postcard: pittsburg nh

I’m quiet here. From inside to out. Pittsburg is a place you feel in the deepest part of you. There’s a richness to the air here, a deeper breath, and a grateful exhale. I am surprised by the slowing of me. The softening of me. Internally, there’s an easing of some sort. I feel the taut places in me go slack. I stretch my arms wide and high overhead … I reach, breathe, gather, pray. Here, I am a verb of being.

Good morning from Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

Given its 291 square miles in area, Pittsburg tops the list of incorporated New England towns as the largest. The town’s also tucked in at just about the 45th parallel — the most northern town in New Hampshire — bordering not only Canada, but Maine to the east and Vermont to the west. The longest river in New England, the Connecticut River, begins its 410 mile journey toward the Long Island Sound at Fourth Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg, a literal stone’s throw from the province of Quebec, Canada.

If you’re in need of a little soul-searching, I’d start here.

Away from home and out of the regular life loop, Pittsburg transforms me. I am different here from there. I think it’s important to notice what a place offers in these moments of the experience, but also what it has to teach me. Who am I here and can I take her home with me?

In Pittsburg I find a rare kind of hope – wild, wide-open, and free. There’s hope in the tremolo of a loon and the unexpected flash of white across the broad chest of a deer. I measure time by the movement of clouds and the flow of water. Even the scolding of a red squirrel stills my soul somehow – or maybe it’s me, myself, still enough to hear it at all. Though we hardly ever meet, moose, bear, fox and I walk the same trails and it seems certain we’ll all find our way bettered from just venturing out in the first place.

postcard: star island

I am all about the feel of a place. The energy. Or whatever I call the spiritual song and dance of souls or faded footsteps of those who came before me. I know there’s a pull to this shore like the breath of the tide in and out. If not quite a sense of homecoming, there’s for certain a feeling of belonging. Of welcome. You can feel Star Island greet you before your boat even docks.

Being on Star Island just plain feels good.

Known collectively as the Isles of Shoals, Star Island and its neighbors form an archipelago of nine islands scattered along the New Hampshire and Maine border in the Atlantic’s Gulf of Maine. While not the largest, 43-acre Star Island is likely the busiest with a full summer schedule of conferences, workshops, and retreats to enjoy for long-term visitors as well as day-trippers like me out to escape life’s present tense for an hour or two in the past.

There’s the beauty of the island, of course, with its simple, white-washed buildings gazing out beyond the rocky shoreline in contrast to the deep blue of the sky and sea. There’s the history. The Oceanic Hotel. Explorer John Smith. The Gosport fishing village. Shoals poet and writer Celia Thaxter. There’s legend. Lore. Mystery. Celebration. And endless inspiration.

There’s even ritual. At each day’s end, a procession of candle-bearing guests walk the path to the Stone Chapel for evening services where no doubt blessings are counted like stars in the deepening darkness of the sky. In a farewell ritual, folks gather at the dock to send off those departing the island and rhythmically remind: “You will come back! You will come back!” In reply, a promise from the boat’s topside: “I will come back! I will come back!”

For all its social activity, there’s solitude too. Waves to contemplate. Rocks to climb. Kites to fly. Flocks of birds to watch. There’s a sense that you’re standing still with time. On solid ground. Breathing easily and deeply.

There’s peace to be found out there on Star Island. And a certain serenity. Only six miles out to sea and an hour-long boat ride away.

My promise: I will come back.

summering the alphabet

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We’re summering our way through the alphabet again this year.

Not letter by letter in order, of course, that would be far too constricting. However, the structure the alphabet provides is some sort of reminder to get out, go out, find out, and do something with the lovely (and fleeting) days of a New England summer.

In no particular order, we’ve summered the alphabet so far with:

S: strawberry picking

H: hiking

T: tennis, both at home and away (our racquets travel with us)

P: picnics

Some letters fill up quickly, and others are a bit of a challenge.  Last year’s Y: yard sales will likely be this year’s as well since I’ve got a new classroom come fall and find myself in need of several solid bookshelves. It’s okay. Repeats are fine. I impose no rules or restrictions when summering the alphabet, although I usually only document those people, places, and events we meet, visit, and experience together as a couple.

I’d rather not summer solo.

We add the destinations we reach like some sort of alphabetical post card documenting the places we’ve dreamed about visiting throughout the long winter while waiting for summer to come.

E: Ellacoya State Park, Gilford, NH

C: Calef’s Country Store, Barrington, NH

M: Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Rupert, Vermont

Of course, V is for visiting Vermont in all her fine, full-on summer greenery and the bluest skies I’ve ever seen. We’ve stayed with our favorite Vermont family at I: Inn at Manchester (which incidentally also appears on our fall and winter alphabets,) and for the first time ever, we’re also summering at the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont – which of course means W is all set.

The alphabet’s filling up fast this year … it’s not even July, and we’re almost halfway through. Maybe this summer we’ll experience a letter or two more than once.

And won’t that be fun?





postcard: mrs. lincoln’s garden

DSC_0356 (5)Jessie Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph loved her mother.

It must be so.

It must be true.

In my imagination, Jessie was a daughter who loved her mother so much … she created a garden just for her. And not just any garden. A garden with thousands of blooms. A garden with borders and pathways. A garden planned and planted by color and symmetry.DSC_0353 (7)Maybe Jessie wanted her mother to have a garden as majestic as her new home.  Maybe she wanted to remind her mother of the years she lived in Europe. Maybe Mary Harlan Lincoln, daughter-in-law of Abraham, was a woman who had everything … except for a formal, parterre garden.DSC_0343 (10)Or maybe, just maybe, Jessie wanted to gift a garden that would bloom and bloom her love forever and ever.

