It just goes on.
Left Massachusetts in the morning, driving a bit on US 20, which I had also done on my way into Palmer the day before, heading down to West Milford, NJ for my next reading. This time I drove the interstates for the most part, wanting to make time. Huge back-up on I-84 in CT because of road construction. I even exited the expressway and took alternate roads for a number of miles.
While driving I-84 I passed an exit for Newtown and Sandy Hook. Could not help but have the school tragedy pass through my mind.
I was heading to northern NJ which led me back into New York for awhile. Crossing the Hudson River, Hudson Highlands, Catskill Mountains in view.
On the way to West Milford I needed to pull over for a telephone interview with WAMD, a radio station in Maryland. Had a great ½ hour or so conversation with Cindy and Bob. They recorded it to be broadcast later. The station live streams but I'm not sure when it is being broadcast. My reading in Havre De Grace is next Tuesday evening, 7 PM.
West Milford, a town in the NJ highlands. Forested, hilly. My kind of terrain. I drove to the farmer's market where I was to meet Dave, who I connected with a couple of weeks ago by phone to set up this reading. I found him through Sustainable West Milford, a non-profit organization I discovered on the web when looking for a place to read. We had two wonderful conversations on the phone that flowed and flowed and I was really looking forward to meeting him. Well, in person it flowed and flowed. He and his wife, Wendy, are fascinating people who are easy to be with and who are doing good work in the West Milford Community and beyond. Here's a link to the organization:
A nice variety of products available at the market. All of the items available are grown or produced within 75 miles of New Milford. Again, nice to see the emphasis on local economy.
The reading in the evening was memorable. We held it in the Grist Mill building at Anne's farm, Apple Acres. The building was erected in 1809 and has been in Anne's family the whole time, six generations. 10 of us gathered around a couple of tables, doors open to the outside, strings of small lights hung above and Anne brought in a small candelabra to place in front of me as the daylight faded. We had flowing conversation, sipping wine, sharing stories and me reading and reciting poems. A bat joined us for a brief bit of time and tree frogs and crickets called from outside as the full moon rose over the woods to the east.
(Photo by Pauline.)
The conversation afterwards continued to flow as five of us lingered in this over 200-year-old building well into the late evening. Anne brought over some sake cups from the house and we all sipped as we talked and talked and talked. How many conversations have taken place in this building over these past two centuries? Our voices added to the patina of time that has seeped into these old boards.
As we walked out of the old building we paused often to gaze up at the full moon beaming down over the red pines that were planted by the CCC decades ago. The evening could not have been scripted any better. I hesitate to say magical, but surely it was a special evening that will long linger in my memory.
(Photo by Pauline.)
After the reading with Anne, the owner of Apple Acres.
After late night talk at Dave and Wendy's place, along with Brigid, another friend of theirs who is visiting, I spent the next morning working on publishing and other computer/connecting work. A heavy thunderstorm altered some of our plans for the morning.
But around noon Dave and I took off for a 4 mile hike from their house into the highlands. We literally walked through his backyard into the woods and on the first trail. Destination was Grand View via a few different trails, including the Appalachian Trail.
The air had gotten humid, so the uphill sections were a chore. But what a beautiful hike through rocky forest of mountain laurel, rhododendron, sassafras, oak, jack pine. We walked, talked and at times grew silent as we moved through this terrain that was so different than Wheeler Hill. occasionally, when we were hiking on ridges and slabs of rock, it reminded me of Acadia. But only the rockiness, not the vegetative growth. Dave told me that much of the rock here is Puddingstone
, a sandstone/quartz conglomerate.
After the hike, we talked a bit more at the house then I departed to visit Apple Acres for photos and a short visit with Anne. Once more, I feel this visit with Dave and Wendy is not the only time I'll see them.
Wandering around Apple Acres was a treat. This over two centuries old farm has been in the same family this whole time. It was a real treat to be able to wander around taking photos and just being there, imagining all that had gone on over that time.
