From Cream Pot Road the path winds through thick woods until ascending steeply to the Mica Ledges. Flecks of glassy crystals embedded in the gray, west slanted schist are a galaxy of sparkles in late afternoon sun. The exposed slab is dotted with windswept, contorted pitch pines that found a crack or island of shallow soil to take root. The weather sculpted trees seem to have frozen while dancing. I look out toward long wooded ridges running south to north. Below me is a suburbanizing hillside pasture. A farm is lodged in the valley’s throat.
Just south of the ledges is a low, irregular heap of rocks atop a mossy knoll. Several are inscribed with crudely incised initials and dates, the earliest from the late nineteenth century, the most recent from the twenty-first. These Selectmen’s Stones define the corner boundary of Durham, Madison and Guilford. Deposited by elected officials over centuries from the days when laws commanded they periodically perambulate town bounds, the stones stir curiosity in an age of aerial photography and global positioning.
I stand in three towns at once with only a cluster of oaks, a chickadee, and a chirring squirrel as witnesses. Was a time, when being in a place and of a place was as true and substantial as stones.
stones marking time, space
bypast cairn growing lichen
boundaries piled high
(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/