Friday, October 25, 2013


I remember a stand of sumac north of Nichols Street (across from my grandparents' home) in which we used to play.  It was sort of a special world, a forest of sumac, away from parents and the rest of our lives.  Many hours, over many years, were spent there in idle play.  

At dusk Sunday I saw this beautiful stand of sumac ... 
I felt compelled to enter and experience it from the inside, as I used to enjoy doing so long ago.
Yes! Just as I remember it.  The stems are tall, slender, and slightly fuzzy.
And of course the colors of the leaves are brilliant and beautiful at this time of year.  I love the mixture of oranges and reds on display in stands of sumac.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stone walls

This month I have written a column about stone walls. Seeing the new walls under construction this summer at Conifer Hill prompted me to consider the old walls that were there in my childhood.

There's quite an art to building attractive stone walls from such irregularly-shaped rocks. I like the resulting texture and I marvel at the relatively flat top surface.
Across the street from Conifer Hill Commons is another stone wall, this one closer in size and style to the ones I recall. It borders the office park, but a slight squint of my eye can transform it into the old wall running --in exactly the same location-- by Granddaddy's garage and the wooded path leading ahead to our back yard.  I almost expect to be able to climb over this wall, walk between the trees and building shown here, and proceed to the little house where I lived for my first 14 years.
Gazing at this wall, at this angle, I can picture the trapeze my father hung on one tree inside the wall, not far from the office where my mother and father worked. They had converted Granddaddy's garage into a small factory for making hearing aids. This was the location of the beginning of Nichols & Clark, Inc., makers of UNEX hearing aids. I played outside while they worked. Around behind the little building, on the side towards our garden, was space for horse-shoes, a game enjoyed by some of the Nichols and Clark employees at break time.  (In my August column I wrote of playing with carbon paper and adding blue markings to a white garage door; that mischief happened here.) 

Are there any photos of the old stone walls of my childhood? I've been looking through photo albums and piles of loose prints. No one wasted precious photographic film on walls, I guess. The best I could find were some photos of us with glimpses of wall in the background, often out of focus, naturally. I intend to scan a few examples and post them. Stay tuned...  
[Update 5/9/14: I've posted some old photos of stone walls in an entry titled "Signs of spring and old memories."]

Meanwhile, I have found an interesting webpage about the history of stone walls in New England: