Tuesday, September 16, 2014
For thousands of years, we have gone to mountains and hills, forests and rivers, for spiritual nourishment and awe in the face of great beauty. Artists, poets, travel writers speak about particular places, and within those places, particular paths, views, trees, birds, rocks, streams and waterfalls. For a number of us, one such place is Beech Hill, in Rockport, Maine. Beech Hill is protected by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and is open to the public year-round. It can be approached on three different paths, and each approach is constantly changing - the trees and plants, the birds, the butterflies, the weather, the view, the people met on the path - a constant motion, new experiences with each visit. For more information on the Preserve, click here
One Chinese poet, Wu Yuan, (1638-1700) wrote of a visit to one such place:
Beneath clear skies, clouds burgeon with dawn light;
from deserted cliffs winds whistle through the void.
Overgrown pathways show no human footsteps;
with every rock, a whole new universe!
We are interested in the whole new universes experienced by visitors to Beech Hill, so we have created this blog as a place to share poems, prose, photos and artwork inspired by visits to Beech Hill. Please feel encouraged to share your own experiences of this wonderful place. (you can send work to firstname.lastname@example.org )
Here is a beginning:
Open Space: Beech Hill
The hill seems to hold nothing back, open to the sky with a clear-eyed
view of the bay, islands and surrounding hills - yet its fields hide things
surprisingly well. Within the tall grass, a curled, unmoving fawn, nests
of sparrows, ripening blueberries, traffic of voles. Some days turkeys
cluster, cluck in the lower fields - you can watch them from above.
I've found their eggshells and feathers. Deer bound through, bobcats
sometimes sun on rocks. Coyotes prowl, leave berry-filled scat.
Teenagers used to sneak up to watch the drive-in movies for free -
all picture, no sound - or meet for trysts in the hayfield,
their secrets all mown and bound in bales at summer's end.
Open space speaks of possibilities, of landscape and topography
as form and function. Birdsong travels easily here, towhee's chink
from every corner, field sparrow's clear, buoyant string of notes.
In hollows you come upon rhodora leaning over vernal pools,
wood lilies, a woodcock on her nest, deer paths through poison ivy.
Kestrels hover, keen-eyed, spying out grasshoppers. A dove
nests on the summit hut's stone wall. Some called the hut a spy house,
though it's hard now to imagine enemy submarines surfacing
in that sparkling bay. The sod roof sprouts daisies. Decades old,
the hut's borne witness to carriages and cars, kids' partying
where the wealthy once hosted genteel teas, bears raiding bee hives,
generations of hunched blueberry rakers. The hill's face,
even where stubble threatens to revert to woods, remains serene,
not unfriendly - the countenance of someone who has seen it all
and knows enough to keep to itself what's most important.
Beech Hill: August: Blueberries
blue below our
feet blue field
field full of berries
blue bay below
wood lily under
on our way
maple to oak,
beech to sumac,
goldenrod, ferns -
butterflies and bees -
bird at the
edge, then gone -
bird entering light
At Beech Nut
(For Kristen, Ellen and The Three Gentlemen)
What a lovely day
What a lovely view
I think such gracious thoughts
that mere chocolate
would permit Phyllis and me
to climb this lovely trail
in the lovely Sun, our father
to shine beneficently down
I wonder the sense of moon
here in the night
the ardent green, the azure sea
We know here that earth & ocean
can be so promising, so helpful
I know I sound the alarum
so often, a fire bell day and night
and the blinking lighthouses
of the bay, fog horns
that keep ships off ledges
Can't we find those
all over land and sea
I'll say no more of pain
just life, a high point of life
which the five of you
have transported us to
Living spirits - hawks
Beings that should never
be taken from the hill
except what true Nature permits
at Beech Nut House 5/27/12 4:10 PM
Listening to the wind and a child and father talking
Beech Hill in November
The red oaks are naked
except for their topknots
burnished by the setting sun.
White birches stand out
against the pale meadow,
Scratches on a canvas.
Silken parachutes slip
from pods of milkweed
to flutter in the wind.
Low bush blueberries bare
their new colors of
scarlet, ochre and orange.
Along the path, a
the waning palate
of the day.
Their progeny have flown.
Their work is done.
and they wait.
The stillness is ripped
by gunfire then
of a young buck
that got away.
Unruffled, they rest,
for winter to tuck them in.
Diane H Schetky
Summit Map of Beech Hill Preserve
black elevation isolines
real or hypothetical surfaces,
black curvy contours
on white paper
no valleys, just hills
start at the trailhead,
follow dashed marks
left foot, right foot, tangled
in a stone wall ribbon,
& an old farm road streamer
to the summit's bald headland,
look to the east, sugar
maples flow against gravity
girdling wavy black pencil marks,
a stand of beech nut
and a stone cairn crown
the Coastal Mountains Land Trust
The hill two miles west. It sits
across the deep blue harbor's face
a whisker base for bushes trees
that reach grab gab between themselves.
The fields that once were burned for berries
now in doubt: the sumac's growing in.
The mossy house of stone, where
a driver brought the guests for tea,
remains on top to nudge the skies
when they grow soft. The firs beside
the house look down, and grimace, squint.
Their roots must dig and reach to grip
the ledge and keep their heads and arms
at watching East to see the day get out
of bed and pull his Shetland on:
for that's the thing to wear if you
have got a gait to cross Beech Hill.
August 23, 2002
Limestones, Greenstones, White Pebbles
Up Beech Hill you will go
As the stones gather pink light
when shadows lengthen on the ground
One fall my mother walked here
bent to the wind
scarf knotted at her chin.
A story of late summer played here
of a boat
dragging across the bay
in silvery waves and dark night.
Neil, I met at a Rockport dance
a chiropractor from Scotland
with warm hands
Learning to build wooden boats in Maine.
I wanted to see Marble Island
so Neil borrowed a small wooden boat with a sail
His first time sailing this side of the Atlantic
Marble Island pebbles proved to be like no others
mottled, pale, smooth, finger-thin.
I took none (too rare), left them
framing red leaves of columbine.
We didn't know
wind died at sunset
but had the tide to carry us back
towards the stone house high on Beech Hill
the dark night
towards Camden Hills
without moon, sweater or sandwich.
There was time for a story
a long story
a love story
of us - and a place
We arrived by boat
walked a cobbled street
passed a cathedral of saints and kings
reached our warm bright pub
hiked pink cliffs and pebble shores
searching for translucent greenstones.
Having been motherless since age of five - a suicide
Neil was forever to be sad.
His hands warm.
His story beautiful.
He was forever to be sad.
The walk up Beech Hill
would be our last
the empty stone house
framing my decision.
But know that
white pebbles lying loose across the hill
beneath that wide sky
were once gathered by Neil's hand
placed by his fingers
I found them there
spelling my name
across the pink ground at sunset.
Tammis Coff, July 11, 2014
Remembering 1986 at Beech Hill in Rockport