Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Feels like the New Hampshire of Old
We've had two snowstorms, back to back, leaving us with a good ten inches of our favorite fluffy snow.  No ice or rain this time!  It feels like the New Hampshire we knew in the late 1960's and 70's.  Greenfield.  Peterborough.  Belmont.  Pittsfield.  New Hampton.

Thigh-deep snow was common then.  We cross-country skied at Dartmouth and along the logging roads from Cat and Skip's in Sanbornton.  We stayed at the Franconia Inn and skied from the back door through groomed trails under the shadow of the White Mountains.

Our first winter on Blake Hill, we skied down the road during the blizzard that closed the hill and most of the schools and businesses in New England.  We snowshoed the Greeley Ponds off the Kancamangus and ended up at a contra dance in Tamworth with Dudley and crew.  Blazing fiddles and the concertina lit up the dark and kept us warm long into the night.

I was drawn back into these memories on Saturday during the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  Our territory covered neighborhood feeders, small ponds, the fish hatchery, and a network of country roads crisscrossing the hills.  Here we found old settlements and familiar names from New Hampshire history.

New Chester Road.  Knox Mountain Road.  Up Burleigh Mountain and Calef Hill.  Hale Road to Brook Road and over Bennetts Ferry.  These were once thoroughfares for coaches and horses.  Grand old farmhouses endure behind stone walls and ancient trees.

The roads we followed led us deeper into a time long gone.  We counted birds -- cardinals and chickadees, blue jays and nuthatch, mallards and black ducks, hairy and downy woodpeckers, starlings, crows, and hawks.  A white-tailed deer watched us from his place by a stone wall.

We witnessed the way nature is when a sharp-shinned hawk took down an exhausted black duck.  It was shocking but also quick and silent.   And, the hawk had food for another day.

At the same time we were counting birds, twenty cars were piling up on both sides of the interstate near our town exit.  Five people were hurt.  Many of the cars were totally wrecked.  One witness said no one slowed down even after it was apparent the road conditions were deadly.

What a contrast!  Old dirt roads and new highways.  Slow and fast.  Attention. Inattention.  Choices and consequences.  I wonder if it's the way nature is when people feel entitled to speed, or think themselves beyond the reach of events, like unexpected snowstorms and poor driving conditions.

It snowed into the evening. We made our way home over the back roads, our thoughts full of the sights, the places, the birds of the day.  We spoke of the memories stirred, of old friends, old times and old ways.
~Happy New Year~