On Saturday morning, I got an e-mail from my brother. He wrote from Providence (the one in Rhode Island) and described a crowded Friday night commute from “The Way Life Should Be” to points south of Boston. He ended his note with “driving through Portsmouth yesterday, I was reminded again how nice it is to have you across the Androscoggin River in Lisbon Falls, 10 miles away rather than 70 or more, on the other side of the Piscataqua River.”
It was a fitting way to start my morning, which I decided would be a Lady Alone Traveler episode. I haven’t been the “gal on the go” much lately, tethered not unhappily in a 15 mile maximum radius from my apartment to here and there. I drive to the post office, I drive to Food City. I drive to my parent’s house and I drive to Uncle Bob’s. Most of my car journeys are 8 miles, round trip. A “big trip” might be a jaunt to the Federal Express box in Lewiston or to the Bowdoin College library and the “Morning Glory” health food store in Brunswick.
The less I have to drive, the less I want to drive.
For kicks, I decided to walk to some of the places I normally drive. I headed east on Route 9 (Ridge Road) at a brisk pace, determined to make it to “town” in an hour. One of my neighbors was out raking and I stopped; we had a chat about weather, mulch, and Moxie, and then I continued on my way.
After I crossed Gould Road, Nezol’s “farm” was on my right. I thought about Stephen King’s book, Needful Things, and how this farm could tell a story called Nezol Things. Old tractors, lawn mowers, cars, buses, stoves, windows, and tools surround the ramshackle barn. The tableau catches my eye when I’m in my car and at foot-traveler’s pace it’s even more intriguing. I see acres and acres of old stuff; I see potential. Useful in some post-collapse scenario, even rusted old farm tools can be instructive.
It occurs to me that maybe the Nezols don’t live there anymore. I’ve been away from town for a long time. I’ll have to ask Uncle Bob; he’ll look at me skeptically and ask me why I want to know. I’ll say I was “just curious.” Grudgingly, he’ll eventually tell me, but his sentiment will include disbelief that I am so unaware of town things.
I won’t ask him today.
Traffic is starting to pick up, so I take a few of the short cuts I know and after 75 minutes of walking, I’m at the post office. No mail of consequence. Subtracting my ten minute visit, the three and a half mile trip took a little over an hour. It’s warming up, so I stop at my parent’s house for a drink of water. My father offered me a ride home, but I declined.
I stopped by the barber shop to talk to Faye about edging at the Citizen’s Gazebo. My technique was still, apparently, wanting. One of Uncle Bob’s friends (who used to live on Ridge Road, not far from Nezol Things) was mid-clip and I seized the opportunity to quiz him about his technique for growing melons. Uncle Bob always mentions this gentleman’s prodigious harvest, given the ones I grew were still, apparently, wanting.
“Athena. Get Athena. Mulch it and use some fertilizer, 10-10-10.”
Alrighty, then. Athena it is; that was easy enough.
Given that I had no more business in town, I continued on to “mid-town” and then back up the Ridge Road, past familiar houses. Back past the alpaca farm and Nezol Things. At the top of The Ridge, I looked over and could make out the snow-covered peak of Mount Washington touching the clouds, exactly where it has always been.
I thought back to the trip my brother and I made to the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods and how we had walked around the “Gold Room,” where elite feet had trod after World War II and decided the dollar would be the reserve currency of the world. Now here I was, on my own two feet, looking at that same distant place.
I remembered a blog post I wrote about a year ago, too, before I made it to the Maine side of the Piscataqua River Bridge.
The good news is that I made it home; the bad news is that I still can’t edge gardens worth a damn or grow respectable melons. And the post office? Still too far away.
I’m in the process of remedying all these minor problems.