me recently. “One of these days I am coming up and taking you up on using your house for a few days…that is such a sweet offer.”

How I wish we could have shared that cup of tea at my kitchen table, and a couple of Gram Martin’s toffee squares. Sandy, I’ll miss you so much.

Rinsing out baggies (and other ways Mom was ahead of her time)

Plastic bags drying

When I was growing up, I always feared that when my friends came over, they would notice what was hung out to dry on the clothesline in our backyard.

It wasn’t just that my mom, who was almost a full generation older than many of my friends’ mothers, wore the world’s most inelegant underclothes (think yellowed long-line bras, hideous girdles with dangling garters, and opaque tan support stockings) or that, in the interest of thrift, we continued to use our sheets and towels until they were faded and ratty.

No, the real embarrassment of our backyard clothesline came from my mom’s practice of washing out plastic bags and hanging them up to dry.

Bread bags, sandwich bags, cereal bags—there was no such thing as a “single-use plastic bag” in my mother’s vocabulary. That remarkable invention, Ziploc bags, first appeared in 1968, and it’s quite possible that when my mom died in 2004, she was still using and reusing the first box she ever bought.

“Rinsing out baggies” became code for all of her penny-pinching habits—she also saved and reused twist ties, bread bag tabs, envelopes, coffee cans, peanut butter jars, and yogurt containers.

In later years, living alone, she turned off lights and appliances whenever she wasn’t using them, and even regularly traipsed down to the basement to shut off the circuit breaker for her electric water heater. (“I’ve found I only need to turn it on about every second or third day,” she said of the water heater. “The second shower is kind of lukewarm, but I don’t mind.”)

And she used a serrated knife to slice new rolls of paper towels across the middle before putting them on the dispenser because she had figured out, long before the “select-a-size” marketing people did, that half a sheet is almost always all you need.

As mortifyingly embarrassing as all of these practices were when I was an adolescent, not only did they eventually become a source of pride for her adult kids (our mom was an environmentalist before it was cool!), but now we do many of the same things in our own homes. (Steve’s peanut butter jar collection is legendary.) Well, maybe not the water heater circuit breaker thing, but I bet at least one of us environmentally conscious cheapskates has experimented with a timer. (I suspect you, Greg.)

It turns out that Mom was onto something.

Residents in the town next to mine are currently considering a proposal to ban single-use carry-out plastic bags in town businesses. It’s a hot-button issue that has a lot of people talking, and arguing.

Vector illustration of a no plastic bags symbol. Could be used for stores no longer offering plastic bags or to illustrate the concept of eliminating plastic bags.

To promoters of the ban, it’s one small thing we can do to help save the environment from a fraction of the upwards of one trillion plastic bags that are currently used each year, of which the vast majority (about 99.5%) are not recycled.

To opponents, it seems like a big step to give up the convenient handled plastic bags we’ve all gotten used to using to carry our groceries home in, and remember to bring reusable cloth bags to the store with us instead. In addition, some retailers object vociferously to being told how to run their businesses.

And some people just can’t imagine how they’d dispose of used cat litter without plastic grocery bags. With three cats, I admit that thought crossed my mind, too.

Thinking about the proposed ban, and participating in a few discussions about it, has gotten me reflecting about single-use plastic bags in general, not just carry-out grocery bags, and how pervasive they are in our lives.

We start each morning with the daily paper, which, even though it is delivered to a relatively weatherproof box, lately comes encased in a long, skinny plastic bag. I top my breakfast yogurt with blueberries and raspberries from plastic bags in my freezer, and Tony opens another plastic bag to take out bread for toast. Cereal comes in boxes lined with plastic bags.

As it turns out, all of these plastic bags, which I used to toss in the trash, make perfectly serviceable receptacles for used cat litter. What a revelation!

Plastic bags in treesPlastic bags take centuries to decompose in landfills, and as they do, they slowly release toxic chemicals into the soil.

In fact, they never completely degrade, but instead wind up as microplastics, bits of plastic that range in size from microscopic to less than five millimeters long (about the size of a grain of rice), cause a host of environmental problems and, ultimately, end up in the food chain. Microplastics have been found not only in seafood, but in sea salt, beer, bottled water, and tap water.

Worldwide, we use over one million plastic bags per minute—most for only a single, temporary use, like bringing home groceries, carrying out the trash, or holding frozen peas.

