Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chapter Fifteen: THE PROMISE

Here we are, safely returned over those hills from a journey far more beautiful than anything we had hoped for-how is it this safe return brings such regret?

The explorers filed into the house carrying their damp clean clothes, a bandana brimming with blackberries, and blue shell fossils to bring home with them.  The conversation about their hike was full of excitement, but after they ate, they would be ready to leave Payne Hollow.  As if everyone realized this at the same time, the room grew quiet.

"I planned on waiting till after breakfast to give you these things, but maybe this is the best time." Anna said, presenting three small small parcels.  "I wrapped them carefully and who they are for, but you will still need to be careful; two are breakable.  Open them when you get home."

Harlan produced bundle of his sketches of the horses at the river.  "We wouldn't want you to forget your visit here."

The girls were made nearly speechless by their kindnesses.  Kellie grew serious, "You have been so good to us, is there anything we can do for you?"

"Ah Kellie, have you forgotten?  What we need is at hand."  Harlan smiled.

"There must be something?"  Hannah thought grandma might have some idea what to send from home.

"Truly, we are not in need," Anna said serenely.  "Someday you may help someone who is lost. Then you will come to understand that there are different ways this can happen.  Lost is not always a matter of location.  We've experienced how it can be to receive kindness from strangers on our journeys, and yes, even in our own home.  It amazes us when people we have never met come looking for us here.  They're not lost is a physical way, like you were, still they appear to be lost just the same.  We hope they'll find something of what they're looking for in Payne Hollow; some measure of peace.  Do you see? 

We are content, except today...well, I heard your laughter when you were all in the garden this morning.  I think we will be a bit lonely when you leave.  But we'll soon be back to our routine, and Emily has our address and has promised that at least one of you will write.  Maybe you can take turns?"

It seemed then that there was nothing more anyone wanted to say.  With breakfast finished, Harlan and Anna insisted they clean up so that the girls could get ready to meet their parents. With the horses saddled they said their good-bye at the house.

"Girls, smile!" laughed Anna.   "You can come back anytime."

"Good-bye!  Thank you for everything." the girls turned to wave several times.

As they climbed the hill, Harlan had to hold Ranger back from running with them.  The girls waved one last time.  Would they see Anna and Harlan again?

They just made it to the main trail after turning away from the narrow path when they heard the first rumble of thunder.  There was a heavy and isolated thunder shower moving beyond them on the other side of the river.  It wouldn't pass over them, but it was close.  It was a strange sensation to climb the steep hill with the sun in their faces and the dark clouds not far behind them. 

It was exhilarating to reach the crest of the hill, but looking back, the forest was so dense that they could see no sign of Payne Hollow.  They were already in another world, and that made last night seem almost unreal.  The feeling was a bit troubling.

Then a brilliant rainbow displayed its colors, and the end of it dipped there, in Payne Hollow!  Emily was stunned with the memory of a promise.

"When we get is time to tell you all about my dream." 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chapter Fourteen: FRIENDS

'Knowledge is love and light and vision.'
-Helen Keller

Emily hurried to the house, but Anna was nowhere in sight.

"Anna...Anna?"  She stepped out the kitchen door calling again.

Anna poked her head out of the workshop.  "I'm here, dear."

Anna was grinding barley and wheat for pancake flour, and Emily wanted to try it.  She soon found this was a job that took muscle, and her arm was tired before they had enough.

"It won't take long to finish breakfast.  I have to fry the fish and make pancakes, and I can do that at the same time.  Would you like to set the table?"  

"Sure.  I'll be very careful of your beautiful dishes."  It wasn't a big job because everything was already stacked on the table.  "They went to see an old root cellar or something."

"Oh, you should have gone along.  It's interesting.  I could have waited for the tomatoes."

"I wanted to come back and help you.  I like to cook.  Mom likes to say I made more mud pies than all the other kids in the family put together.  I put all kinds of things in them too; flower petals and things like that."

"M-m-m, yummy!"  Anna laughed.

"Now I'm the toasted cheese sandwich expert at home."

"So you enjoy that Emily?"

"Yes, except sometimes I know I am just putting off my homework.  I really don't care all that much for school.  Hannah and Kellie read all the time.  Me, I'd rather be making cookies or outside with the horses."

"Well, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you get your studies done.  You know what I would do?  I'd find some good books about cooking, or things you enjoy the most.
Then read a few pages before bed each night.  You may have to push yourself at first, but once you get a routine going, I think you'll find reading more enjoyable. And, your homework should go easier.  It's discouraging if you put things off though.  Don't you think so?"

"But can you actually 'read' cookbooks?"  Emily looked doubtful.

"Certainly.  Many include stories or experiences about local culture or gardening; things like that. Some cookbooks present detailed information about nutrition, that interests me. Often I'm amazed by the photography or illustration used.  I've come across recipes where the technique and romance behind them are described in such a way that a plain recipe becomes a superb one.  Think about it," Anna said, "doesn't The Bride's Cookbook sound a bit romantic?"

Emily smiled shyly.  "I never thought about it.  Would you like me to slice the tomatoes?"

"Just be careful, the knife is sharp.  Keep your fingertips curved under like this."

Emily knew it was a simple idea.  But why not concentrate on the things she was interested in to help her do more reading?  It could be fun.  Finally she said, "Did your mother teach you how to cook?"

