I was talking to my friend Erin the other day about the last place I lived before coming to the Bay Area. This is what I said …
Right before I moved out west, I lived in a small rural town in Western Massachusetts. The town is called Leverett. Population roughly 1,600. I lived in an early 19th century farmhouse. Very beautiful – painted white, with arched green shutters. Many people thought it was associated with the town’s congregational church, which was designed by the same architect and looked like a carbon copy, except bigger and with a steeple.
Leverett isn’t in the mountains, exactly, but it’s at a higher elevation than the valley floor (Amherst, Northampton). It was part of what was called the Hilltowns. So in winter, it was slightly colder, there would be a slightly larger snowdump, snow when the valley was only getting rain. That sort of thing. The house sat at the fork of a few roads, one of which was dirt. I would often walk my dog, Luna, on the dirt road.
Winter nights in New England can be so still.
I love the luminosity of stars in a rural night sky, being able to see the band that is the edge of the Milky Way. There’s a children’s book, written by Jane Yolen (who lives in Northampton), called “Owl Moon” that captures winter stillness perfectly.
The house was partially heated by a woodstove. And so late summer meant, besides corn, stacking wood and preparing for the coming cold. I wondered when I moved west whether I would miss winter. I thought for sure I would. And I should say that I do, but not with longing. If that makes sense. Because winter is hard in New England. Of course I cherish my memory of Luna who, after a huge 3-foot snowstorm, bounded down the front steps and then disappeared – literally, disappeared – into the whiteness. Or seeing winter ceremonies, like town candle lightings, that seem to have so much more meaning when you’re standing in sub-zero temperatures, huddled with others from the community.
One other thing about the house in Leverett. My neighbors across the way were a husband and wife, Phil and Kay. They had lived in their house since 1951. At a time when many of the homes in Leverett still didn’t have indoor plumbing. Can you believe it? No indoor plumbing. In 1951. Phil told me a story once about the water supply to the house. Apparently, at one time, there was a small pipe from the town reservoir that ran to the four houses in the area where ours were located. It dripped into a cistern in Phil’s basement (and I guess in mine). But one winter there was some kind of problem. The pipe stopped dripping. So Phil would drive his truck up this windy road, with a spring that runs down alongside it, into a town at a higher elevation and stop at an old horse-watering trough. He’d proceed to fill up cans of water. Then haul it all back down to his house. He did this for six months.
I’m definitely a city boy. But an Owl Moon has its appeal.