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Errol NH is near the top of the state, one of the last outposts in the northern forest.  Turn left at the intersection and you will soon arrive in Dixville Notch at the now shutterred Balsams Grand Resort.  Turn right, and you will soon enter the watershed of the Androscoggin River and the great lakes of western Maine: Aziscohos, Mooselookmeguntic, Oquassuc, Richardson and Rangely.  Beyond that lies the massive wilderness known as the Allegash.

Our friends John and Marlene have built a magic little enclave in the woods of Errol.  Nestled in a mature forest of mixed woods and bordered by a brook, their land is steeply pitched.  The tall canopy provides shade and keeps the intrusive sun away.  The stones in and around the brook are painted with a thick, rich green moss and curly ferns  sprout out of the fertile forest duff.  Underfoot, the forest floor is soft and spongy, carpeted by countless generations of leaf litter and spruce needles.  Lady slippers, trillium and trefoil dot the network of walking paths that John and Marlene have laid through their magical forest.  Over the years, they have landscaped their woodland enclave with “found art” as well as an eclectic collection of oddities.  Stones  and branches have been piled and arranged into living sculpture.   Bits of flotsam have been nailed onto trees.  At first glance, the forest appears natural, but a closer look reveals Marlene and John’s whimsical and clever re-arrangement of the forest.  Nothing looks as though it has been inposed upon the landscape.  Instead, everything appears to have grown from the ground and the forest.  From the little wooden bridge that spans the rushing brook, one looks upstream to the convergence where the brook comes together having been split by a raft of boulders and trees.  Falling in a bubbling froth from one pool to the next, the stream scours round granite stones and gnarly tree roots.  Fallen leaves circle round and round in eddy pools. The water, normally clear, is now golden and dark, loaded with the burden of all the recent rains.

As we sit in cabin warmed by the fire in the woodstove, the babbling of the swollen brook, the murmur of friendly conversation and the wineglow all conspire as I slip into dreamstate. In this magical place, the line between waking and dreamstate is fluid and movable and I easily drift off…

Hello again!  You mustn’t be very bright.  How many times have I had to rescue you and your forbears from this bathtub?  I resent you for repeatedly putting me in this position.  It would be so easy to simply run some water and flush you down the drain.  So here we are again, sharing this zen moment where I balance the value of your simple spider life against my desire to conveniently take a bath. If I could just pick you up by one of your eight legs and simply escort you to the door, you wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Unfortunately, I am repulsed by that prospect, you are obliged to resist, and your body is far to delicate to endure the ordeal. Consequently, I must put my robe back on, go find a magazine and return to the tub. You need to forcibly be “coaxed” onto the magazine so that I can extricate you from my tub without crushing your horrible little body. Then I must decide if you are to be banished from the house or merely relocated to a dark corner. I don’t object to your presence; I don’t mind sharing my home with you. However, if we are to co-exist, there are a few groundrules to which you must adhere. First of all, be discrete, stay out of sight. Weave your webs under the tub, behind the dryer, or better yet, live in the cellar. If you must occasionally wander around the house, do it at night when you won’t be seen or stepped on. I don’t mess with your flies, you should never mess with my food.
We are in a symbiotic relationship. I provide you with shelter and warmth, you kill and eat things that annoy me. I want you to eat Kelly Ayotte, but you would be poisoned in the process. Seriously, your job is to trap and eat flies, centipedes, earwigs and such. That is why I am not flushing you down the drain and going to great pains to assure that you and your progeny (you all look the same to me) will continue to prosper in my home. So, go spin your webs, kill flies and grow your family! Just keep the hell out my bathtub! One of these days I might not be so magnanimous in our dealings.

Cane in hand, he sat in his old rocker on the front porch of his home.  The  railing was just a few feet from the crumbling pavement  and the river was just a few feet beyond the pavement.  Chokecherry bushes flanked the house and the deep red, overipe berries were abundant.  Where the sun found it’s way to the earth, goldenrod grew to waist high and crowded the narrow road with a cordon of gold.  Gray storm clouds churned in the summer sky and the rising breeze cooled the high summer afternoon. Ripples scattered the reflections of the stormy sky in the tea colored water of the Androscoggin.