"No, my mother wasn't fond of cooking, so I've had to rely on some good cookbooks myself.  She was a wonderful needle woman though, and she handed that skill down to me. I don't know how we would manage her without an electric sewing machine if I weren't handy with a needle.  I do a lot of my mending, darning or knitting while Harlan reads out loud for us."

"I can tell you a story about sewing."

"Tell me."

"Well, I made a blouse for a rubber baby doll when I was three."

"Really?  Three?"

"Yes, three, " Emily declared.  "It's my first memory because my mother was so proud of me.  I was given scraps of material to play with, so I looked in my mothers sewing box for a needle and found one with some thread on.  Then I attached a button.  I'm sure I sewed it on wrong, but it held.  I remember struggling with play scissors to cut holes for the button and dolls arms.  But in the end, it fit my doll!"

"Emily, that's wonderful.  That's a gift you know.  Why I know lots of educated people who can barely sew on a button.  But don't limit yourself with your reading dear.  I am sure you can improve with that too."

Their eyes met and Emily believed her.

"Should I ring the bell to call them?"

"Please do.  We mustn't overcook this fish."

(Blueish limestone fossil found at Milton, Kentucky)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chapter Thirteen: HIDDEN IN THE HOLLOW

But what of the land?  It seems that the earth may be borrowed but not bought.  It may be used, but not owned.  It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting.  But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters.
-Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 

Hannah swung open the screen door, "Good morning...Have you seen the horses already?"

Harlan nodded.  "I gave them a little straw, but they're looking for more to eat."

"Do you have some rope or bailing twine we could use to rig up a temporary fence to let them out on more grass?"

"And Anna asked if I could see if there are any ripe tomatoes," said Emily.

Harlan had been so deep in thought this morning that he was a bit overwhelmed by the the enthusiasm and energy he faced, but he smiled broadly.  There was a bundle of rope and twine in the goat shed, and he would show them the best area to enlarge the yard.  The girls got busy making trips to the spring to fill the trough even though the rivers edge was a matter of yards away.  It became a game as they laughed wrapping twine around some large trees several feet about the ground.  Of course the horses could get out easily if they tried, but they were too co-opperative and content with the new grazing.

"Hey, Hannah, think we should tie Emily to one of those trees while we're at it?"

Emily, playing can't catch me, ran off and discovered a small private place on a ledge tucked in between the river and the house.  It was Anna's herb and flower garden alive and buzzing with bees.  Emily wanted to grow hollyhocks too.  They made her think of people standing around together.  A humming bird zoomed past her to sip at the tall blue salvias. Anna mentioned that they often read on the terrace in good weather.  Emily wondered if they could see this peaceful garden from there?  It seemed hidden.  Wouldn't it be fun to find a hidden spot somewhere for her own secret garden?  Emily sighed, then she remembered the tomatoes!

The others were already in the vegetable patch situated on a small sun-filled plateau.  Last night it was too dark to notice all this on the way to swim.  Here was corn, squash, green beans and then she spotted some red on the tomato plants.

Canning has already started for us," Harlan was bending among the plants.  "Have you ever eaten a tomato right from the vine?  I mean, while they are hot from the sun?"

"I've never had one hot," Kellie said, not much interested in the idea.

"Really?  Hannah's blue eyes sparkled with challenge.  "Try one."

"Emily caught up and grabbed a ripe tomato.  "Here, this one's really warm."  The juice squirted in all directions.  

Kellie decided to try, and amused everyone with the funny expression on her face.

"Many years ago Payne Hollow was a steamboat landing where people brought all kinds of garden produce to sell, items like those squash there.  They could buy off the boats too. Riverboats were not just for traveling."

Harlan pointed out an overgrown path that led along the river and disappeared into the undergrowth.  "That way is to an old root cellar that was here a long time before we came.
Do you remember the falling chimney you passed when we came down the hill yesterday?
Well, the people who lived there so many years ago kept some of their food in that cellar.  It was a good walk to get to it from the top of the hill.  It must be in just the right spot to not be vulnerable to ice and currents, because the cellar has been under water several times.  We can go see it."

Emily went back to the house to help Anna, but the older girls wanted to explore.  Stepping carefully behind Harlan, they watched carefully for snakes and poison ivy.  The path was muddy in places as it curved along the river's edge.  "See that lush patch of green?  Stinging nettles. You don't want to get into those with bare hands or feet.  It has stinging little hairlike prickles. We use gloves to pick the tender tops and use it dried or fresh.  The goats loved it, it enriches the compost heap, and cream of nettle soup is a favorite of ours.
It's used medicinally too."

They reached the low domed stone and cement structure they were looking for.  It really was beautifully made with a curved cement shelf all around the inside.  Being care of anything that might sting or bit, they stepped down inside to inspect the arch of the ceiling. It was as perfect in shape as any capitol rotunda.

"This makes me think of the Pyramids,"  Kellie said.  "How did they do it with primitive tools and no machines."

"What happened to those people?  It must have been hard to leave this behind."

"It's a sad story because someone was murdered up there in that house.  We've heard tales about it, but we don't know what is true so we don't try to say.  We only know that at the time we came here, this place had been deserted for a long time.  It does demonstrate how everyone, every place or thing, even an old chimney in ruins, can have a story."