Mom might have rinsed out baggies because she was a cheapskate, but she was also doing her part, long before the creation of the EPA, and years before we first celebrated Earth Day, to help save the planet.

Plastic bags reduce-reuse-recycle-logo

My mom was a superhero

RWWight

Today, February 13th, would have been my mom’s 99th birthday.

I think my siblings and I were all a bit stunned by her death, almost 15 years ago, at the age of 84. While that may sound like a pretty average life expectancy, our mom was never what anyone would call average, and I think if you had asked any one of us, we’d all have said that we expected her to live well into her nineties. Or maybe forever.RWW_returning_from_honeymoon_1942

My mom, who was married for just 16 years before she became a widow for nearly 46, was the quintessential strong, independent, capable woman. Growing up in the 1920s and ’30s, and a young housewife in the 1940s and early ’50s, she may not have thought she was preparing herself to work full-time while singlehandedly running a household and raising five children, but when she was thrust into that situation, she took to it with both vigor and grace.

Family_1959Barely a week after my father’s sudden death in June of 1958, she loaded my four siblings into the family station wagon and drove to Maine to spend the summer, because that was what they had planned, what she had promised them, and anyway, as she once told me, “I couldn’t think of what else to do.”

On North Pond in Woodstock, she took on the role of general contractor, supervising the completion of the family camp they had been in the process of building over the previous three summers. (My brothers, ages 14, 12, and 11, and my sister, age eight, were the laborers.)

But wait, there’s more: as I wrote in an essay several years ago, “By mid-summer, my mother began to suspect something, and by summer’s end she knew: she was pregnant.”

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It is to my mom’s great credit that I never felt, even once, that she believed that her life would have been better/easier/less stressful if I hadn’t been born. Not when I brought home stray cats, and, sometimes, turtles, mice, frogs, and snakes. Not when I accidentally let 18 chestnuts go down the drain of the bathroom sink. Not when I slouched around sullenly, wearing overalls and letting my hair hang in my face, for about six years of my adolescence. Not even when I ruined her perfect record by becoming the only one of her five kids to drop out of college—twice.

Even before the circumstances of her life turned her into a superhero, my mom was unusual for a woman of her generation. She had graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class, and had completed a four-year degree from the University of Maine before she met my father in 1941. She had moved to Hartford, Connecticut on her own after college and worked for a year or so at the Aetna Life Insurance Company.

My arrival early in 1959 delayed her ability to go back to work, but once I was old enough to be in school, she landed Mither_school_librarya job as a school librarian and began taking graduate level courses in the evening. She worked her way up to a position as head of the library department for the 17 elementary schools in the small city of Milford, Connecticut, where she had moved the family after my father’s death.

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Around home, my mom did all the things most of my friends’ mothers did: she knit, sewed, quilted, gardened, Ruth_Wight_in_old_canoecanned, baked, and kept house. She also did most of the things my friends’ fathers did: she mowed the lawn, hung the storm windows, sealed the driveway, raked leaves, shoveled snow, and occasionally dabbled in plumbing, carpentry, and automotive repair.

She felt a strong commitment to the concept of community service. She was active in her church, volunteered for Welcome Wagon, March of Dimes, and the American Heart Association, and served on the boards of several nonprofits.

She continued to do all of these things throughout my life, and I grew so accustomed to having a mother who could do anything and everything that I’m afraid I never fully grasped what a wonder she really was, at least until after she was gone.

Mither & Alice in FranceUp until just a couple of years before she died, she was volunteering at the library, traveling (she turned 81 while on a tour of Australia and New Zealand), babysitting (over her more than 20 years of retirement in Bethel, she was known as Gramma Wight to dozens of local children, in addition to her own “real” grandchildren), and taking on projects nearly as ambitiously as she always had.

Now that I’m nearing 60, I have a far greater appreciation for the energy she had, especially when I choose to stay home instead of attending a meeting or community event, when I gripe about having to go to work, or when I sit down in the evening and tell myself I’m too tired to pick up my knitting.

It’s taken me a while to realize it, but my mom really was a superhero.

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Tidying Up

Tidying Up

TU junk drawer BEFORE

Okay, I confess. I’ve been completely captivated by the new Netflix original series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Ever since Netflix released eight episodes on January first, the show, and its diminutive dynamo of a host, who started a home organizing business in her native Japan more than a decade ago, have infiltrated the homes of untold numbers of American families pining for control of their clutter.TU Annie text

The release, of course, was perfectly timed to coincide with those New Year’s resolutions so many of us make about sorting, purging, and organizing our possessions.