The old codger rocked slowly.  He looked as old and tired as the peeling paint and curling clapboards.  Aged, bent and crooked, worn  out from a lifetime of hard work,  his tattered wool pants, suspenders and straw hat seemed as much apart of him as the deep ruts that lined his face.  He stared off  unfocused, into the distant mountains, perhaps into the distant past.   In the shadow of his sagging porch roof, beneath stately ancient elms he rocked  to the sound of mourning doves  and the wind swaying the trees.   Was he remembering  the hard work,  the merciless seasons, the  cruel vagaries of nature?  Was he thinking of all the loved ones that had already buried?    Was he basking in the satisfaction  of a difficult but full life and grateful for  his extended years?  Was he talking to his creator and preparing for his own imminent departure?

The early evening sun found a break through the dark clouds.  The old man and his porch  glowed with the rich saturated hues of  sunset.  The crickets, having been quieted by the threatening storm  once again took up their chirping.  The old man’s rocker was still, the cane slipped through his gnarled fingers and clattered on the sunbleached floor boards.  As twilight darkened the skies, the old man went home.

Pittsburg, New Hampshire is in the northernmost section of New Hampshire.  It’s here that the headwaters of the Connecticut River flow into the Connecticut Lakes and begin their long descent to Long Island Sound.  Heavily forested and sparsely populated, it is cold and unwelcoming.  If you were a felon looking for a hideout, this would be a good place.  A quiet desolation pervades all aspects of the town.  It’s a hardscrabble, no frills place inhabited by people who work hard to make a living.  There are few paved driveways and no parked Audis.  Gravel, mud, log trucks and skidders  are common along the length of Rt. 3. Lawns are largely ignored, houses are in need of paint.  Austerity seamlessly yields to poverty…it’s hard to tell which is which.  This is definitely Ford country.  The family car here is likely an F-150 which has been jacked up with a lift kit.

Pittsburg is also host to a summertime population of elite sportsman; fly fishermen and kayakers.  It’s very easy to tell them from the locals.  They are fresh, healthy, bright.  They weren’t born defeated, they weren’t saddled with limits. They are in the world and Pittsburg is a pleasant outpost

For the locals living this far from the mainstream, culturally isolated, economically deprived, Pittsburg is a cage. It defines who they are and what they can ever be; loggers, farmers, or loggers, farmers…

He was a filthy little urchin. Dressed in tattered over-large hand-me-downs, he was as dirty as any unattended and neglected 7 year old could be and he had a bad black eye. I asked him how he got it, he pointed towards his family. ” Your big brother?” I asked. He pointed to his mother. I changed the subject. Later a more affluent family came in eating ice cream cones. The little urchin got extremely close  to the young boy with the cone and  his eyes never came off that ice cream . It was obvious that he didn’t enjoy treats like this very often, if ever. Earlier, he had pasted himself to one of the musicians who had a bag of kettle korn.  Clearly, he had not been taught manners, personal space or much of anything, really.
 After eating half the cone, the affluent kid said he didn’t want the rest and handed it to his father. Realizing how badly the urchin wanted the cone, the father took  it and was offering it to the drooling  urchin. When his son saw the gesture, he insisted he wanted the cone back.  The dissappointment in that little urchin’s face was heartbreaking.  The little boy with the cone took one more lick and then deposited the remaining ice cream in a garbage can. I felt bad for both those little boys and in that moment, I had a glimpse into both of their inevitable futures.
Sometimes life has a way of condensing  an entire story into a snapshot, an encyclopedia of the human condition  into a single vignette.

In a very curious juxtaposing of viewer, view and vantage point, today, I had to attend a pre-bid meeting for a gas collection system at the local landfill.  The landfill is situated in an alpine valley high above the city of Berlin, New Hampshire in a wilderness at the foot of  Mt.Carberry.  The road curves gently from the city below and rises approximately 800 ft  to the disposal site.  As a part of the meeting, all the participants had to walk up to the top of the garbage heap (technically known as a cell).  From that vantage point, I viewed a breathtaking panorama looking north and west.  To the north, I could see the new windmills stretched along ridges nearly up to Dixville.  To the west, I had a clear view of the Kilkennies and could see nearly to Colebrook.   How ironic that such an incredible view can be had by walking up to the top of a garbage heap.  How sad that such a pristine area with vies of some of the most incredible scenery in the country has been given to the storage of garbage from as far away as New Jersey.

