Up from the sea the trail traipses around town on street and sidewalk like a tightrope timeline through almost four centuries of construction. I pass capes, ranches, bungalows, colonials and simple nineteenth century houses with spindlework, eave brackets, and pilasters. If structures could speak, what raucous conversation liquored with stories of angry shouts and lovemaking, baby giggles and choking death; clap of horse hoofbeats and smooth whoosh of tires; crops shriveled under the sun’s August glare, blizzard white-outs, and pounding rain strobe-lit by lightning bolts.
From a shingled home once an 1837 schoolhouse moved by oxen in 1908, I see “The Spaceship” condominium, long and rounded, built of glass, copper and steel staring down at its tiny plain frame neighbors. From the train station’s glass skywalk over the tracks I spot a ruined octagonal brick water tower lingering like castle battlement remains. Not far and half hidden in a copse of trees is the stern stone Whitfield house with its steep gables and diamond pane windows. Built in 1639, it served as a home, fortress and public gathering place, now reborn as a museum recounting the past.
For decades beyond living memory the grassy fairground has been alive in late summer with prize vegetables, flowers and pies along with cows, sheep and chickens; carnival rides filled with young laughter; barkers hawking simple household wonders; and music and frying food on the air. Turning a corner onto Boston Street, the 1774 center chimney Griswold house sits on a knoll with wavy bubbled windows staring knowingly at the limited life of macadam, utility wires, and internal combustion engines.
clapboard, stone, shingle
spindled porch, dormer, saltbox
the built shape of time
(Haibun is a marriage of prose and haiku. It was first practiced by seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho who perfected the form in a journal he kept on a trip to the remote regions of northern Japan. Gary Snyder, James Merrill, and Jack Kerouac are among American interpreters of the genre. Haibun best expresses the spirit of the New England Trail because it combines clear-eyed prose descriptions of people, objects and places along with poetry that awakens the imagination.)
The New England National Scenic Trail, a unit of the National Park Service, runs 215 miles from Guilford, Connecticut to the Massachusetts/ New Hampshire border. The trail is maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association in Connecticut and the Appalachian Mountain Club in Massachusetts. For more go to https://newenglandtrail.org/