Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thank you Bruce

Thank you Bruce for that beautiful entry. And thank you for liberating the statue's head.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reflections as shared at Memorial Service

Jane Heyward and I shared a passion in plants.  The conduit for this sharing was her garden.
Jane’s garden is a source of infinite wonder, independent of one’s years of familiarity with the garden.  And so it was and is a magical place for each of us.

I am ceaselessly amazed how every single week, year-round, my arrival in the garden is met with some unexpected beauty – a new bloom, a new leaf color, a new fragrance.

Year-round!  This element of surprise, this newness, this anticipatory wonder, in a sense, keeps me engaged and young.  I have no doubt it is also what kept Jane young.  Jane stripped truth to the core by reminding all of us, more than a few times, “my garden is what keeps me alive!”
I feel in my heart the weight and power of those words.   So in addition to my back, I am able to garden with my heart.

Fortunately, the seed of our introductions  to each other fell on fertile soil.  I met Jane on a Sunday morning in her garden.  Jane was wearing  a wide-brimmed straw hat.  She was sitting on the corner of the relic of a capital of a column, her canes resting beside her.  The sun was low and off to an angle behind her.  She was absolutely bathed in morning sunlight.  The light glistened off her eyes so I could not tell where she was focusing.  She seemed to be looking far off, perhaps even beyond the horizon. Perhaps toward nothing in particular.  I felt both fearful and in awe.  Fearful because not having met her I was afraid I was interrupting something akin to religious for her.  In awe because I immediately knew my luck had landed me in the presence of a great mentor, should I quiet myself long enough to listen.
That Sunday was the first of many powerful images and lessons she gifted to me.  The first lessons were graciousness and how to sit in the sun and enjoy a garden.  All tasks on which I am still working.

Shortly thereafter I began to periodically help out in her garden, which evolved into a more regular and committed relation with Jane.   As I gardened alongside Jane over the years, a short poem by Wendell Berry came back to me with renewed significance.  The poem is titled “The Current”.

Having once put his hand into the ground,
seeding there what he hopes will outlast him,
a man has made a marriage with his place,
and if he leaves it his flesh will ache to go back.
His hand has given up its birdlife in the air.
It has reached into the dark like a root
and begun to wake, quick and mortal, in timelessness,
a flickering sap coursing into his head
so that he sees the old tribespeople bend
in the sun, digging with sticks, the forest opening
to receive their hills of corn, squash, and beans,
their lodges and graves, and closing again.
He is made their descendant, what they left
in the earth rising in him like a seasonal juice.
and he sees the bearers of his own blood arriving,
the forrest burrowing into the earth as they come,
their hands gathering the stones up into walls,
and relaxing, the stones crawling back into the ground
to lie still under the black wheels of the machines.
The current flowing to him through the earth
flows past him, and he sees one descended from him,
a young man who has reached into the ground,
his hand held in the dark as by a hand.

And so it was that the flickering sap of Foxhaven coursed upward into my head through my heart.

Jane and her garden started to become a powerful influence in my life.  Often I would find myself in various non-work situations visualizing how I believe Jane might see things.  Gardening among the mature specimens and naturalized species in the shadow of Jane, gave me an adopted wisdom; a wisdom I had not earned in years and have not yet earned.  As ancient plants and trees decline and perish while the more juvenile and vigorous plants colonize,  the sometimes painful, sometimes rewarding lessons of time are learned.
The garden itself speaks to me directly.

A sparsely-branched pine, creaking in the wind with age, whispers a reminder that Jane lived through two World Wars, the Korean war, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War , and countless other battles, conflicts, and skirmishes. 

Nearby, a dinner table-sized oak stump blurts out to be heard.  “After two of those wars, a passionate young gardener planted me here outside her back doorstep.”  “She lived and grew under me,” the stump continues, “as I grew along with her, eventually shading the entire roof in the summer.  Under my protective crown, she raised a full family; garden beds sprouted at my base and multiplied outward.  In my later years, her indomitable spirit brought her out on walks, usually twice a day, past my massive trunk, which continued for I know not how long, for suddenly one day my sap stopped flowing and my grandeur was returned to the soil.  With all her stamina and vigor, the matriarch to whom I am indebted outlived me.”

A relentless and somewhat arrogant honeysuckle vine which has colonized the interior of a white quince, trembles as it relates:  “that Mrs. Heyward often hiked with hand pruners or machete, mercilessly decapitating my cousins growing up in the mountains.  Clipping a path while hiking, sometimes beyond the no trespassing signs, Mrs. Heyward cut a path for herself throughout her life.  Her enthusiasm was also clearing a way for others who are brave enough to follow.”

The Hellebores, which withstand the worst of droughts and whatever winter can throw at them reliably deliver white blooms when the garden is at a relative quiet.  Despite colonizing large chunks of real estate in the shade, the Hellebores meekly declare defeat when comparing themselves to Jane’s tenacity to get out in the garden.  No number of falls or ailments was able to keep Jane inside for long and away from her walks in her garden.  The Hellebores submissively acknowledge Jane’s spirit by nodding their white blooms downward.

A beautifully crafted but now terribly dismembered marble statue made by the Italian artist Donato Barcaglia in 1876 is a poignant reminder of the hierarchy of Jane’s thoughts.  One day I was shocked to discover a massive white pine branch laying across the statue.  Various fingers and smaller pieces had been broken off in the past, probably by similar falling limbs, but this time,  a child’s stone head lay on the ground so at the very least, a decapitation had occurred.  I was extremely hesitant to move or chainsaw any of the branch over concerns of causing even more damage.  Flustered,  I went inside to deliver Jane the bad news.  Jane’s response was more in the neighborhood of  why are you telling me this? Why don’t you just cut the branch off?  Essentially, why are you losing your head over this one?  At that moment, Jane happened to be focusing on something more important.  
Jane’s response immediately reminded me of another literary image and one that continues to resonate with me and my memory of Jane.  It is from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by the Czech writer Milan Kundera.  The characters in this selection are husband and wife, Karel and Marketa, and Karel’s mother.  The scene is set with Karel and his mother taking a walk:

          Once when they were out walking, she gazed into the distance and asked, “What’s the name of that pretty white village?”  There was no village, just stone markers.  Karel felt an upsurge of pity when he realized how much his mother’s sight had deteriorated…

          To tell the truth, this characteristic of hers was not entirely new, but at one time it had bothered them greatly.  One night, for example, the tanks of a huge neighboring country came and occupied their country.  The shock was so great, so terrible, that for a long tme no one could think about anything else.  It was August, and the pears in their garden were nearly ripe.  The week before, Mother had invited the local pharmacist to come and pick them.  He never came, never even apologized.  The fact that Mother refused to forgive him drove Karel and Marketa crazy.  Everybody’s thinking of tanks, and all you can think about is pears, they yelled.  And when shortly thereafter they moved away, they took the memory of her pettiness with them. 

          But are tanks really more important than pears?  As time passed, Karel realized that the answer was not so obvious as he had once thought, and he began sympathizing secretly with Mother’s perspective – a big pear in the foreground and somewhere off in the distance a tank, tiny as a ladybug, ready at any moment to take wing and disappear from sight.  So mother was right after all: tanks are mortal pears eternal.

 Jane introduced me to both the rich sensory experiences of her garden and the perspectives from her life richly lived.  While I will continue to miss our shared passion and her pearls of wisdom, her garden offers all of us a living experience of her passion and an endless evolving source of wisdom if we only avail ourselves to its presence.
Despite the decades I have spent in gardens, it will be a few years more before I can attain the peaceful sense of place that Jane exhibited upon our first meeting.
With my many memories of Jane as mileposts, I am confident that one day I too can bask in the sun surrounded by the familiar foliage & floral friends of countless years and perhaps pass along to a fertile youth the passions which Jane has so trustingly nurtured in me.
Thank you, Jane.