And so far it has.DSC_0350 (8)A garden like this one doesn’t happen by accident and deserves an inspirational setting in which to take root.  This mother-daughter garden grows at Hildene, ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT.DSC_0334 (6)It’s said Mary Harlan Lincoln could see the whole expanse of her garden blooming before her as she stood at her second floor, center bedroom window.  Now known as the Hoyt formal garden, I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Lincoln’s garden.  Stunning from any view, the garden is most beautiful, perhaps, from that second floor – planned as it was to resemble a cathedral stained glass window. DSC_0348 (9)Hildene, a beautiful 24 -room Georgian Revival style manion, is but one generation away from the single-room log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in.  Tucked into the beautiful Vermont green mountains, visitors can walk, self-guided, through most of the home with many of its original furnishings and features, including family artifacts and a historical timeline perspective of President Lincoln’s life and death.

You can read about Hildene’s history  here.DSC_0354 (7)It’s the garden, though, which captured my heart.  I’d love to take tea with Mrs. Lincoln out on the porchswing in the early warmth of mid-June. We’d swing, and sip, and marvel at mountains and the never-ending beauty of Vermont.DSC_0344 (6)And the sweet scent of a thousand peony blossoms would remind us both of the ever-blooming love between a mother and her child.





postcard: billings farm

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Step into the 1890 farmhouse and make yourself right at home.

Can you smell the biscuits in the oven?  Feel the curve of the pump handle in your hand?

Don’t get too comfortable though, there’s work to be done.

Maybe the cows are ready for milking.

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Or it’s time for butter-making in the creamery.

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Could be there’s ripe tomatoes ready to pick in the heirloom garden. Or supper to cook on the kitchen’s grand black stove.

There’s always work to be done, but be sure to make time for a quiet moment to graze awhile and simply smell the sunsoaked grass.

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Are you ready to receive visitors in the front parlor?

Or is it time for bed after a long day’s work?

Early to bed, early to rise is a way of life on the farm.

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There’s so much to explore at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, VT where blue skies and green pastures meet at the horizon and the rural history of Vermont is a  just short walk back in time.

An interactive museum, the Billings Farm features films and exhibits on farming history, maple sugaring, ice cutting, and life in the farm community.

The farm animals befriend visitors right there at the pasture fence or back in the barns: draft horses, dairy cows, chickens, and sheep.

The 1890 Billings farm house offers you a home and hospitality from the past: the business end of farming and function in the farm office with its majestic standing desk,  family living quarters, and the glorious pastoral views from every window.

Billings Farm is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a charitable nonprofit. An interactive museum and working dairy farm, be sure to try some of the Billings Farm cheddar cheese!

Open daily, May 1 through October 31, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.




when summer comes


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It’s summer in New England, and all outdoors awaits.

All the best verbs of summer wait just beyond the front door and down the porch steps: explore, discover, daydream, hike, climb, paddle, swim, bike, wade …  and stroll.

In New England, we count the days until summer comes. And when it does, we don’t want to miss a minute.

There’s so much to be done before the cold air returns, the flakes fly, and we all head back indoors: I’ve got bubbles to blow, sidewalks to chalk, fireflies to count in the backyard, and kites to set sail down the beach.

I’ll rise early and tumble to bed late. I’ll take long walks after dinner. I’ll play whiffle ball, bocce, and croquet in the backyard. I’ll be a picker of wild daisies, and buttercups, Queen Anne’s lace, and black-eyed Susans.


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I’ll picnic and sip lemonade from a waxy, paper cup. I’ll suck on orange popsicles and juice will drip down my chin.

It’s time to pitch the tent and climb a mountain. Cool lake water awaits a dive at the count of one … two … three … Go! The college kids at the ice cream place down the road stand at the window, ready to scoop my order.

There’s places to go, people to see, and things to do – the very essence of childhood to remember. And live again.

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This weekend alone, there’s sparklers to twirl, marshmallows to brown at the end of a stick, and independence to be thankful for.

It’s summer in New England, and I’m going to be busy.

Don’t you worry.

I’ll send you a postcard.


peace. love. vermont.

DSC_0456Nothing unfurrows my brow like a few days in Vermont.

DSC_0469 (2)We visit as often as we can.

Breathing feels easier.

DSC_0515 (3)Right about now the meadows fill to overflowing with daisies, black-eyed Susans, buttercups, and Indian paintbrush.

Vermont feels wide, wide open and all that green, green space makes me feel like whatever’s all tight and taunt inside me is unfurling – and free.

DSC_0513 (2)There’s a farm ’round every bend in the road and pastures full of horses, cows, and sheep.

In Vermont, it’s cool talk to all the animals, because … well, why not?

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DSC_0368 (6)Maybe there’s some sort of simplicity to be found here, a respite from other, more common complications and worries.

Or maybe it’s not the place, but me. Maybe it’s me who’s different here.

Could be. Might be. May be.

Maybe I change.

DSC_0333 (7)When I’m in Vermont I feel like my most true self. And something I can’t quite explain happens to me every single time I cross the border.

DSC_0526 (2)Vermont, I love you and I know you love me right back.

DSC_0518 (2)Peace. Love. Vermont.