Monday, January 29, 2007

Another book recommended and two New England States

This week, a book I should have read years ago - and that you should read as soon as possible. Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods come out in hardback in 1998 and in trade in 1999. For some reason it took 7 years for it to make it to mass market paperback, but it has and I have finally read it as a result.

Bryson's Walk is a very humorous account of his tackling the Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine. Bill and his hiking partner, Katz, hike the lower portion of the trail into the Smoky Mountains National Park, then skip to Virginia and the Shenandoah. Later in the year, Bill "car-hikes" portions of the trail in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hamphire, finishing in the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine short of the AT's end.

Along the way, he meets characters, gets in a bit of trouble, and is frightened by deer he imagines is a bear. And you will learn something, actually a lot of things. For a couple of examples, the highest winds ever recorded were on Mt. Washington, NH and why they are no chestnuts left in the mountains.

A fun, entertaining read and highly recommended.


This week's states are Vermont and Massachusetts.

Poetic States XXXIV – Vermont

Gray Raiders and Green – St Albans

In ‘64 they slid across the border,
twenty-one cavalrymen on a mission
to attack the Union 600 miles
north of the Gray’s Northern border.

Raiders sweep down from Canada,
bandits after cash and horses
in a vain attempt to assist the South
the day Sheridan smacked down Early.

In ‘66, Fenian nationalists arrived
to rescue Canada for Irish freedom,
an effort as unsuccessful as secession,
as foolish as the bomb that took Mounty.

In ‘54 Hollywood Gray reinvaded
with Van Heflin and Ann Bancroft
as lovers and Lassie’s Timmy,
history as false as Birth of a Nation.

No Hollywood rewrite was made
for the green insurgents’ failure,
only an united Canadian and statues
and parades among the border states.

I love what Hollywood does to real events - little in the movies can be believed.


Poetic States XXXV – Massachusetts

From the Jetty

The sailboat slid into Bedford Harbor
as effortless as an albatross
soars over Nantucket Shoals
Behind me, sheets flapped
on the cottage clothesline,
pink and yellow strips
on a field of the bluest white.

At the bow, a girl of a woman,
undressed too light for the Nor ’east
shouted words I could not hear
in a language I could not understand,
although she appeared close enough
for me to smell what she had for lunch,
what wine she drank with it,
and what she did before and after.

She threw her words again;
her voice lost in the noise
of cries of children on the beach,
worried parents,
excited dogs,
nervous gulls.

I shrugged incomprehension.

She laughed, tossed hair
the color of wild strawberries
and slid into the cabin as easy
as a hermit crab into a new shell.

I turned and walked along the jetty,
one eye on the harbor, another
on the ground for stones
I could chuck at cans in the surf.

Tonight, when I go into town
for Friday’s chowder, I will listen
for a language I do not understand.


I have been chided in the forums for not including enough of what makes each state special in the poems. That's never been my goal. The States are a hook to explore - not for travelogues or state history.



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