This will be the year that we finally get the upper hand! No more closets bursting at the seams with clothes we haven’t worn in years; no more basements, garages, and attics filled with mystery boxes; no more digging through the junk drawer to find the flashlight, screwdriver, Scotch tape, or rubber band we know must be in there…somewhere.

In case you don’t already know this about me, I have never been a tidy person.

As a child, when told by my mother to clean up my messy room, I invariably shoved the offending clutter under the bed, where broken toys, dirty socks, and overdue library books went to die.

As an adult, I have often resorted to a similar strategy I call “hiding cleaning” when company is expected. This approach results in a passable level of tidiness in the public areas of my home, but leaves boxes, bags, and bins of random crap (RC for short) stashed in closets, bedrooms, and cupboards—sometimes for months, and occasionally for years.

Like most people I know, I have too much stuff. I hang onto far too many things that I think I might need someday, knowing full well that if the time should ever come when I do need that odd-sized bolt, slightly dented lampshade, or crumpled half-sheet of hot pink poster board, I won’t actually be able to locate it, and will end up going out and buying a new one anyway.

I bought Marie Kondo’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a few years ago, and got as far as purging and organizing my clothing, which is Step One of the five-step process through which she leads the families in each episode of the show.

To aid in every decision about what to keep and what to purge, Marie instructs her clients to assess whether or not an item “sparks joy.” I have to admit that I have not yet reached a level in this process that allows me to clutch an item of clothing to my chest and immediately recognize that joyful spark, or lack thereof.

In fact, if I based all of my purging decisions on my ability to feel what Marie believes I should experience, my wardrobe would probably consist solely of flannel pants and soft, well-worn t-shirts, my preferred outfit on stay-at-home days (my favorite days).

But this is Maine, and it’s cold, and most days I have to go to work, so I held onto articles of clothing that are practical, warm, and presentable. (I told myself that it sparks joy in my heart to leave the house without freezing, or being mistaken for a vagrant.)

After she helps her clients figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, Marie teaches them her magical, vertical folding-and-storage method, which results in perfectly organized drawers in which you can see every item of clothing.

It actually works. Even better, three or four years after reading the book and organizing my clothes, they were, for the most part, still pretty tidy.

I kept only enough clothing to fill one small closet, one dresser, and one bin for out-of-season clothes, which, I realized after watching the families on Marie’s TV show pile all of their clothing on a bed in preparation for starting the sorting process, is pretty darn good. Some of them made me look like a minimalist.

It’s the other four steps in what Marie calls “the Kon-Mari method” that have presented much more of a challenge for me.

After clothing, she proceeds to lead her clients through “tidying” their books, then papers, then “komono” (miscellany), then mementos.

When it comes to books, I’m never going to ace the Kon-Mari test.

There have been about a zillion articles, posts, and memes about how “Marie Kondo wants you to get rid of all your books,” alluding to the fact that she has said that she herself keeps fewer than 30 books in her home. However, after watching the eight episodes of her show, I have yet to hear her tell anyone not to keep as many books as they feel comfortable owning.

I’ve decided that I, personally, feel comfortable owning just slightly fewer books than I have space for on my bookshelves. And I’m a big DIY-er, so as long as I have lumber, tools, and a bit of wall space, I’m never going to run out of bookshelves. Problem solved.TU books

Papers: I’m not even going to go there, except to say that I’m working on it. I’ve realized that I’m never in this lifetime going to need to refer to an electric bill from 1998, and that, like those odd-sized bolts, dented lampshades, and crumpled half-sheets of hot pink poster board, I probably couldn’t find it if I wanted to anyway.

Which brings us to the final two categories, komono, which I believe is Japanese for “random crap” (it actually translates to “small things,” which is close enough) and mementos.

For me, there’s a lot of crossover between those two categories. Am I holding onto the Tupperware container with the cover that no longer seals because I believe I’ll use it one day, or because it was my mom’s? Do I keep my craft supplies because I believe that one day I’ll want to paint, stencil, quilt, or make soap, enough to actually do it, or because they remind me of a time in my life when those things seemed important?

TU pets textI started “Marie Kondo-ing” my kitchen a few weeks ago, and I’ve made some progress, especially when it comes to the junk drawer. (Everyone has one of those, right? It’s not just me?) I ended up needing three drawers to hold everything I kept from the one original junk drawer, but they’re all very nicely organized, and I have to admit that it’s really nice to be able to find things like scissors, tape, and pliers without plunging my hand into a mess of random objects, some of them dangerously sharp or inexplicably sticky.

Last weekend, I had a secret weapon in my quest to organize the tiny spare upstairs room that I hope will serve as a combination office, quiet reading space, guest room, and yoga studio: my best friend, Donna, came up to spend two days “Doing Projects” with me.

When it comes to home projects, Donna is everything I’m not: organized, naturally tidy, clear-sighted, and relentless.

By the end of the second day, I had banished two boxes of papers to recycling (“You’re never going to need those old electric bills!”), one large black plastic trash bag to the dump (“We’re using a black one so you can’t see what’s in it and change your mind!”), and three boxes to our favorite thrift store (“You can always go to a thrift store and buy another one for two bucks!”).

Donna put knobs on a dresser that has been missing them for ten years or more, organized my wrapping paper and supplies, and made me go through every single knitting needle I own and justify its existence.

She sorted office supplies into tiny boxes that would make Marie Kondo proud and created storage solutions for everything from yarn to blankets. She even convinced me to get rid of that crumpled half-sheet of hot pink poster board.

I only pulled it out of the recycling bin twice before I let it go.

TU tool drawer      TU writing supplies    TU junk drawer

 

Let me tell you ’bout my best friend

If you don’t recognize the song lyric in the title of this post, chances are you’re not as old as me. (It’s by Harry Nilsson, and it’s from the theme song of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” which aired from 1969-1972.)

My best friend, Donna, turned 60 a couple of months ago, and I’m not far behind her. Coming to the end of one decade and embarking on another always leads me to reminisce and reflect. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our long friendship, and how it has endured against some pretty steep odds.

We’ve been best friends for over 53 years—nearly 90 percent of our lives. In fact, I can barely remember anything about my life before we met, on the second day of second grade. (I told our “origin story” in a blog post a few years ago, when we celebrated half a century of friendship; you can read it here.) IMG_2709

Although we grew up on the same street in Milford, Connecticut in the 1960s, in many ways, our family backgrounds were very different.

Donna and her younger brother were raised by two parents who had lived in Milford all their lives, and who still live in the suburban ranch on Marshall Street they moved into in 1965. I was raised by a widowed mother whose family had lived in Maine for generations and who regarded her time in Connecticut as a period of exile to be gotten through before she could retire back to her home state.

Donna’s mom was 25 when she was born, and she stayed at home to raise her two kids. My mom was 39 when she had me and had already raised my four much-older siblings; of necessity, she went to work outside the home by the time I was three or four.

Donna’s father was Italian and her mother was Irish, and they were Roman Catholics; she went to mysterious church-related things called mass, confession, and catechism. I was especially puzzled—and made envious—by the concept that if her family had something else they wanted to do on Sunday morning—even just sleep late—they could get mass out of the way on Saturday afternoon.

Although we lacked the wealth and social connections implied by the acronym, my family was pretty WASP-ish, and we went to the big white Congregational church downtown, every Sunday morning without fail.

Donna’s mom worried a lot about whether we were safe when we were out of her sight; my mom figured that her other kids had survived childhood and, more than likely, I would, too.

After high school, Donna would become the first in her family to attend college, a prospect so terrifying to her mother that she bribed her with a car to stay at home and attend a nearby Catholic university for the first two years.

IMG_2704Both of my parents, and even at least one of my grandparents, were college graduates; I was raised without any question of whether or not I would be, too—and my mother gave me a suitcase for my high school graduation, just three months after I turned 17, to reinforce the idea that it was high time for me to leave the nest.

Not only were our backgrounds different, but the paths we chose through life—or those that chose us—seem, on the surface, quite dissimilar.

Donna finished college in the customary four years; it took me 31. (I got distracted by other things along the way.)

I’ve been married twice. Donna has never been married, although she has a long-time partner, Jerry, who has been in her life almost as many years as Tony has been in mine.

I’ve owned a home since I was 20 years old and have always dealt with yard work, peeling paint, leaky roofs, and remodeling projects. Donna has rented for 40 years (something that makes more and more sense to me the older I get).

