Tuesday, August 3, 2010


So much in upheaval as we drive down the hill, between the Gibbs house, still standing, and the Pioneer, crumbling. I turn right on the main road, then right again at St. Matthew’s on the dirt road that we called Davis Road though I note a too-cute rustic sign that says now it is “The Birches Road.” We thunder down this dirt road, through the stretch where Peter and I plotted how we would leave the family parts of this world for an ultra-regular persons’ world with our log inn by the side the of the road. We go past a wide tarmac drive on the right leading up from the dirt road through birch woods to the Mallory’s, and I do not fail to tell Gillian that Otto Mallory was my grandfather’s roommate at awful Princeton. There is a chain across the tarmac drive, and a sign that says “Beware of the Dog.” The Mallory’s were not dog people “This is the unfriendliness thing I have ever seen,” Gillian says.

We pass a smaller drive leading, I think, to what was old Mr. Hamilton’s place. In my mind someone out of focus named Mr. Hamilton stands in for what may have been a number of old men – the man who buzzed old ladies, the man whose dead hands disturbed by father, the man with woodworking machines who invented a table-high shuffleboard game that was on the White Pines screen porch and in all the summer people’s biggest houses.

We are below the forbidding octangular brown House on the Hill that is now high above us on the left. I see on its lower field an apple tree that is probably long dead, and I see that the tree’s biggest branch goes out horizontally ten feet above the ground. It is one of those hanging trees you see in violent westerns. And I point out that just beyond is where the Playhouse had stood. And then we are at the Farm House. A yard sign from my brother’s time has the Poole name and the Farm House name on it. Across from the entrance, down below the House on the Hill and the Playhouse site, is a long flower garden, set up against a stone wall that holds back the start of the hill. In recent years tended by my brother’s wife, it is where Nana used to gather long-stemmed flowers for White Pines. Further is where the caretaker’s house and barn had stood.

The road passes below a screen porch at the back of the Farm House. My brother and his wife often sit there, I know, drinking, in moderation, correctly English Pim’s Cup concoctions. Because of the light I cannot see as I pass below if anyone is behind the screen, though I sense someone is there. Sometimes Peter and Rosemary stay in the mountains into foliage time. I do not stop – any more than I stopped in Rutland to see if Peter Cooper was home.

It is almost as if I am an invisible ghost here, even here traveling with a pretty girl. No one from this present and all these past times we pass through can see us.

Then, still close to the road, is a trim cottage that was the caretaker’s cottage, where I went to meet his young son who became my friend, and earlier where I saw the caretaker’s father dying. That family moved out when my grandparents began selling off houses and my family had no more need of a full-time caretaker. The cottage was moved here and refurbished as the summer place of a friend of Nana’s, Mrs. Gilman, the widow, we were told, of the Herald Tribune’s music critic.

I look to the left as we now pass the big field in front of White Wings. One of Terri’s rescued animals, an elderly brown cow, is in the field and I see that a pickup truck and her old Volkswagen convertible are parked at the house, so this means Terri is almost certainly at home. But I do not stop to see her, and don’t think she can see me. For I am this ghost returning to an old battlefield.

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