Monday, March 2, 2009

We all walk in the woods

About 4 acres of our 9 was made up of a forest of youngish trees. The goat yard ran down a small hill to a wet. soggy, swampy area, then the woods rose to higher ground behind. We yearned to take a walk back there. No doubt the children would enjoy exploring, and who knew what we would find! We thought the goats would enjoy it too.

On a Sunday afternoon, we decided we could take a few hours off, and gathered everyone for the expedition.

The day was gray and overcast, that early December of 1976. We piled on the coats, hats, and mittens, then stepped off the porch onto the winter-dead lawn. I opened the gate to the goat yard and called to the girls. Monique came, the rest hung back. Such a thing had never been done before!

The people part of our family went on ahead anyway, and Monique followed us. Then, eventually, the rest followed her. Dusty ran off out of sight over the crest of the hill, while Kiki wound through our legs then bolted off to capture a falling leaf.

We had to walk maybe a quarter mile across some fields and alongside the woods before entering them to avoid the swampy patch. The goats stuck close to us, moving herd-fashion, at the beginning. But they began to spread out as the brown oak leaves fell and enticed them away. They grabbed in their teeth a bit of whatever was in front of them and alternated stopping to munch and bounding ahead. Finally we all got to a dry place, and entered the woods.

The ground was covered with dead leaves, the gray light dimmer. Shrubs, vines, trees, at first it all looked fairly uniform. And there wasn't far to go, just a few acres. Even so, we set out to see what we could.

The goat-ladies loved it! They had bark to eat, and poison ivy, one of their favorites, in the form of heavy vines with no leaves because of the time of year. We walked and walked and enjoyed discovering old grape vines, now huge ropes going up the trees. The ground was uneven, more in the form of evenly spaced furrows through which the trees grew.

The goats frequently wandered off for a brief moment, singly, but then came bounding back to the 'herd'. Monique's udder, never well attached, swayed pendulously too and fro as she ran. Dusty took off after something that smelled good then circled back around. It was peaceful and calm, still overcast and early-winter moody, and solitary in being just our family together there.

We saw stonewalls stacked in some distant era that were for the most part still standing, though some rocks had tumbled down and lay scattered in the brown leaves that had fallen this year and maybe last. Whether they marked the boundaries of today's properties, we didn't know.

We stood together pondering the furrows. John estimated the age of the trees to be something like 30 or 35 years. Calculating backwards from 1976, they had sprouted and sprung up in the early 1940s.

Then we understood. Pearl Harbor was in December 1941. The draft began the next spring. Young farm workers had been called up and had left their land plowed but unplanted. We were seeing those same humps of earth formed by the plow, turf now, covered with grass like graves, and the trees that had emerged through them from seeds scattered by the winds. The farmers were gone and hadn't been able to stop the seedlings from taking over the farmland, first carved out of New England forests 300 years before.

We had peeked into the past. What had become of those farm lads? Was there anyone who noticed or cared any longer about the encroachment of the forest? Grapes from long-gone arbors now climbed young trunks instead, but who would harvest the fruit? Only the raccoons or squirrels or birds. The goats were more interested in those ancient heavy gnarled vines, which they tugged at with their teeth.

The milk they gave us that night would be rich with history.

1 comment:

Toni, Mom, Wife, Shaklee Rep "I just love these products!" said...

What beautiful writing! I can see it... in my mind! Peg, have you considered publishing your MA adventures in a book?