Despite this, she has been the responsible one, always holding a full-time job with good benefits, while I’ve indulged my irresponsible inner free spirit with a series of dozens of jobs over the decades, many of them part-time, most without benefits.

I have a blended family that includes four kids (most with some degree of free-spiritedness themselves). She has one stepson (and he’s ultra-responsible, too).

Given our differing backgrounds and the different life decisions we’ve made, perhaps it’s a bit surprising that we forged such an early, enduring, and fulfilling friendship. However, the qualities that make us soulmates transcend the details of our family backgrounds, where we live, or how many kids we have.

We are both introverts who can happily spend all day alone, or with just each other, but are easily exhausted when we’re forced to go “among the people.”

We both love cats. She has two; I have three. She knows that two is a sensible number of cats. I confess that if it weren’t for Tony’s objections, I might well have six. Maybe more.

We love our homes. We love them so much that we grieve when we have to leave them for work. We text each other, “It would be a perfect day to stay home and do projects,” and “I’m feeling sad because when I leave the house today it will be ten hours before I can come home,” and “I wish I could just stay home with the cats today.”

We both love a good project, from the planning to the execution to the sense of satisfaction when we’re done.

And we both love camp. We never feel more like ourselves than when we’re there, whether we’re swimming, kayaking, relaxing on the deck, reading byIMG_2711 the woodstove, or doing a project.

We both love email and texting but hate talking on the phone. Although we probably logged several thousand hours talking to each other by phone in the first 30 years or so of our friendship, if either of us gets an actual phone call from the other nowadays, we can be pretty sure it’s either a major crisis or a pocket-dial.

But the most valuable aspect of our friendship, and the reason it has not only endured, but flourished, is the sense of comfort and security that comes from being truly seen, known, and understood by another person—and being loved anyway.

How many of our conversations include the words, “I wouldn’t tell this to anyone else, but…”?

To whom else could we reveal not only our soaring hopes and our greatest fears, but also our most embarrassing moments, our meanest thoughts, our most unflattering pettiness?

As two women who are nearly always viewed by others as unfailingly calm and polite, whose stock-in-trade is our willingness to be helpful and kind, we find great relief, now and then, in giving our better angels a rest.

My daughter uses the hashtag “#textsfromyourthirties” on Instagram to (over)share conversations with her sister and friends. (It’s pretty funny; you should check it out.) If Donna and I created “#textsfromyoursixties” it would be full of posts like this:

IMG_2755“Everyone thinks I’m so nice, but really I just want to hit them.” IMG_2749

“Why does everyone always want to talk to me?”

“If people knew how mean we are, they wouldn’t like us nearly as much. And that might be a relief.”

IMG_2748“I want to scream, ‘I just want to go home!’ but that would be inappropriate.”

Although he may not be famous for his pithy texts, Ralph Waldo Emerson is known for his nuggets of wisdom, and he hit the nail on the head when he said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.”

Or text, with impunity.

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Some good news for local columns!

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How Roman spends a snow day.

I’m happy to report that, after receiving what must have been some pretty convincing feedback from readers (thanks to everyone who took the time to weigh in), the “powers that be” at the Bethel Citizen have rescinded their rather draconian cuts to the length and content of the local correspondents’ columns. Beginning next week, we will be allowed up to 500 words, and will be permitted to report not only on events in our towns, but also “any personal news we’d like to share.”

This means it probably won’t be necessary for me to use this space to offer an expanded version of my weekly newspaper column, but since my blog has gained some new and appreciative readers over the past couple of weeks, I’m going to try to post here as often as I can. So please keep coming back, and, if you’d like, you can receive an email letting you know when I post a new entry—just click on the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” link to the right of this post and enter your email address. Thanks for reading!

The Greenwood Farmers’ Market will be held this Friday, Jan. 11, from 4-6 p.m. at the Town Hall on Main Street, after which it will switch to the winter schedule of every other Friday afternoon. The next few market dates after the switch will be Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and 22, and March 8 and 22.

Winter market dates will coincide with the Boondocks Buying Club pickup. Boondocks provides another opportunity for people to buy fresh, local food by joining with others to buy in bulk, and has been going strong for several years. The bulk order, which is received every two weeks, is divided up by volunteers for members to pick up at the Town Hall. If you haven’t heard about Boondocks, you may want to come to the market to find out more, visit their Facebook page, or speak to a member about how to join.