Sandwich, New Hampshire  is far enough off the beaten path to have escaped the “up scaling” that has afflicted many of its neighboring towns.   Its proximity to Squam Lake  (On Golden Pond) could have doomed it to occupancy by the  droves of cash carrying Massachusetts misanthropes looking to spread their misery northward.   Somehow, the town was spared.  It remains one of the most quintessential New England towns imaginable.  It is a living breathing Norman Rockwell painting, and the residents could easily be moved into any of his depictions of idyllic life!   Suspendered old men watch and comment on the construction in town.  Gardeners tend to their flowers and vegetables.  Automobiles move slowly because the line between vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic does not exist.

Colonial homes, tidily kept, sit behind flowered fences and weathered farms are encircled by  lichen crusted stone walls.  The people who live here today are the direct descendents of the men and women whose sweat and blood cleared the fields and piled the old stones.  Rolling hills rise sharply to the encircling mountains that hold the rest of the world at bay.  Church steeples rise above the towering hardwoods.  Behind the whitewashed town hall, frogs bellow from the lily pads and cattails. .  Sidewalks are scarce, flower gardens abound.  Signs are discrete and nicely done.  Nothing is garish or demanding of your attention.  All is in conformity with the New England tradition of dignified reserve.

Neighbors know each other.  They meet at their fences and talk.  They share coffee and gossip.  A selectman walks by and a townsman wants to voice a complaint.  Here, it is possible for a complaint and a smile to be in the same mouth at the same time.   Neighbors are civil, pleasantries are exchanged at every chance encounter.   There is a pervasive sense of community.  It is intangible, it cannot be quantified or even described, yet  it is part of the core values of the town and the many generations of people who have lived there.  Sadly, it is an oddity, an anachronism, existing out of its  time.  Sandwich is another great treasure at the end of a dusty road.

It is a wonderful time of year.  The morning air, damp and thick, is heavily scented with sweet fragrance of lilac and honeysuckle blossoms and the punky aroma of freshly turned earth.  My bedroom window opens to my back yard and the garden that waits to be planted.  Wildflowers abound in the unkempt lawn and keep company with the perrenials in the shade garden beneath the tall spruces.  We’ve been picking and eating the dandelions.

  A raucous crow is rudely calling out to his criminal friends and the mourning doves are cooing. My hammock, newly pressed into service  sits under the apple tree near a swarm of lillies.  In the fall, the netting of the hammock will fill with falling apples and I will once again consider an alternate location… The table and chairs have been taken out of winter storage and are ready for the first outdoor outing of the summer.  Summer in New Hampshire is a short but very sweet time of the year.  The stubborn snows still clinging to the Presidentials are a reminder that, here, winter is never far behind or far ahead. 

I met an 84 year old psycho- analyst from New York today.  She is still practicing out of her 40th st. office at an age when most professionals have been retired for twenty or more years.  She drove up from New York to spend time with her daughter.  I had met her briefly last summer, and she remembered Darlene and me.  How remarkable that she is still working, is undaunted by a nearly 400 mile solo  trip and has such a keen memory…  She is very animated when she speaks and her eyes sparkle with enthusiasm, whatever the subject of conversation.   Among the topics discussed was Robin Williams career all the way back to Mork!  She remembered all of the movies and roles.  I was still working on the third or fourth by the time she had rattled them all off, and then she went into detail about his performances.   Astounding!!!   I am inspired and humbled.

Foreword:                                                                                                                                    Well, after so much procrastination, it seems that I have finally managed to establish a blog page.  I will no longer burden my Facebook friends with my florid prose, mindless musings and saccharin observations of the beauty of life.   Now, anyone who subjects himself to my missives is doing it of his own free will.  I need not apologize for anything in these pages and that is truly exhilarating!  Presumably, this blog has the title “Dusty Roads”.  I chose this title after much deliberation because it is a reflection of the fact that I chose to leave mainstream America many years ago and returned to the rural lifestyle of my youth.  I am far from an interstate and I spend a lot of time on gravel roads.  I am close to to the land and in touch with the passage of time as nature marks it, and that relationship provides the basis for most of what I write. 

 I like to paint with words.  In  the process, my eyes become your eyes, my world becomes your world and I am quite happy to welcome you to it. I will be pleased if you are moved in any way by the thoughts, observations, writings  and whatever else I eventually post on these pages.