As I left Anne's, she gave me a couple of heirloom tomatoes to take along and a small sake cup which came from Japan. We both agreed that the poetry reading the evening before in the mill building was very special. I hope this was only the first of other such events she hosts there. I too hope to be able to return for an encore reading.
Part of the Appalachian Trail.
Young Sassafras. This has always been a special tree for me. I don't often see them back home.
They are marginal there at best.
Dave, along one of the ponds we came upon on the hike.
View of the southern portion of Greenwood Lake.
Below are photos from Apple Acres. I went back for pics and a quick visit with Anne before leaving the area.
The farm has been in the family since 1804. A treasure of a place.
A day of contrasts.
Left NJ late morning after getting a bit of computer work done. Also replaced a headlight bulb that had stopped working. My online maps showed about a 2½ hour drive from where I was to Newark, Delaware, where I had a 3 PM reading at an assisted living place. So, I left about 11 AM thinking I had an hour and a half to spare time-wise. This would allow a little time seeing what the Newark area looked like before I gave the reading.
Well, this didn't take into account I was driving through part of the east coast megalopolis
. I stayed off the interstates for the most part but that led to two tie-up delays because of road work. In one town they were trimming trees and the road had only one lane passable. This wait-creep-wait-creep scenario took about 20 minutes. Then another road work area added 15 or so minutes to the drive. Plus, there was an amazing amount of traffic everywhere and the driving time, even without slow down situations, seemed to be taking much longer than what the maps said. At about 2:20 or so I realized I'd be arriving late so I called my contact at the place I was reading to let her know that. No problem. Right after that call I seemed to be making good time. I estimated I'd arrive maybe 15 minutes late. Everything was going smoothly along when I entered onto I-95 about 13 miles from my destination. I had about a nine mile stretch on the interstate. I was cruising along at 65 mph making good time, holding to that 15 minute late scenario. That's when the worst of the travel day began. Red brake lights flashed ahead and the six lane highway shifted from a flowing mass of vehicles to a creeping, stop and go gathering of frustration. This continued for about 40 minutes. The six lanes were being squeezed into three because of construction. So, I arrived at Emeritus at White Chapel about 50 minutes late, still wound up in the turmoil of the drive and concern about the lateness.
Someone greeted me at the door and walked me into the room where the reading was being held. The 25 or so people there burst out in applause as I entered. June, the activities person who was my contact, was up front entertaining them. She joked around with me, and I mentioned that she would be a hard act to follow. Two people from Newark, Larry and Diane, who I met at the first reading of the tour, in Southwest Harbor, ME, also attended. After a few minutes I left all of the anxiety of the traveling fiasco behind and settled into being there. The audience was wonderful. Very attentive, very receptive, very appreciative. Again, as in Woonsocket, a few people mentioned that this was their first poetry reading experience and that they enjoyed it very much.
After the reading I followed Larry and Diane back to their house. At the Southwest Harbor reading they offered to put me up while I was in Newark. So now, 10 days later, that is what's happening.
A very pleasant evening of dinner and conversation. A lot of commonalities of life too. Larry is a poet and he grew up in northern PA, just below Steuben County, NY. So, he knows my home area a bit. He also lived in Rochester for years, was a student at SUNY Brockport, received his Masters there and spoke of poets we both know.
Diane, who is also retired, has again taken up painting, which she used to do many years ago. Watercolors. Now she's exploring pastels, oils, etc. and expanding her knowledge of the medium. She also showed me paintings her grandfather and aunt had done, as well as her own work. And there was a connection between her aunt and the Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden
in Southwest Harbor, a peaceful place on Mount Desert Island that we usually stop to visit at least once while at Acadia.
So, the hecticness and craziness of the first half of the day evolved into a peaceful and pleasant latter half of the day. We sat outside on the screened patio with appetizers and wine, followed by grilled salmon and vegetables, then topped off with homemade ice cream and blueberry pie. Birds flitted around the garden and yard, cicadas sang, crickets chirped and Venus appeared low in the western sky as our conversation flowed and we eventually got to a point where it was time to turn in, time to get a good night's rest.