Your garden keeps me alive as well.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Matchmaking from Louise Robbins

The Robbins family has many special ties to Jane and her family. If
not for Jane’s father, Jim Gamble, Sorrento would never have become
the Robbins’s summer retreat. Dr. Gamble was one of Fred Robbins’s
favorite professors at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and in the
summer of 1949, he generously offered Fred and his new wife, Alice,
the opportunity to take a belated honeymoon on Calf Island. Mom and
Dad treasured the memory of that glorious summer when they fell in
love with Sorrento. They returned every year, later with their
children, who grew up to become avid members of Jane’s trail crew. But
if another of Dr. Gamble’s introductions had turned out as well, that
honeymoon on Calf Island might never have happened! One of Dad’s
oft-told stories (and one that Jane especially enjoyed) recounted his
first meeting with Jane, probably in 1947, some months before he met
Alice. Dr. Gamble had invited Dad to come out to his family’s farm in
Taunton one Sunday for lunch and to meet his daughter Jane, who was
just a year younger than Dad. A matchmaking attempt, no doubt about
it. Here’s Dad: “I was in the sitting room holding my drink, and Dr.
Gamble said that his daughter would be in shortly. Suddenly a young
woman in blue jeans strode into the room, shook my hand vigorously,
and started talking about baseball and batting averages. I was taken
aback because I hadn’t seen many women wearing blue jeans, and I
didn’t know the first thing about baseball. When she realized that
conversation wasn’t going anywhere, she asked me what I knew about
cattle. I knew nothing at all! Well, that was the end of that. It was
apparent that she found me a most unimpressive fellow.” The match
wasn’t a complete failure, though; many years later, when the crowds
that used to set off from the Red Barn had mostly drifted away, Dad
remained Jane’s stalwart trail-mate.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts and memories from Jocelyn

Some thoughts and memories of Jane.

“I am fooling only myself when I say my mother exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight.  She lives on beneath everything I do.  Her presence influenced who I was and her absence influences who I am.  Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy.  Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.” - Hope Edelman's Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss.

Besides my own mother, no one influenced me more than Aunt Jane. As my father’s sister she shared his foundation but she, of course, represented the female version of his values. She put into action what he believed.  While he was a relatively traditional man of his generation, my father instilled in his daughters a sense of independence and Jane demonstrated it for us.  

Every summer she traveled to Maine alone with her six kids. She was passionate about what Sorrento offered and chose to expose her children to it even if it meant managing it all alone. As a young adolescent Jane caught me swimming in the heated pool and stated, “You are swimming in the pool? Why aren’t you in the Bay?” This single comment impacted my approach to life more than any piece of advice. Since then, I have always been hyperaware of indulging in anything remotely decadent.  Jane’s words resonate in my mind. As a teenager enlisted in her trail crews we discovered that a 50-60 year old woman could set a pace that challenged even the strongest of us. As a college student I watched her fly across the bay alone in a catamaran…going (almost) 60 at 60. It demonstrated a passion for sailing, a sense of independence and daringness in life. Jane never shied away from doing what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it. She followed her passions and in her unobtrusive way she passed those interests down to so many. Anything to do with horticulture, building trails, sailing and conservation will always remind me of Jane. The farm, the mountains and the bay were her life. She engaged them, applied their lessons, passed on an appreciation for them and, ultimately, left them better than she found them.

Her eyes, her voice and her characteristic stride are etched in my mind. “Her presence influenced who I was and her absence influences who I am.” I am so appreciative for her impact on all of us. She was a gem.

In honor of her love of horticulture and her wonderful daughters, here is more from that excerpt.