The girls noticed blueish stone with deeply cut fossils in the walls of the cellar.  Harlan said he would show them where there they could find small pieces to put in their saddle bags.  They realized, except for the river side, they were surrounded by lush blackberries.  It was easy picking, so they decided to bring some for breakfast.  They got a big laugh out of Ranger.  As they carefully picked berries from the top of the canes, Ranger was pulling them off and eating them from the bottom.  They had never seen a dog do that before.

The bell at the house was ringing.  Breakfast must be ready.

*Original Harlan Hubbard woodblock print.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chapter Twelve: DRIFTING DAYS

Bed in the bush with stars to see, 
Bread I dip in the river-
There's the life for a man like me, 
There's the life forever.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Harlan's night had been restless.  He usually slept well, but last night, memories of drifting days pressed on his mind.  A small part of him still yearned to head down river.  With first hint of dawn, he faced the day with these thoughts.

Was it a mistake to tell young ones how dangerous drifting could be?  He didn't think so. Anyone willing to accept the river as the moody stream it is could be taught by it; then the river reveals its secrets.  The years on the boat were some of their best, but he would be hard-pressed to advise anyone to try it today.  Now, barges were a big problem for small boat navigation.  Wind, waves and current push to have their way.  Rough water could upset a houseboat to where it was difficult to work on board.  At times, the stress left them both totally exhausted.

Dams, bridges, chutes, sandbars, boils, or eddies.  He could make a long list of all the challenges.  Sometimes they maneuvered with the help of sweeps; two very long heavy oars with a square blade.  And sometimes a second hand pulled in the johnboat while the other used lines and poles to propel the boat out of trouble.  The mud sail, an underwater canvas on poles, utilized the current more effectively to steer the boat.  All this proved both exhilarating and at times frightening.  Remembering how strenuous it could be, sadly, Harlan again accepted that his drifting days were over.

Now they lived with one foot in the water.  But in foul weather, they had their snug little cottage in Payne Hollow to retreat to.  They delighted in reading before the fireplace while they knew the wild river rushed not far from their door.

The morning sky broke open before him.  Harlan quickly collected painting supplies and made his was to begin some watercolors of the horses from Iceland, of all places!  It fascinated him that these friendly horses whose ancestors had been brought in streamlined Viking ships to a new land so many centuries ago, were now here munching Kentucky bluegrass.  He admired the sleek design of the open Norse sailing vessels, and now his admiration fell on their horses too. They proved most cooperative, and he saw a generous and protective spirit in them toward the girls.  The Icelandic horse was small, but the words that described them best were big. 

The painting went so freely that his thoughts went back to the shantyboat trip.  Once during the middle of the night, when he ventured out to retrieve a board hitting the side of the boat, he fell head first into the icy river!  He might have hit his head and drowned, never to be seen again, while Anna lay sleeping!  The river could take you down.

Even so, there was nothing like that boat.  Sometimes he would tease Anna.  "Here we are Annie, going down the river like Anthony and Cleopatra on that barge!"  The shantyboat looked something like an unwieldy barge on the outside, but inside the clean cabin was a haven from the outside world.  Anna made any space so comfortable.  She was a marvel to him.  Whatever food they caught or grew, whatever grain or staples they bartered or foraged, Anna turned simple foods into nutritious elegant meals.  Evenings inside the boat reading by the fire or playing music had set their pattern for peaceful living.  Harlan remembered serene harbors where frogs chirped and marsh grasses blew, and the boat was everything a home could be.

While living on the water they took few photographs, but the view out their door changed almost daily, so he painted sketches to chronicle their journey.  Harlan discovered art when he was influenced by his brother as a boy.  His progress and development was ongoing, but his subject was almost always the river.  It was a part of him.  Now Harlan's two brothers both had successful careers, which brought some recognition for them.  But when they visited Harlan and Anna on the boat, or at Payne Hollow, they seemed to be filling a need by just being there. The vague expressions of longing was in their eyes. His greatest success was the happy life he and Anna shared on the riverbank.

The horses nickered for attention.  Thad eaten almost everything growing in their yard down to a nub.  Harlan was satisfied with several paintings that he would give to the girls.  He heard stirring in the house.  Ranger raised his head from his paws, looking from Harlan to the house expectantly.  His tail started to swing.  "Ranger ole boy, you're enjoying your company, aren't you?"

The horses heard familiar voices and became restless looking toward the house.  It was time to see to morning chores.  He usually spent some of the morning adding to the wood supply, but that thought completely left him when he saw smiling young faces at the door of the cottage.  This day was different.  He would relax and enjoy it because it looked like his time for quiet thought was over.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter Eleven: ICELAND

"Good horse!  Good horse!" He kept saying.  "You will see, Axel, that there is no more sagacious animal than the Icelandic horse.  He is stopped by neither snow, nor storm, nor impassable roads, glaciers or anything.  He is courageous, sober, and surefooted.  He never makes a false step, never shies.  If there is river or fiord to cross (and we shall meet many) you will see him plunge in at once, just as if he were amphibious, and gain the opposite bank.  But we must never hurry him; we must let him have his way, and we shall get on at the rate of thirty miles a day.
-Jules Verne

Gracie's dream was white with snow blowing hard in straight lines.  The girl was blinded by it, but Grasida fra Grimsstodum saw through her thick forelock with the help of her frosted eyelashes.  The horse was made for this weather, and she had traveled in many storms; this one felt like trouble.  Already the snow was nearly up to her knees, and she had to lower her head to pull forward, straining with each step against the raging blizzard.  Her nostrils closed just enough to keep out the full force of the wind and hold some heat in.  The snow covered horse was tiring, but she sensed that they must reach home soon to survive. 

