The Road Winds Around

Eminent Domain: Part 2
The Road Winds Around

The road winds around through time —
a gray concrete ribbon now,
edged with yellow and white lines.
But before now, then,
then there was a land between two rivers —
inhospitable high forested hills–
stopped the glacier eons ago.
The narrow lands in the valleys curve around the next hill;
the banks of the meandering stream
that connects the two rivers
are the only flat lands
until Ohio.

Deer and bear and Native Iroquois carved out the first path —
the leaves and dirt compacted and hardened by the feet of
animals, wild and domestic; people, wild and domestic.
The route was never chosen, never drawn on paper;
it just became.
Horses picked the easiest way up the high hill;
moccasins chose the slowest curve for walking downhill;
wagons took the flattest way along the stream’s flood plain.
And year after year, as the trees grew and changed colors and dropped their leaves,
the path grew and changed
into a road.

As the road grew wider and harder,
an inn appeared on a long slow curve, where water was plentiful.
The land was flat and spacious for carriages and wagons and horses.
At thirty miles between the towns,
it was a pleasant stopping point between two arduous rides. 
Farms dotted the road in between the ridges and woodlands;
sheep proliferated on the hilltops,
cows lived in the narrow valleys
where barns were wedged
between the hills.

Even the industrial era —
coal mines and the discovery of oil —
did not bring more traffic to the hills and curves of the road.
Rather, the oil barons and the coal companies used barges
to float the precious cargo
up and down the rivers to Pittsburgh.
When barges no longer sufficed,
railroads were built on the flat river banks
for the transport
of black rock and black gold.

The surroundings were home
to coal, oil, and gravel,
and the road was macadam,
until Mr. Ford’s Folly was assured.
In 1935, workless men were put to work
laying asphalt over the macadam;
the steam engines and rollers puffing and belching
to get to the top of the hills with picturesque names:
Tin Can Hill, Clearcut Ridge, McFeeter’s Knob,
String Bean Bluff…

The inn, vacant for years, burned to the ground in the thirties,
and a small filling station took its place.
The flood plain by the creek held picnic tables
for families traveling in their new cars.
Family farms were handed down to the next generation of farmers,
never wealthy, but never hungry;
self-reliant but good neighbors;
taciturn, but full of life;
independent, but willing to serve.

And then the era of speed flashed
upon the road–
a lightning bolt in a summer storm.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike,
the first high-speed road of its kind,
opened for business in 1940,
and moved those cars and trucks
across the Blue Ridge Mountains,
linking Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.
Seven abandoned railroad tunnels were used for going, not over,
but through those mountains.
Cars and trucks traveling ever faster,
left hills and curves behind in favor of straight, wide, and flat.

There was no straight, wide, or flat
on the road between two rivers.
No.
The road winds around
between hills, valleys, trees and farms,
and is left in the dust of the modern world of speed,
instant indulgence, and time saved.
Those who have chosen that mostly peaceful life
are mostly happy with their choice.
The restless have moved on;
the educated children have moved away
to bigger cities, better jobs, faster lives.
The straight, wide, flat roads bring them home to visit,
only to leave again and again.
Those who stay have chosen place over pace,
paucity over plenty,
peace over prosperity,
people over public. 

But some stay who haven’t chosen. Poverty limits them, lack of education limits them, the hills limit them.

Just as the hills keep away hurry,
the hills isolate and divide
those who stay on purpose
and those who are left
in the dust.

The road winds around through time,
telling its story to those
who will take the time
to listen.

IMG_1559

 

This begins Part 2 of the novel, Eminent Domain. Chapters 1-10 can be found here, or by clicking on Fiction Projects at the top of the page.

 

Relics of Time and Memory

Indian Rock

There are big rocks thirty miles to the south
in Slippery Rock Creek.
There are big rocks thirty miles to the east
in the National Forest.
There are big rocks thirty miles to the north
on the shores of Lake Erie.
But here in the rolling farm lands of Black Ash
there is just one big rock.

Walk with us just down the hill
past the edges of the berry bramble
and the fallow field
to where the
North Fork of the West Branch of Little Sugar Creek
winds its way through the beeches and hemlocks,
rippling and glinting
murmuring and echoing
the breeze of the leaves.

witch_hazel_03_fullTurn here at the witch hazel tree.
The path narrows, but just a stone’s throw
into the little glen
Indian Rock is there,
dominating.
A ten-foot maple tree grows from its moss;
Eons and roots have split the smooth stone.
There is a foot ledge
to enable scrambling,
but no grand view from the top,
for this granite boulder guards a small ravine
and a bubbling spring
that feeds the
North Fork of the West Branch of
Little Sugar Creek.

a giant granite anomaly amidst
a sea of sandstone,
thrown here in ancient days by melting glaciers
and God.

