Monday, January 3, 2011

The Gift


Chris and Mirriam moved onto her grandmother’s farm in New Hampshire not far from the White Mountains where her great-grandfather hid out as the First World War broke out. He was a pacifist resisting conscription into the American army. As an immigrant from Austria, he resisted a forced return to spill blood on the soil he remembered as home (so dearly). He bought a large farm with family money he inherited prior to landing on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada. He and others made their way down to New Hampshire to work as a tree climbers and fellers for hire as lumber went for the war effort.

As a young child, he fearlessly climbed every tree he saw in the small village outside of Graz scaling to cloud entangling tree limbs. In New Hampshire, he steadily scaled and trimmed trees on the estates of the wealthy industrialists.

An elderly shipping magnate moved onto his summer estate escaping the Boston high society culture he found repellent. The interest in trees and arbor studies linked these two men together as spring is to summer. The elderly man told Merriam’s great-grandfather that he had an overgrown farm nearby that he no longer wanted and suggested he take it off his hands if he would care for it properly. “Of course,” was the answer; as it had been said.

The gift was 300 acres of old growth timber, scrub trees that over powered the farm fields, a largely solid two-storied 1880s fieldstone barn filled with rusting farm implements of the time, and a semi-burned down farmhouse.

Merriam’s mother, who inherited the land after her mother’s death, had not returned, nor anyone else, for10 years. The old fieldstone barn had been converted into a giant home by her great-grandfather, who became a skilled stonemason during his lifetime.

The old man cultivated and planted hundreds of seedlings, formed into orchestrated woodlands of pines, spruces, larches, oaks, maples, and trees from seeds gathered from other forests visited now nearing 100 years old. Inside some of the treed landscapes were stone benches, planters, organic sculptures, and walls as tall as 10 feet high laid in circular, curved, or just straight formations not seen unless one were to hike into that living wooded montage.

The young couple mesmerized by the wildness of the land with its densely canopied tree topped home filled with generational animal life roaming and flying felt the stronger heartbeat to the land. They unwrapped and uncovered great-grandfather’s handmade stone treasures, nestled within overgrown shrubs and tall trunks of trees; and, while doing so the stonemason’s medieval hideaway tower with its arched open windows, and iron railings, along with a wide flowing creek running around it and a stone moss covered bridge crossing it was revealed.

All paths were undetectable and overgrown mystifying their explorations. The two crossed the bridge, and found the entrance opening with a log staircase leading to the open circular room surrounded by its guardian woodland offering a view of the landscape from almost 20 feet above the loamy earth. The distant rolling landscape was visible from one arched lookout, or the dense forest from another. Each framed window offering views of a vibrant and pulsating natural world as its moist breath evolved and changed this enchanting place over decades.

More steps led to the rooftop parapet not unlike a castle’s turret. Carved into the wall surrounding the entire circumference read, “To my flesh and blood, finally arriving, to live, pray, and gaze in awe, I give you this place of peace-1926.”  It was here that their life found new love. (599 words)

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