Her rider was the beautiful girl with the long blond hair who worked at the farm where Grasida was raised.  She recognized the girl by her lovely appearance, but what meant most were the actions and words that came out of her heart.  And so, the horse's heart was joined to hers.

They were headed home to their farm, well known for centuries in this part of northwest Iceland. Travelers had to plan ahead what outpost to go to if the weather turned bad.  This storm would turn more to the farm at Grimsstodum.

From the day she was born, Gracie joyously showed the world her beautiful rose-gray colored coat.  And, she sensed that life was serious business.  Her mother observed  her play each day, but the little rose-gray foal watched her mother carefully too.  Every message the  filly received from her mother said, "Play as you will, but play is not all there is."  Grasida's mother was wise. Her dignity was passed on to her daughter, and because of this, the beautiful girl loved the filly. When you have been loved very much, you carry it with you forever.

They pushed on in the deepening snow.  It was getting late, and the mare was hungry now too. She felt the girl tremble.  Was she cold?  She could not be crying!  She must know the horse would bring her home safely.

Suddenly everything within the horse told her to stop!  The girl pressed forward but Grasida refused to move.  Again she was strongly urged on, but she knew she could not obey.  There were times when the horse had to do the protecting.  Then the girl slid down from the saddle, and with careful inspection, she realized they were standing at the edge of a very steep cliff.

Falling upon the horse's neck the girl cried, "My dear girl, you have saved us.  I should have known you sensed where we were, even if I did not.  This is the cliff just north of home, we will soon be there together."  Removing her mittens, she slid her hands under the mane to the place where it is always warm, pressing her face to her the horse's neck.  "I love you, Grasida."

And so, Grasida's farm became the talk of all Iceland, because the story is still being told how the rose-gray mare saved the life of the beautiful girl.  It's a story a horse can dream about for the rest of her life.

Chapter Ten: A REAL HOME

...and such gardens are not made by singing:-"Oh how beautiful!" And sitting in the shade.
-Rudyard Kipling

Hurry!  There's something going on up the trail!

Ranger, the Redbone hound, relived the arrival of today's visitors in his dream.  He lay on his side with his eyes closed, and his feet twitched vigorously in a run pattern while muffled barks escaped from his mouth.

It was a relief that the big four legged creatures with the shaggy manes and tails were friendly.  It took him a while, but he decided that these intruders were no threat to his dear Anna and Harlan. He was not a dog to be fooled.  He had a job to do, and he was on it!

Anna and Harlan could never know what they meant to Ranger, but he tried to show them.  He had been a lost dog, and they understood him to be a drifter, as they had been.  That was only part of the story.  He was roaming, but he was also looking for a real home; a refuge of kindness with people who accepted him for the odd fellow he was.  He was a dog whose nose got him into trouble.  He was a hound, and that meant that at times his nose took over his mind.  He couldn't help it!

Anna and Harlan understood.  They graciously accepted the groundhogs he killed to protect their garden, and they prepared them for food because they were respectful of the sacrifice of life the groundhogs had to make.  Groundhogs ate a lot of garden if he didn't stop them.  He proved that he could stop them, and he was appreciated.  What more could a dog want?  He will be happy for the rest of his life if he remains able to help and protect them.  This is his job!

*I am adding pictures using my iphone; the easiest for me.  This original HH woodblock is turned to side a bit to avoid glare on the glass.  But notice, Harlan or Anna with two dogs in the johnboat collecting driftwood!  A nice print showing lots of action.  Signed.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chapter Nine: THE DALA

Be like the bird
That pausing for flight
Awhile on boughs too slight
Feels them give way
Beneath her and yet sings
Knowing that she hath wings.
-Victor Hugo

Emily made her way carefully down the moonlit hill.  Tree roots crossed the path.  Did she imagine it, or did that root try to grab her ankle?

Without warning, she saw the blinding flash of a shooting star.  The sound with it grew to a roar and the earth shook.  Emily fell to her knees with her hands over her ears and her eyes shut tight. Shaken by an enormous splash, she slowly opened her eyes to see a geyser spouting fire and water in the river.  The pillar of water transformed before her into a boil that edged toward the shore.  Finally, up and out of the wave, stepped a beautifully painted Dala horse!  It looked just like the antique Swedish wooden folk toy she had at home; she could carry that one in her hand.  This one was bigger than Hrimnir.  And it was alive!

"Do not be afraid, Emily," said the Dala. 

"You know my name?"  She whispered.

"Yes, I am here to remind you about the gift of the rainbow.  It belongs to the One in the heavens of immeasurable greatness who cares for us all.  You will be able to catch some rainbow on the wind and hold it in your hands for brief moments of deep wonder, if you learn to see with the eyes of understanding.  What you learn will bring you wisdom to keep, but only if you share it. Then you will have happiness, and peace like a river.  Treasure it all."