“Nature often offers metaphors more elegant than any we can manufacture.  In the redwood ecosystem, all seeds are contained in pods called burls, tough brown clumps that grow where the mother tree's trunk and root system meet.  When the mother tree is logged, blown over, or destroyed by fire the trauma stimulates the burls' growth hormones the seeds release, and trees sprout around her, creating the circle of daughters.  The daughter trees grow by absorbing sunlight their mother cedes to them when she dies.  And they get the moisture and nutrients they need from their mother's root system which remains intact even after her leaves die.  Although the daughters exist independently of their mother above ground, they continue to draw sustenance from her underneath.”

More than anything else, Jane produced lovely children and that will be her ultimately legacy. Her spirit lives on in all of you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eulogy - February 18, 2012

Jane, Janey, Jane Lawder Gamble, Jane Lawder Gamble Heyward, Mrs. Heyward, Mom, Grandma. We are gathered here in our love for this person. Last Spring, when I visited my mother, she presented me with a small piece of scratch paper on which she had written down a series of dates that she considered important in her life. I thought this was information she was sharing with any visitor, so I didn’t hold on to the slip of paper. I wish I had. I am now trusting my memory to represent her well.

The paper started with her birth: February 18, 1917. However it made no mention of the earliest description of her infancy. This description was discovered in a letter written by her mother – who was given this advice for dealing with her screaming baby Jane: put this child outside in a box from 9AM to 10PM; only visit her for feeding. The advice was taken and it seemed to work. Apparently, Jane was much happier in the woods– even at the very start of her life. Now, that sounds like her, doesn’t it?

She doesn’t mention her childhood in Baltimore and then Brookline, Massachusetts. But what stood out for my mother was weekends at the farm in Taunton, summers in Maine, and her beloved camping trips with her father and Dr. Park, fly fishing along rivers in remote Cape Breton, Canada. She loved the long days in the wilds, exploring, fishing, outside morning, noon and night. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?

She doesn’t mention her years at the Winsor School and her giggle from the back of the classroom that her yearbook describes, or even her year in Switzerland where she spoke only French at her Swiss school. But Bryn Mawr College was fondly noted: the German house, her major in Greek and archeology and her subsequent trip to the Mediterranean where she spent the summer digging in Greece and then sleeping on the deck of the boat as it pulled in and out of harbors on the Black Sea and Mediterranean. Sounds like her doesn’t it?

1948 and her marriage to Henderson Heyward are duly noted, but she makes no mention of how it felt to adjust to the South in the 1950’s: to perm her hair and wear lipstick and always a skirt. Nor does she make note of her children’s birthdates: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958. She loved birthdays actually, but she also loved activity, the child that could ski and ride and sail and, well…hike. Up the mountains, loaf of bread and peanut butter jar in hand. As for quiet times at home, how about hearing her read aloud the bloody Irish myths of Cahoulain, or the battle-filled King Arthur legends? Sounds like her, doesn’t it?

She makes no mention of the night when I was about 10 or 11 and I asked my father who he thought was the most beautiful woman in the world and he said, looking at my mother in her mink coat and red lipstick, “Your mother. And she becomes more beautiful with each passing year.” And I looked at her and knew it was true and would always be true. I doubt she heard it.

She notes the year she bought Laneway Farm, but not the years and years as a successful farm woman running the dairy farm, and her visits to Vermont and Washington state and Scotland and New Zealand dairy farms, or of her reknown in the field for her writing about cattle breeding and organic farming. Nor does she mention how much we children complained about her car that always smelled of manure, or riding in the truck that seemed ready to tip over when the cow in the back shifted position. And why did we always have to eat brown bread made out of carrots? And freshly squeezed orange juice full of stringy pulp? And why did she need to take that bread everywhere with her, even on the airplane? Sounds like her doesn’t it?

She doesn’t give dates to when Henderson stopped accompanying her for even part of her annual summer trips to Sorrento, Maine, so she could spend day in and day out exploring Schoodic Mountain, Champlain, the Black Hills, or the wildly windy waters of Frenchman’s Bay on her catamaran, long after any sane sailor knew to head in. Sounds like her doesn’t it?