The granite is carpeted with moss
and baby blue forget-me-nots
Pale green lichens and fiddlehead ferns–
Miniature perfection.

delicate rock garden Forget-me-not flowers in moss and stones

Image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

Relics were found here.
Mortars, pestles, arrowheads
from the people called Seneca.
Picture the mother, baby strapped to her back
pounding the leather, the corn,
kneeling to collect clear cool water from the spring.
i carry my child in a bright green back pack and we
collect the water
in our plastic Mr. Donut buckets,
but i feel a kinship with her just the same.

i lift him from the backpack and sit him on the soft moss;
i step up on the ledge from behind
and we rest in the shimmering green sunlight
on an ancient moraine.

my pale hand reaches to stroke this red haired child
crawling on the mossy rock
as her brown hand tousles the dark hair of her child
crawling on the mossy rock
and in that second
our fingers
touch
through
time.

sunlight on rocks

The Pumpkin Disaster; little events that change your plans

A week ago I still had a pumpkin from my garden.

I was planning on cooking it soon, I really was. The thing is, it was Christmas time and the orange pumpkin just didn’t go with Christmas decorations. So I put it on top of the corner cupboard to be cooked in January.

It’s February 6th. Yes, I’m aware of that.

Just yesterday I looked at that corner cupboard and thought, I really should move it out and sweep behind it, and maybe change it to a wall cupboard, just to see how it looks. I didn’t notice that the pumpkin was missing.

This morning I had plans to sweep and mop the kitchen floor, go to the grocery store, visit my neighbor, and maybe when I was done, I’d have some quiet time to write on my novel.

img_7753When my broom and I got to the corner cupboard, my jaw dropped in dismay. There was stuff, gunk, all over the floor, the wall, and everything I could see. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I was sure it was the mice we’ve been having trouble with.  (See former post…) It looked like a lot of mice had been partying hearty behind the corner cupboard.

Of course, you, dear reader, can see where this is going. But I hadn’t a clue. The corner cupboard is filled with all of our dishes, bowls, china, and many heavy items. I had to empty the cupboard before I could move it out from the spot where it has lived for three, maybe four years.

Yes. The overripe pumpkin had fallen six feet onto the floor. On the way down it bounced off the walls and the back of the cupboard. After I moved the cupboard, I didn’t take any pictures of the mess because it was truly disgusting. (And here I realize, for the second post in a row, you may seriously take exception to my housekeeping skills…)

img_7758

I didn’t get any writing in that day, but the space behind the cupboard is spotless. And while I was cleaning I thought about these little events that change our plans.

Quite honestly, I’m not very good at having my plans disrupted. Oh yes, I know better. I know what the great philosopher John Lennon said — Life is what happens when you are making other plans. — Turns out he just wrote an already popular sentiment into a song. And the reason it is a popular sentiment is because, Yes, no one likes to have their plans disrupted.

A few posts ago, one of my friends made the comment that how we live our lives generally depends on how well we deal with disruption. I’ve mentioned this quote before, because it is one of my favorites:

c.s. lewis quote on interruptions

I try to practice this — you know, the Keep Calm and Carry On philosophy — but I’m not often successful; imagine if we could just always think of those interruptions, disruptions, intrusions… as our real lives. Forget about our own plans for that perfect day, that perfect week, that perfect life, for those plans (and those lives) don’t exist. Just because our plans are perfect in our imaginations, does that mean it’s real life? Lewis calls them phantoms.

The earlier we learn this in life, the happier we will be. The sooner we learn that every event in our lives is sent to teach us, the more joyful and purposeful we will be. Whether it was actually in our plans or not, God sent it to us to be a part of our lives. No Whining.

And I’m happy to say, that this day I managed to do fairly well. Of course, that’s partially because I didn’t have any big plans. No appointments, No lunch date, No place I really had to be…. And since I had to empty the cupboard, move it, and clean behind it, I took advantage of really moving it and trying it out in a new spot. Where it’s likely to stay until the next disaster… The disaster that, of course, is part of the life God is sending me day by day.

img_7760

So since I had pumpkin on the brain and chocolate chips in the cupboard, I made a delicious pumpkin cake. When life hands you smashed pumpkins, make a cake. (Don’t worry, I didn’t use the rotten pumpkin that is now out on the compost pile…)

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×9 square pan. Gather together: 1 cup pumpkin, 1 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 c. oil (I used 1/4 c. melted butter and 1/4 c. warmed coconut oil) 1/2 c. chocolate chips, 3/4 c. packed brown sugar, 2 eggs, and pumpkin pie spices of your choice — I used 1 t. cinnamon, 1 t. cardamom, 1/2 t. ginger, and 1/2 t. fresh grated nutmeg. You can add 1 t. vanilla too.

Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl beat two eggs and add the pumpkin and the oil. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into the greased pan and bake for 25-28 minutes.

Pumpkin chocolate chip snack cake

It’s always good to share…

Variations:

  • You could add chopped nuts with the chocolate chips.
  • You could add more chocolate chips on the top and spread them around when the cake comes out of the oven.
  • You could add raisins instead of chocolate chips.
  • You could add raisins and chocolate chips and nuts.
  • You could add a teaspoon of rum instead of vanilla.
  • You could bake it in a 8×8 pan and have it be more like a real cake, than bars or a snack cake. If you do this, add 8-10 minutes of baking time.
  • You could put cream cheese icing on it and call it a real cake instead of a snack cake.

I’ve made this twice now in trying to make sure it is a good recipe for your enjoyment. The second time I used half pumpkin and half applesauce because this IS Apple Hill and I have more applesauce than I have pumpkin.  It was just as delicious.

Enjoy the interruptions to your day…