"Thank you."

Hrimnir, Gracie, and Lady stretched over the fence as far forward as they could reach.  The Dala graciously stepped up to touch their noses in a manner that rewarded them for their faithful care of the girls.  The horses lowered their heads with eyes half-closed in deep bliss.

Having completed that mission, the Dala charged up the hill in Payne Hollow.  He circled the house with everyone sleeping inside, leaving a trail of stardust there.  Bounding back down to Emily with a flourish that said goodbye, he majestically turned to leave.

Star struck as she was, Emily managed the words, "May I hug you before you go?"

The Dala stepped up to her with head bowed low, offering his beautifully arched neck.  Emily reached her arms over the graceful curve of it.  "Thank you for coming here."  She felt a gentle nuzzle on her shoulder, and then her arms were empty.  Here eyes must have been closed only seconds with the hug, but when she opened them, he was gone.

"Where are you?  Don't go yet!  I don't see a rainbow."

Only stardust remained.

"Wait!"  She called louder.

She felt herself being shaken.

"Emily, you're talking in you sleep."

Chapter Eight: ANNA'S HEART

"Her mind was like her room, in which light advanced and retreated, came pirouetting and stepping delicately,...
and then her whole being was suffused, like the room again, with a cloud of some profound knowledge..."
-Virginia Wolf

Anna could not help thinking about it.  Seeing the vitality of the girls today made her more aware that she was now an old woman.  But she was touched by their presence in other ways too.  She saw Kellie as practical beyond her years.  Hannah was sensitive and bright. And Emily, well Emily made Anna laugh.  Anna smiled thinking how she stalled going to bed by telling her things about the horses.   How Gracie's Icelandic name meant gray sides.  That Hrimnir was a vocal clown who liked to voice his opinion, especially when he wanted food.  Emily was emphatic that Lady would always come along as a pack horse because she was accepting that she was growning too big to ride her now.  But, she could not bear the thought of leaving her behind.  The pony just loved to go out on trails!  Anna hoped she would get to know these girls and their horses better.  Maybe, like some of her oldest friends, one of them would enjoy writing letters.  Life was never lonely with letters.

Anna had perfect gifts for two of the girls: a favorite book, Traveler's Joy, and a small Rookwood vase with horses on it. more.  Why was she so concerned about this?
She had time, didn't she?

She was tired, but sometimes it was hard to give in to sleep on a beautiful summer night like this.  The thing about staying up with the moon was having to get up in the morning; she did not want to miss a single morning with Harlan.  Dawn hours in Payne Hollow, with early bird song and fog, or any other gift of weather, were among her happiest times.  Harlan was often up early bringing in armloads of wood and tending the fire before she was even out of bed.  Anna delighted opening her eyes to a new day with the prospect of more peaceful productivity together.

Their life had been good despite the fact that when they married, they both knew that having children was behind them.  Anna was past thinking of children by the time she met Harlan, but her love and respect for him made her regret this loss.  It was their river trip in the shantyboat that provided a blessed distraction, because all thoughts and energies were turned to the immediate needs of their adventure.  Life became so fulfilling as a family unit of two that nothing seemed to be missing.  Having these girls here made her wonder what their children might have been like, and what kind of parents they would have made.  She and Harlan had talked of this, and they were aware that their lifestyle would not be the choice of most young people today. Besides, with the success of Harlan's books, they felt they were making more of a difference in the lives of others than they could ever have imagined.

Tonight she wondered if she would make some small difference in the lives of the three young girls.  They were asleep in her woodland home and under her loving care.  It was a comfort to know they were safely tucked in for the night.  The thought brought to mind the whimsical figurine she had forgotten about, a mother mouse with all her babies tucked in a basket.  Emily would be the right one to have it!

Anna pondered...Many of the things Harlan had accomplished were tangible; they would remain after he was gone.  Her life had been taken up almost entirely in perishable pursuits.  Music was a daily joy, yet after they finished playing, it was lost into the air forever.  She wondered, when she was gone, would the birds miss her music?

Anna was sure her life had meaning.  It was satisfying to know that her support helped Harlan accomplish so much.  He appreciated her.  But in the end, she had not painted the pictures, and she had not written the books.  Perhaps her greatest legacy would be in children.  She longed to kindle in them the desire for simple work, well done.  And some had been grateful for her interest in them.  They were learning to live more respectfully on the earth.  After all, nothing from Anna's garden was wasted.  The most insignificant weed or bug was a fascination to her.  She wondered how anyone could live without this joy?

She thought of the girls' fascination with the shantyboat.  She would never lose her  childlike fascination with it either.  The floating cottage was a precise and compact dwelling.  As written in Wind in the Willows, there was a place for everything and everything in it's place.  She so delighted in keeping all neat and tidy.  Another revelation was to experience how little was truly necessary for them to live in comfort and contentment.  

Anna sighed deeply.  Crickets pulsed in the night.  The air was perfumed with the scent of mosses and leaf mold.  She accepted these comforts from the earth and drifted slowly into sleep.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter Seven: MOON RIVER

"One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man
of moral evil and of good
than all the sages can."