She doesn’t mention her discovery of Old Rag Mountain in Virginia, and her gradual shift over the years from looking for available hiking trails to map reading and bushwhacking her way across terrain of any height nearby. Nor does she mention her blossoming friendship with Boo and many and any hiking friends and home schoolers, or how she moved faster than most people can walk, clipping branches and sharing as she went: about this bird or that wild flower. Scraped shins, bruised knees, gone for 2, 4, maybe 6 hours at a time. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?

She does mention Fortune’s Cove, 755 acres of exceptionally beautiful land in Nelson County, Virginia, now set aside for all to explore and enjoy. Her legacy for those who love the land as much as she did.

Grandchildren: each birth carefully marked down. More company for the trails. More children to play in her garden. More people to join her outside, more to love the earth in the way that she did: Did you know Arthur is a gardener at Monticello? Did you know Chafee has sailed all over the world? Did you know Hunter has taught children about farming? Did you know Suzanne is living in Kenya? Did you know Chloe and Vicka and Julia found puppies at the barn? Sounds like her doesn’t it?

She does mention her garden. For years and years we heard her say: “My garden is what keeps me alive” as she made her way from one chair to the next, noticing every bud, every scent of bloom. Like the woods when she was a baby, she was sustained by her love of the earth. Near the end, she added to that …” And my caretakers: Pat and Jackie and Ginny and Beth and Tressie and Edna” and more, and of course, my brother Jimmy, who day in and day out, year in and year out, checked in on her, found her the chairs, the elevators, perfectly placed birdfeeders that gave her such joy… and everyone who tended her garden and the farm. Much as she might never have admitted it, she loved people and we loved her back. She really loved people and people really loved her back. Sounds like my mother, doesn’t it? Sounds like the person we love so much.

Friday, February 10, 2012

After the Rains Have Stopped

These are the last two verses of:

For the Dead
by Adrienne Rich

[ ... ]

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

Find the whole poem here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

labor day 2010

labor day 2010

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chairs in the garden

When Mom could not walk as far, never mind as fast, as she did all her life, we got sturdy metal chairs that we set up around her garden. With the aid of her canes she would walk from one chair to the next. The chairs were moved about so that while she rested she could enjoy seasonal blooms and scents. On good days she could proudly progress all the way around the house on a route that went from chair to chair. She made that full journey ten days before she died! 
Her garden gave her such joy when she could no longer tackle her beloved mountains. She observed her garden as closely and with as much pleasure as she had observed the plants and birds on her more far-flung walks. The chairs in her garden were her equivalent to the rock faces that she sought in the mountains - worth a sit to enjoy the view!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Cows. I think I might have spent more time with Mom and her cows than any of my siblings. I had my own cow, Misty Princess, that I trained, and for a number of years I went to shows and easily won first place for looking at the judge steadily and stopping in the right position. It took very little talent. I think I had an idea that I might enjoy my cow like I enjoyed my horse or my dog. But cows are just slow. I think it remained a mystery to me, even after all the time I spent with Mom and her cows, how anyone could love them so much. She knew each and every one, how it milked, its geneology. She cared for the animals. And she loved to drink the raw milk.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tribute from Inge Chafee

For thirty years Jane was for me an integral part of summers in Sorrento. She opened my eyes to possibilities which the Francis Chafees simply did not see. They did not walk. She did.

In the summer of 1971 I spent several months at the Shoebox with our then three-year old Louisa and Baby Clio. Dick came now and then, but was mostly away doing research at various libraries. 

