My fiancée Mary and I climb an abandoned road in Penwood State Park, once the playground of twentieth century inventor Curtis Veeder. The broken pavement with his clever mushroom-cap center drains is lined with the trail’s blue blazes as it passes traprock outcrops. Bluets and geraniums bloom at the macadam’s edge where yellow cinquefoil threads through the grass. Tiger swallowtails, mourning cloaks and American coppers float in sunlight like winged flowers.
At a flat, brushy area where Veeder’s cabin burned years ago, the trail narrows and climbs steeply to a lumpy basalt knob called The Pinnacle. Beside a couple weather blasted cedars, Mary and I unpack a picnic of cheese, chocolate and wine. Embedded in the rock nearby like a fat knitting needle poking the sky is one of Veeder’s eccentric survey pins.
Below us the Farmington River flashes with sunlight among fields, trees and swamp. There’s a line of rooftops marking Simsbury’s main street, a white-spire church and brownstone town hall. A rocky rollercoaster of forested ridges stretches north and south.
We eat slowly, savoring flavors and the view as Curtis and his fiancée Louise did when he proposed on this spot. Possessed by resident spirits, we renew our promises to each other. With a sweep of his hand, Curtis could have pointed to hundreds of acres that would be theirs together. His gift of the park to all people allows me to do the same.
romance sweetly blooms
atop the high rocky knob
(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/