Sunday, May 29, 2011

Live Free and/or Die in New Hampshire





Lady's Mantle

Spring's Kids

YWP, Mrs., & Jr.

YWP, Mrs., & Jr.

Loons rouse me up before dawn, and I tip-toe down to the water and slip quietly into the canoe to paddle solo across the Lake to where the trout are feeding on an early hatch.  The bugs are jetted upward in a column of 58 degree water from springs deep in the gin-clear lake.  A morning of quiet and solitary fishing and then back to the cottage where I rouse the family with the smell of bacon, eggs, and buttered toast just as the sun comes up.  A lunch hike up the trails, and then the afternoon is spent splitting and stacking a half-cord of white birch. 

Other parcels of land are in dispute all around us, as the later generations of other families squabble over the direction and temptation of liquidation that their properties offer, all of which would shiver their ancestors if the iron-gated family plots had ears.  The great-grandchildren of a timber industry and paper family across the water squandered a generous trust with perpetual college-dropping-out in favor of cocaine-fueled ski trips to Vail, Aspen, and France.  Not even the family lawyers could save them, and their land went into default, eventually ending up in a conservancy easement.  To the north, the great-great-grandson of an early mechanized textile production magnate could not bring himself to accomplish anything beyond coasting on the vapors of momentum afforded to him by family reputation, and began to drink himself to death about 10 years ago (think Randy Bragg, but without the redemption).  This spring, he finished his task, and when his estate was examined, it was determined that the massive house itself was beyond repair.  The footprint (stone foundation) is on the market though the timbers haven't even been dismantled yet, and will likely be replaced by something extravagant and distasteful.  The lawyers liquidated the contents to auctioneers, but not before one of the old caretakers who still had paternal memories of the deceased (he had been hired by the deceased's father) crept in to the boat house one night after the valuators left, stepped the mast, set his employer's dilapidated wooden sloop adrift, and burned it like a viking funeral.  Others who saw the distinct lines of the boat consumed in flames at 2am knew immediately it was not vandalism, but the last dignity and honor afforded to a kind but tragic waste.  When the mast and ribs were snuffed out as it finally sank, so was an era.

Blueberries return every year, though some families may not.  Laketrout go deep when it gets hot, but they still run up to the feeder creek in search of crayfish, and I occasionally meet them there.  Expansion permits come mysteriously easy for New Money, and old lastnames no longer impress local town councils: PERMIT REQUEST DENIED.  A trip in the old stationwagon to the neighboring farm where one chooses one's eggs in the barn's pantry, and either leave money in a coffee can, or write the takings into the ledger to be paid later.


  1. Sad but beautiful. God bless the old caretaker. Excellent post.

  2. Dear YWP,
    Elegiac and haunting post. Your writing reminds me of the novels of Mark Helprin. I found your blog through the links column on The Affordable Wardrobe blog a few weeks back and now check in a couple of times a week... I hope this note finds you well, and I look forward to reading more.
    Charles Lister

  3. So sad and so true. We have had a place on Lake Winnipesaukee for many, many generations and that is just what is happening all around the property. Now there are courtroom battles and over-sized houses. Great post.

  4. My IL's live on Muffy's lake. Very sad, replacing outdated piles with nouveau piles. The Lakes Region is still spectacular.

  5. If your place is on the south side of SQM, I may know some of your neighbors.


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