I had hoped to bake cookies and whoopie pies for last Friday’s market, but I got home from work on Thursday to find that my oven had died. Well, technically, there was probably nothing wrong with the oven itself, but the computerized control panel had given up the ghost.

I’d known for some time that it was on its way out, because several times in the past few months I’d had to unplug the range to get the control panel to reset itself and start working again. But this time it was completely done for, and no amount of unplugging, replugging, and button-pushing would get it to respond. (Not even bad words helped.)

Having been told that once the control panel goes on an electric range, it’s not worth replacing, I had to prevail upon Tony to make a trip to Auburn with me on Friday afternoon to pick up a new one. (There are probably people who can get along just fine without an oven for a while, but I’m not one of them.)

This time, I went with a stripped-down model, the only one I could find without digital controls. Without a computer to break down, there isn’t much that can go wrong with an electric range that can’t be cured by replacing an element. My new one is so basic that it doesn’t even have a clock or timer, so I had to pick up a battery-operated one, but I’m hoping its simplicity will mean it will last a good long time.

Remember the days when even small kitchen appliances were worth taking in for repair? I think my mother had the same toaster for about 30 years, and I recall going with her at least once to drop it off to be repaired when something went wrong with it. And I’m pretty sure the stove she used at camp for 40 years, from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s, was one she and my father had acquired for their first home when they were married in 1942.

Nowadays it seems as if I replace my toaster almost as often as I replace my toothbrush, and I shop for major appliances more often than my mother shopped for a new toaster or mixer. With all of those appliances, large and small, ending up in landfills, no wonder the disposal of our solid waste is one of our biggest environmental challenges.

But, anyway, I’m back in the baking business, and, whether or not I’m able to be at the Farmers’ Market in person in the coming weeks, I’ll have frozen pies, and probably other baked goods, too, in the Town Hall freezer, available for purchase from Michelle Shutty of Greenwood Bean Coffee or Suzanne Dunham of Dunham Farm and Velvet Hollow Sugarworks.

Three hikes to celebrate the new year

Since I now work all day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays—mornings in the office at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society, and afternoons in the Adult Education Learning Center at Telstar—it was a few days into 2019 before I was able to fit in my first hike of the new year, but then I managed to take a different short hike three days in a row.

On Saturday, Will, Eli, and I hiked up to Lapham Ledge. There were three other cars in the parking lot on Route 26, and the last time we had hiked at Maggie’s Nature Park, there were two other cars there. It’s great to see people using our local trails year-round! I’m glad that Greenwood has formed a Conservation Commission to help ensure that trails are maintained, as well as to oversee cleanup along the roads and at the Town Beach. Thanks to Betsey Foster for getting the ball rolling, and for being one of the Commission’s first members, along with Norman Milliard and Mark Plourde. (And thanks to Woodstock Conservation Commission member Jane Chandler for setting such a good example.)

Sunday was a Community Ski Day at Sunday River, and Will decided to go snowboarding, so Eli and I went for a hike up to Buck’s Ledge. I parked my car on Rocky Road and we walked to the trailhead on the Mann Road to take the shorter, steeper ascent, then we hiked down to the snowmobile trail that leads back to the Mann Road, and from there back to the car. We met a guy at the top who had hiked up from the parking lot near the spring, packing a collapsible camp chair with him. He was sitting there enjoying the view and, I’m sure, the peace and solitude—at least until Eli showed up and I had to caution him to hold on tightly to his gloves, hat, and anything else a rather undisciplined young dog might run off with.

On Monday, while Will was working his weekly shift at the library at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Eli and I hiked up Peaked Mountain in Maggie’s Nature Park. We extended the usual two-mile round trip by about an extra three-quarters of a mile by taking the blue trail loop before joining the yellow trail that leads to the top.

Peaked map

Trails in Maggie’s Nature Park.

I was able to do all three of my first hikes of 2019 with Microspikes, but after our Tuesday/Wednesday storm(s), it looks like snowshoes will be the way to go for a while, at least until the trails have been well broken out.

I’m glad to have some fresh snow, at least now that we’ve gotten it cleared out of the driveway and walkways, but I think there’s probably some roof-shoveling in my future. One of the joys of home ownership—I’ve never needed a gym membership!

Please send me your local news via email at amy.w.chapman@gmail.com, by phone at 207-890-4812, or find me on Facebook or in person around town. Thanks for reading!

Hiking meme

 

Happy New Year! (Now go take a hike!)