Early on Jane drifted by and wondered whether I was interested in doing some walking with her. She was aware that I had a baby sitter (provided by my mother-in-law with Junior’s help) and declared that we would go out that afternoon, taking the children and their sitter with us. Thus I got to see why one needed a car with four-wheel drive to get to the beach of Donnell Pond. Once there, we installed the three young ones on the beach and Jane told them we would be back in about two hours. What followed was the first of many ascents of Schoodic Mountain from “the other side” over the rock slide. Jane’s purpose was to reestablish the path that her father had marked many years ago, but which had been obliterated by a fire that had burned the side of Schoodic facing Donnell Pond. Once on top, I had to hold a surveyor’s pole. Jane disappeared among the burnt remnants of the woods and when she shouted, I was to wave my pole and shout back so that she could determine our respective positions. It took several trips for her to leave sufficient signs to mark the descent to Donnell Pond. At first she used cans with spray paint, I think. As their nozzles tended to clog, she changed to a little hatchet (or was it the other way round?). In subsequent years there were many climbing parties in which everyone carried clippers to improve the path, until the boys of a summer camp discovered and marked it properly. 

I admired Jane not only for her uncanny knowledge of the lay of the land but also for her clear judgement of people which she shared. I was grateful for her candor. 

Very sorry there will be no more walking with her.

Inge Chafe

Butter butter everywhere . . . And how the house did stink!

One of my funny memories of Mom was of Dad describing Mom eating lobster.

But it wasn't just Jane, Dad said. It was Jane and all the Maine relatives.

You think they're perfectly civilized until you see them eating lobster . . .

First they boil the lobsters alive, right in front of you.
Then they serve them, steaming on a plate, shell and all.
Then there's a lot of loud cracking and snapping as they break the lobsters open with bare hands, dip the flesh in butter
and begin sucking and slurping, sucking and slurping
and then cracking and snapping
more and more . . .

Even the little tiny claws have to be dipped and sucked, dipped and sucked.
Afterwards, you have to mop your hair, face, arms, legs, feet, the floor . . . There's butter driblets and lobster juice everywhere.
And that smell of boiled lobster . . .

Mom laughed and laughed at this description.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great-grandma Jane

Mom with her first great grandchild Wyeth and his mother Kristin. Mom loved babies, but she loved them even more when their legs were long enough to follow her into the woods where she could share her love of nature.

Remembering Jane Heyward

When I got the phone call that Jane Heyward had passed away, I sat there for a few moments.  Then I put on my hiking shoes and drove myself to the Fortune’s Cove Preserve.   I walked up the steep trail to the point where the path turns and runs along the contour of the mountain and I stopped.  It was a clear December afternoon. A bright blue sky shone through the bare trunks of the oaks, hickories and poplars and it took me right back to one of the first times that Jane took me here.  She was considering a gift of this property to my employer, The Nature Conservancy, and she was showing my colleague and me around.  At that time, the trail went straight up the mountain, meandering on and off the boundary line.   For the first of what would be many times, Jane was up ahead, waiting for us to catch up. 

Later, as more of my colleagues got involved in this project, Jane helped us lay out the trail for public use.  As you might expect, TNC staff tend to be a pretty fit bunch, but we would return to the office at the end of the day, at once exhausted and inspired by Jane’s ability to scoot straight up the face of the mountain.  Today’s trail, though strenuous, was a compromise with her.  With much persuasion, she agreed to let us construct a gentler path with more switchbacks. Not everyone is capable of scaling the hills like she was.

I have been fortunate to get to know Jane better and to go on many walks with her over the past decade.  She is one of the most positive people I have ever spent time with, and I have learned much from her.  My sense is that she had two priorities in life.  The first was her family and friends.  She frequently updated me on each of her children and every year would send me pictures of them along with her extended family.  She loved to point out the photograph of Fortune’s Cove, taken by Julie. Once when I was visiting her at home, she shared with me a book of poetry by her daughter that had recently been published.  It is one of my lesser regrets that I did not have a tape recorder to capture her distinctive voice reading aloud one of Nin’s “Dick and Jane” poems, all the while laughing mischievously.  

Her second priority was land conservation.  She acquired property in places that she loved and then she protected it.  In her life she placed thousands of acres in conservation easement, and through her donation to The Nature Conservancy, has made more than 1,000 of those stunning acres available to the hiking public.