The hills exhaled cool night air deep into the hollow.  Hannah was comfortable enough, but as soon as her head hit the pillow, she wasn't sleepy anymore.  She laid there for some time watching the flickering fire.  Her eyes were adjusted to the dark, so she studied the room carefully, resolving to remember as much as she could of Payne Hollow and the Hubbards. It was amazing to experience such kindness from people who where strangers to them until only a few hours ago.

They were safe.  Why should she let herself think about what might have happened?  Was there a human on earth in complete control?  Yet Hannah's conscience pulled at her because she understood they were given so much freedom in venturing out on the horses because they were very good riders on exceptionally steady horses.  They had proven they did not take foolish risks.  Now she was a bit embarrassed.  She made a mistake in judgement today and it couldn't happen again.  Hannah's thoughts were disquieting until she remembered Gracie.  What a blessing that mare was with her steady ways and soft eyes.  

She got up to add more driftwood to the fire.  It was perfect fuel for a fire that would not get intensely hot, and Anna was right, the small fire was comforting.

"Anything wrong Hannah?"  Kellie turned over.

"Can't sleep just yet.''  Hannah shivered.  "Can you come look at this?"  There was enough breeze to rustle the willows and ruffle the water.  "Look at that.  It's hard to believe that we are not somewhere hundreds of miles from home.  This place has a feeling of timelessness, doesn't it?"

"Uh-huh.  Like time stands still in Payne Hollow.  Instead of being lost, it feels like we found treasure or something.  And think about what grandpa plays on the accordion too.  We've heard it so many times...Two drifters, out to see the world.  There's such a lot of world ..."

Hannah interrupted her song.  "Kellie, it's them.  That song is about Harlan and Anna!   What was that?"

"A raccoon, I think."

"I thought we might hear something.  This place is tucked into the woods so deep, it's got to be full of creepy crawlers."

"Hannah!  You know we hear coyotes at home all the time.  Stop spooking yourself!"

"I know, but it amazes me the hair-raising noises even small animals can make.  It's not just some cute little chatter from a Disney movie.  This place is beautiful...and wild."  Hannah shivered again.

Kellie started to giggle.  

"Quiet.  What's so funny?"

"You're like grandma you know.  That one night we were all enjoying a fire outside, but she went into the house because coyotes were howling not far away.  She said she knew they weren't out to hurt her, but it still made her edgy.  That primal feeling you're talking about.  They really don't want to bother us, Hannah."

"I know, I really do.  Every creature should have a place to live in peace.  I guess it's just the call of the wild that gets me.  I get goosebumps, and yet I like it!"

"There seems to be a better kinship between the animals, domestic and wild, than between most men and animals," whispered Kellie.  The first time Gracie heard a screech owl after coming from Iceland, she showed no concern at all.  Curiosity maybe, but not fear.  I was amazed at her sensibilities.  Let check the horses while we're up."

They tiptoed to the edge of the terrace.  There below, the horses shown silver in the light of the moon.  "Look at that!  The horses almost glow in the dark!  Kellie, we have moon horses and a moon river.  Let's remember this forever.  Let's remember Payne Hollow and this beautiful night."

"I don't think any of us will forget it Hannah.  Come on.  We'll close the window so we won't hear every sound outside.  We'll just have to listen to each other snoring instead."


The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
-Marcel Proust

Picking up the oil lamp and walking across the room, Anna deftly set the lamp upon the ebony grand piano.  The light revealed a painting that had been hidden in a dark corner.  The girls noticed the shantyboats and were drawn to it.  The scene was painted in deep winter, mostly in shades of blue and gray.  The shantyboats alone gave the painting a feeling of warmth, even though they appeared to be frozen in a small willow protected inlet where the ice was covered with snow.  Everything looked bitterly cold except for the soft orange light in one of the windows of a boat, and a curl of smoke rising from a chimney pipe.

"Look, someone is up cooking breakfast," offered Emily.

"I can almost smell the bacon and eggs," said Kellie throwing Em a mischievous glance.

Hannah had a cozy feeling looking at the painting.  "You did this painting?  It's wonderful!"

Harlan smiled.  After a few years of study, he turned his back on art school and the trends in painting.  But all of his life he continued earnestly in a direction with his work that was his alone.  For Harlan, a day did not feel complete unless he had spent some time painting or working on a woodblock print.  "Painting, music, reading, and other high endeavors are a part of our daily living.  You could call it life as art, but that may sound a bit strange to you."  

"I might get it though," Kellie mused.  "Grandma has a favorite poem that says something about allowing the beautiful to grow up through the commonplace."

Harlan and Anna saw the girls to be thoughtful.  In her years of working with children, Anna found them often underestimated and misunderstood.  They had so many worthwhile things to say.

"It's our time for some music."  Harlan picked up the violin.

They chose some Brahms to play, and even though the violin didn't sound well tuned, Anna wrapped the music together with skillful piano accompaniment.  The girls saw their pleasure and shared in it.  When the music and clapping stopped, Kellie sleepily offered, "Do you think we should add something to the entertainment?"

"Please do.  We don't get many offers for that."

Sitting next to the fire while the music was played, words found their way into Kellie's head.  
"I've thought of a poem, or whatever you want to call it."

She built a fire and kept it burning
It kept her warm all night...
The giving fire

Next day came freezing cold.
She asked the ashes, "If I give you what I have, will your fire come back?"
The fire asked for ice, for it knew she had nothing more.
From that day, forever she was warm.
The giving fire.