 

Welcome to readers of my Locke’s Mills column in the Bethel Citizen. As promised, here’s an expanded version of this week’s column.

Amy on Peaked 12_25_18Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe it’s already 2019. It really doesn’t seem very long ago that it was the last day of the 20th century, and we were all worrying about the effects of “Y2K” on our computer systems.

I spent some time going through my “Hikes 2018” photo album on Facebook, and it looks like I managed to “take a hike” at least 105 times last year. There may have been a few short hikes that didn’t make it into the album, but I usually try to take at least one photo on every hike so I’ll have a record of where I went and when.

I was surprised to find that the month with the most hikes—14—was the shortest month, February. I remember that after some early winter snowstorms, there was a brief January thaw followed by a long stretch of cold temperatures and something of a snow drought, which made it easy to go just about anywhere with Microspikes. By March, it was back to snowshoes, and there was snow on some of the local trails through mid-April. According to a video I saved on my phone, Eli even found a patch of snow to slide on at Mt. Abram on May 8.

My longest hikes of 2018 were only about seven or eight miles—Sunday River Whitecap, Caribou, and the full Sanborn River/Overset Pond trail network. Most of my hikes ranged between two and five miles, and I stuck mostly to very local, familiar trails, especially when I was hiking solo. I hiked in Maggie’s Nature Park at least 28 times, and to Buck’s and/or Lapham Ledges at least 25 times.

Tony hiked with me 19 times, Will came along 35 times, and Eli the Wonder Pup accompanied me on at least 81 hikes in 2018. I also hiked with other family or friends ten times. More than half of my hikes, 56, were either solo, or done with only canine companionship. I enjoy hiking with someone and hiking alone (or with just Eli) about equally, so it was a good mix of both throughout the year.

For 2019, I’d like to challenge myself to hike a few longer distances. And maybe I’ll challenge Tony to come along with me a little more often.

Eli on Peaked 12_25_18I have yet to hike in 2019, but I did do three nice hikes in the last week of 2018. Will, Eli, and I hiked up Peaked Mountain in Greenwood’s own Maggie’s Nature Park on Christmas afternoon, and again on December 30. On Saturday, December 29, I enjoyed a beautiful hike up Peabody Mountain in Albany with my niece Sara and my Peabody hike 12_29_18nephew Keith and his wife, Cindi. The temperature was about 40 degrees when we started out, but by the time we reached the summit, it had dropped by nearly ten degrees and the wind had come up. We had brought along a few extra articles of clothing, and even though we didn’t actually need them, it was a good reminder that it’s best to be prepared for quick changes in the weather when hiking in northern New England in the winter.

Peabody hike

Peabody hike crew

The first Greenwood Board of Selectmen’s meeting of 2019 will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Town Office. This is due to New Year’s Day falling on Tuesday this year. The normal schedule for selectmen’s meetings is the first and third Tuesday of the month. All Board of Selectmen’s meetings (with the exception of executive sessions), as well as those of the Planning Board and any town committees, are open to the public.

The Greenwood Farmers’ Market will be held on the next two Fridays, Jan. 4 and 11, then will switch to every other Friday for the winter. The next few market dates after the switch will be Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and 22, and March 8 and 22. Since I started my new part-time job at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society this week, I will no longer be at the market “in person” on a regular basis, although I hope to be there occasionally. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the Town Hall freezer stocked with frozen pies and cookies, which can be purchased from either Suzanne Dunham (Dunham Farm/Velvet Hollow Sugarworks) or Michelle Shutty (Greenwood Bean Coffee).Baked goods

It looks like last Friday’s storm, which started as snow and ended as rain and freezing rain, put an end to what was, from all reports, a fantastic early-winter ice-skating season on the local ponds. Now it’s on to ice-fishing, and there are already a couple of shacks out on North Pond. Someone has also been tending to a lot of traps on the small pond between Route 26 and the railroad tracks, which, although it looks like a separate pond, is considered a part of Round Pond, one of the three connected Alder River Ponds. I wonder what kind of fish they catch there, and whether the fish in that part of the pond spend their whole lives there, or have access to the other parts of the ponds via culverts or streams. Who knows the answer to that? Anyone?

Please send me your local news via email at amy.w.chapman@gmail.com, by phone at 207-890-4812, or find me on Facebook or in person around town. Thanks for reading!

Amy on Peaked 12_25_18