On this afternoon, I hiked the lower trail, which takes the hiker to rock outcrops that overlook bucoolic Fortune’s Cove.  The path crosses musical streams.  This time of year after a rain, small waterfalls cascade down rocks and boulders here and there, making the preserve look the way a Japanese garden must want to look when it grows up.  

The trees in this forest are only about 40 years old. You might notice boulders the size of cars scattered throughout the woods and streams. That in itself makes this an interesting place if you understand the recent natural history here.  In August of 1969, what remained of Hurricane Camille stalled over this small part of Nelson County where it joined up with 2 other weather systems and dumped over 31 inches of rain in a several hour period   Now recognized by the National Weather Service as one of the Top 10 Storms of the Twentieth Century, more rain fell that night than meteorologists previously thought was possible in an event that some scientists estimate will occur only once every thousand years.  In addition to the lives that were lost in the county that night, thousands of years of soil and decades-old orchards and forests washed down the mountains.  Thanks to Jane, this property will never be developed and we’ll have a chance to see what happens after nature strips everything down to bedrock and starts over. 

Though she suffered from painful sciatica in her last years, she continued to walk around her lovely yard each day, enjoying her garden and trees.  She told me earlier this fall that she believed walking had kept her alive. 

Among other things, Jane introduced me to the writings of John Muir, another great walker.   I think of them both with gratitude this evening as I reach the end of the trail, the sky reddening in the west.  

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” - Muir
Tribute written by Linda Crowe

Monday, January 9, 2012

Brown Shoes

As a former teacher herself, Mom had very little use for most of the teachers I had in grade school. And she had less use for the school rules.

When I was in first grade, as part of the dress code, we were supposed to wear brown shoes --like loafers. Mom insisted on sending me to school in red tennis shoes anyhow. She said it was absolutely ridiculous to put me in brown shoes when I was going to be racing around on a blacktop during recess. So every day Mrs. Wallace, my teacher, sent a note home with me, telling my mother that she needed to buy me some brown shoes, and every day Mom laughed at the note.

"Girls and boys should run around at recess. Hard shoes are not good for running, and you are not wearing hard brown shoes," Mom said. Every day, for the first weeks of school Mrs. Wallace would complain about my shoes. She also said my skirts were more than two inches above my knees. And my hair needed to be combed. (I had a permanent cow lick that Mrs. Wallance once hosed down with Aqua Net.) But the worst was the day when my mom picked me up, and Mrs. Wallace came to the car, wobbling on her orange high heels, to tell Mom that my tennis shoes were caked with cow manure. "What cow manure?" my mother asked, looking at my shoes which were coated with brown crusts and had a little bit of hay sticking out the sides. "Well," Mom said after a moment of silence. "It looks like she's wearing brown shoes today, doesn't it?"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

[crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch .... crunch, crunch]
[crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch ... sip ... crunch, crunch]
[sip ... crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch]
[crunch, crunch, crunch ... sip ... expectant silence ... restless fidgeting ... sound of Earnest whistling in the distance ... DING-A-LING ... thump, thumpety, thump; mad stampede down the stairs]

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Hearing Mom giggle was the best. Julie or Nin could tell stories ~ silly stories that had us all in stitches. Mom loved to overhear. To giggle along.
Every year, in response to the many Xmas cards she sent out, each with a photo of the 6 of us children lined up more or less awkwardly, she got many letters back. Of all of them, I remember the one that made her giggle: the person had sent a photo of himself from the back. I might not have found it funny, but she opened it and just giggled.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

There is a really nice remembrance of Mom in this week's Nelson County Times by Erin Hughey-Comers (thank you Erin!). Here is an extract:

"She taught me that learning happens best in action, through experience, that you never forget something you learned with your heart beating in your ears and the blood rushing through your head, that the context of a walk and a friendship means that the shapes of leaves and the sounds of birds still come clear in your mind years later."

