On Sunday, we had cocktails on the patio with Jim, an acquaintance who lives nearby. He’s a regular reader of this blog, and for quite a while, we’ve been wanting to have him over for drinks and a chat.
We talked about many things, but I had to laugh when he noted that on my blog, I can get so much material from a walk down the road to the Narrows. This was an interesting coincidence because lately I have been reflecting on my little territory, and how I map it with observation, words, and pictures.
But first things first: I am an extreme homebody. For me, home is best. When the weather is warm, my backyard is one of my favorite places to be. Even though we only own an acre of land, our home abuts a watershed for the Upper Narrows Pond, and this watershed comprises 2, 729 acres, or 4.26 miles. This land is protected, closed for development, which means nobody can build on it. While we do have neighbors, we are essentially surrounded by woods. (I don’t call this place the little house in the big woods for nothing.)
So my prime territory is my own yard, an acre that seems much larger because of the watershed. Almost every day, with camera in hand, I patrol the yard. No matter the season, something is always going on, and it never gets old for me. From the budding trees to the blooming flowers to the falling leaves to the snow—and sometimes we are positively buried in it—it is a cycle that fascinates and delights me.
Then there is the Narrows Pond Road. From my driveway, if I turn left, I will walk to the Upper and Lower Narrows, two bodies of water large enough to be considered lakes and lovely any time of year. The walk to the Narrows is a wooded walk, and through the trees I can see remnants of old stonewalls, a reminder that once upon a time, this land had been cleared of trees and was open farmland.
If I turn right, I walk up to the fork, and there are still plenty of trees, but farther up the land is more open, with fields, houses, and a few apple trees leftover from when there were orchards on this road. There’s also a little swamp, quite near our house, and in the spring the peepers’ song is loud and beautiful.
From the Narrows to the fork it is about one-half mile, and this, combined with my acre yard, is my usual territory. Four days a week, I am home without a car, so it’s a good thing I am fascinated and absorbed by the plants, the birds, the insects, the water, the fields, the sky, and the weather. I feel as though I could live here for a hundred years and never really know this acre, this half mile of road.
Sometimes, of course, I venture farther. Once or twice a week I go to the library in town, about a mile away. My husband and I go on five-mile bike rides. We go to potluck dinners, usually in town. Occasionally, we visit a friend in Brunswick or our daughter and son-in-law in Portland. Once in a while, we even visit our daughter in New York.
But mostly I stay home.
Always, it seems, qualifications are necessary, and so I will qualify. There is value in seeing and photographing areas far from home. The road calls to many people, and traveling can be broadening. As my mother might have said, it changes the mind. (French was her first language, and this is a literal translation from a French phase. I expect it really means that travel broadens the mind.)
But I also think there is value in charting your own little territory, observing what happens in your yard, on your road, in your town. It seems to me that through this close mapping, a deep love can develop for the place that you live, whether it’s town, city, or country.
When you come to love a place and become intimate with it, then the chances are high that you will work to take care of it, to preserve it. Or, as in the case of Winthrop’s expanded library, even work to improve it.
And this can only be a good thing.