"Your words show imagination," Said Anna.  "I hope you are writing them down."

"Sometimes I do.  When the three of us are together, if we're not with the horses, we like to put on plays.  We have a closet full of old clothes and props we've collected.  It's fun."

With the mention of plays, Emily wanted to do a skit based on one of Aesop's fables called The Sun and the Wind.  Em made her debut in it when she was very tiny.  They knew their parts by heart, so the short skit was soon over with everyone laughing and clapping at the brief but high drama.

"Here's one more to sleep on."  Anna read from her notebook of quotes.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.  One is evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good.  It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it and then asked the grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

The day had been full and satisfying.  Anna helped the girls prepare for the night while Harlan pulled out the guest bed.  It went unnoticed during the day when it was upright and fit in place against a wall appearing to be an unadorned corner of the room.  Anna and Harlan used the bedroom a few steps above the living room behind the fireplace.

"Most of our guests enjoy sleeping in front of the fire", Anna assured them.  "No matter how hot the day has been, it can get chilly and damp enough during the night to make a small fire pleasant.  Besides, it's comforting as a nightlight.  Feel free to add a little wood any time during the night.  It's right here.  If you forget the fire, that's fine too.  Goodnight!

*The painting described in this chapter can be seen in the collection at Hanover College in Indiana.  There is also a very nice plate of the painting in Wendell Berry's biography, Harlan Hubbard, Life and Work.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Every land has its own special rhythm, and unless the traveler takes the time to learn the rhythm, he or she will remain an outsider always.
-Juliette de Bairacli Levy

"Harlan, I've been telling the girls about the shantyboat.  They would like to hear something from you."

"Anna said it was dangerous?"  Kellie interjected.

"Of course anything can happen on the river, but we didn't build a boat because we were looking for high adventure.  As long as I can remember I've been drawn to the river.  I canoed on it as a boy with my brothers.  Imagine what it was like for Anna though!  So much was new to her, and she did it for me.  It was Anna who first saw the possibilities of building a boat.  I had already come to think of drifting down river as a dream gone by.  Now I believe that trip would never have happened without Anna."

"Oh Harlan, you know it became our dream.  I don't regret a minute of it!  Girls, it's probably hard to imagine, but we had the time of our lives.  We were determined to learn all that we could beforehand to gain experience and build confidence.  We spent our first year on the boat tied to the shore living in a river village near river people; that was our classroom.  We didn't let the current take us until we felt ready.  For me, the final step was a little like holding my nose and jumping in," Anna laughed.  "After all, we had to leave all our good neighbors behind.  And then our family and friends never knew exactly where we were until we contacted them from our next port."

Harlan added, "There was a lot of preparation, and then plenty of hard work while on our journey. Anyone who may have the romantic notion that drifting is a carefree life, or for the lazy, can read the book and see how it really was.  Plus, you are always at the mercy of the river and weather. Often we felt vulnerable, but at at the same time, well, you're so at one with the natural forces that sometimes you can feel like you 'are' the river; now that is an experience beyond total description.  Yes, we had the time of our lives," Harlan said looking at Anna with appreciation.  

"Harlan," Anna replied softly.  "We have so many wonderful memories.  Vivid in my mind is being together in the boat with you sitting by the fire with Skipper on your lap.  I was trying to do something or other by candlelight and had to stop because the moon on the water was so lovely. We have a moon like that in Payne Hollow tonight."

"This place did seem to draw us back to it,"  Harlan responded.  "We found it in our drifting days, and after spending a summer here raising and putting up our food, we never expected to see it again.  But years later, when we returned to this part of the Ohio River valley, this part of the country was changing fast, and we didn't seem to fit in any town.  People can be suspicious of anyone a little different, and we were a bit odd I guess-true rustics and educated besides. With all that, we greatly admired most farm families, so we visited our old friends here and found we were remembered and welcome.  Now our roots have gone deep into this soil."

The girls were in such rapt attention that Anna and Harlan stopped, looked at each other and smiled.  Where people so interested in them because many were losing connection with the natural world?  They had the beauty of music, art, reading together and writing in their lives daily. They enjoyed hard work and the direct effort they made to their everyday living.  They had built their own house, made their own garden, and played their own music.  This was a rare deep satisfaction that their visitors could see.

Kellie ventured another question.  " mean you felt you were a little different from most people?  I hope that, oh, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Harlan said smiling into the intense expression on her face.  "You wouldn't believe some of the questions we have been asked by visitors.  I guess we could say that we have always been aware that we are happy taking a direction not even considered by most people. We're not trying to prove anything, except to ourselves sometimes.  We just want to live our lives in a more direct and purposeful way.  For instance, I would rather cut my own wood for fires than work at a job to pay the electric company to heat my house.  But I don't say everyone can or should live like this.  Circumstances are different for everyone.  Yet some things are the same. If respect for the earth and all on it are within a man, he should be able to find some success and happiness.  Perhaps contentment is our greatest accomplishment.  I've come to think that it doesn't always matter so much 'what' you do, but it's the spirit in which you do it...There is one important fact that led to making Payne Hollow home," said Harlan.  It's been the perfect, peaceful setting to pursue my life as an artist."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


...To live content with small means:
To seek elegance rather than luxury,...
-Wm. Henry Channing

The Hubbards were startled when peace was broken by the ringing of the cell phone.  It was a new sound in Payne Hollow.  All plans were agreed upon when the parents were able to speak with the Hubbards.  It was arranged that by eleven the next morning, they would be waiting with the horse trailer at the top of the hill.  The neighbor there had already been contacted. 