To read the full article, click HERE.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Once when Mom and I were out clearing a new trail, she asked what I thought we should do if we met some nutty, scary person while we were out, alone, in the woods (there had recently been some women attacked on the nearby Appalachian Trail). I said, "We don't have to worry about that, Mom: we are the nutty scary people!" She looked at me, completely uncomprehending.

This was during her machete stage. She's always loved clippers and saws, but for a while there, she moved up to big knives. She had found some place that sold both saws and machetes complete with leather sheaths with belt loops. As we spoke, she was "wearing" two leather sheaths so long that they dragged the ground, one with a saw; the machete from the other being in her hand -- which she waved about absent mindedly every time she stopped to talk. Both I and her large Rottweiler kept a respectful distance and eye on the blade. Behind us was a trail of total devastation (she used a two-handed woodpeckerish stroke with the machete which was too big for her to manage one-handed).

Anyway, I could not convince her that she, with the knive(s), the dog, the devastation (and the pork-pie hat) could be scary to anybody.

[For my Birthday that year, Mom gave me one of those massive hand saws (to her amazement, I declined a machete). If I ever need to cut a three-foot-thick tree by hand, I am ready.]

Saturday, December 31, 2011

safety pins

I think my first memory of Mom is of her changing baby Nin's diaper. Nin was this tiny pink form which Mom laid over this large cloth diaper, which she wrapped loosely around her legs and then pinned with these enormous safety pins. I'm not sure why I was so struck by the pins, but in a photo I have of Lisa, Jimmy and I playing in the sandbox (probably same year), Lisa and I are wearing our yard pants; dear Jimmy has these oversized shorts on that are held up by...yes, an oversized safety pin.
Mom ate the green stuff in the middle of her lobster.
She ate the green stuff in the middle of my lobster.
I think she ate everybody's green stuff.
When finished she had a green mustache.


The ROUTINE at Foxhaven
I still think of the time of day based on my childhood. Mom continued it after Dad died~ (especially the exact meal times)
4:30 AM the glare from Dad's bathroom window hits my eyes- he's awake
6:00 AM he wakes me
6:15 on the horse and riding (6:30 Mom does her yoga in her room)
7:15 breakfast
8:20 school starts
12:30 - lunch on weekends - big meal of day - also on weekdays, Dad would come home to join Mom
5:15 supper for children- Mom reads aloud some ongoing saga
6:15 supper for Mom and Dad
8:15 LIGHTS OUT - (not 8 or 8:30, mind you)
(interspersed are the animal feeding times - cats, dogs, horses, cows, chickens, once pigs, the parakeets Dad captured...)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mom and Dad's favorite cake

Especially good with a bowl of freshly-made, thick, chilly custard.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bushwhacking with Grandma

Grandma hiked with a full suite of trailblazing supplies well into her 80s – clippers, ribbons, just in case... just in case the trail was overgrown, in case she discovered another route to a view, another path down the mountain. When I was around 5 years old, she pulled me into the woods behind Guestwick, handing over an extra pair of clippers to work alongside her. “There’s a spring back here somewhere, we need to bushwhack to find it.” And so we went, clipping along, placing ribbons as we progressed, slowly blazing a trail to the spring and to a neighboring property as Grandma identified birdcalls and pointed out various plants along the way. When we arrived at the spring, we scooped the clear water with a cut plastic milk jug, passing it between us and gulped.

“Isn’t this water more pure than anything you’ve tasted? Isn’t bushwhacking more exciting than following a trail?” And it was.

Around that time, I took to catching frogs, turning over rocks in search of bugs and salamanders, stocking ‘edible’ seeds in hand-built forts in the woods behind our house, and dreamed of becoming a naturalist, an explorer, a survivalist, joining the ranks of Rachel Carson, Tom Brown Jr. Edward Abbey, and Grandma.