After she talked with her parents, Emily went back to finishing her salad.  She didn't eat many vegetables at home, but she found she wanted to please Anna.  Her eyes found distraction in a cross-stitch sampler hanging on the wall directly across from her.  It read:  WHAT WE NEED IS AT HAND.  She wondered at these words when Anna noticed her looking at the embroidery.

"A dear friend made that for us because it is our chosen motto for the life we live here in Payne Hollow.  When Harlan and I came to this place so many years ago, it wasn't because we were poor and we had to live without electricity and many of the things people think of as necessary to live happily and well.  No, we 'chose' this life.  We enjoy it.

"Experience had already shown us how to make do."  Harlan offered.  

The girls were wide eyed.  "Look," Anna said.  "Daylight will soon be gone.  I think we will have to leave the dishes so we can go down to the river to bathe now.  It is at the perfect stage to use a clear and sandy pool next to the shore.  And if you'll agree to tie ropes around your waists, we won't have to worry about anyone getting out too far.  You can go right in with your clothes on, and I'll find clean things for you to sleep in tonight.  Now go ahead, take these towels and soap out where Harlan is while I get those clothes."

Harlan was on the terrace lighting lanterns.  They were ingenious, made of plastic gallon milk containers he had fished out of the river.  The tops were cut out with the handles left on.  Candles were secured by handmade holders in the weighted bottoms.  It couldn't be missed that this fit the motto: What we need is at hand.

Each girl carefully carried a lantern as they followed Anna down to the hill.  The scene was something like a Sargent painting in one of the art books at home, where girls in lovely summer dresses were in a twilight garden with lit paper lanterns around them.  The bottles set down along the river had a similar warm glow.  It was amazing to see something so simple to be useful and beautiful.  

Harlan stayed at the house to help clean up while Anna and the girls rigged up a tent for changing using a sheet and clothespins fastened to branches.

"This is fun.  Like camping."

"Harlan and I bathe in the river whenever the weather allows for it.  Otherwise, we heat water in the house.  Sometimes, when we are gardening or canning, or doing laundry and we get hot and dirty, we just have a swim."

"Wow, that is so cool, and you don't have to scrub out the bathtub!"

"No we don't, but I'm sure you would find it quite cool if you tried it when the weather is chilly.  Sometimes the water is a bit muddy, and sometimes it is chilly, but we don't mind hurrying to the fire to warm.  One thing is certain-after a late swim, we usually sleep very well."

The girls went into the river with their lines tied, sharing the brown bar of soap to wash away the dried trail dust that covered them from head to toe.  It was refreshing to rinse away all that dirt in the warm silky water.

Anna sat on the shore watching them play like river otter pups.  "This is my favorite spot to read Wind in the Willow to children," she said wistfully.  The girls splashed.  "We usually have willows at the rivers edge.  Eventually high water comes and tugs some of them out and washes them away.  I'm sorry to see a willow go, they add so much privacy to our shore.  The riverbank is ever changing and always interesting."

Kellie was floating on her back rinsing soap out of her hair when she decided to dig her toes into the bottom and raise herself up from the water.  Looking for the horses in the dark, she made a mental note to give them a bath when they returned home.  "Hey Ranger, would you like a bath?"  she said with a splash in the direction of the curious dog.  He slowly wagged his tail but made no move from Anna's side.  Anna smiled, patting the dog on the shoulder.

"Do you feel a little like a duck?"  Hannah spouted at Kellie.

"Actually, I was wondering what it would be like to be a piece of driftwood floating all the way to the ocean...Look at the stars!"

"Harlan and I with our little dog Skipper, did just that, we drifted all the way to the ocean in a houseboat Harlan made.  We were much younger, but even then it wasn't easy.  There were dangers.  We had to keep alert, so we made our journey cautiously and stopped to rest whenever we needed to.  Harlan did foraging and trading along the way, and of course our little dog Skipper needed lots of runs.  We were also always on the lookout for clean drinking water, or a few fresh groceries.  Several times we stopped long enough to raise a garden and preserve our food.  We had to inquire with land owners for that and sometimes we found someone who would play music with us, so we found many treasures in the land and people we met.  Your little adventure today has me remembering our river journey."

The girls had questions about the houseboat.  Anna said they always called their boat a shantyboat.  It was wooden with no motor at all.  The years spent living on the shantyboat were so rich that Harlan had written a book about it.  Anna thought that they should wait and let Harlan answer some of their questions.

They used the sheet tent one by one, removing the wet clothes, putting on the dry.  They hung the wet clothes where the sun would hit them first thing in the morning.  It felt so good to be clean and dry now, that they didn't care if their own things were damp when they had to put them back on before they left.

A summer moon was rising when they made their way back up the path.  The smallest breeze made the river surface shimmer with light like millions of floating mirrors.  Moon mirrors!  In the reflective light, they could easily see the horses were safe and still enjoying the grass in their little yard.  Good night Gracie, Hrimnir, and Lady!