Northern Rail Trail

A beautiful piece of New Hampshire history is the Northern Rail Trail. Once an active railroad line, the abandoned tracks were removed and converted to a 59 mile scenic trail.  A fitting tribute to an era gone by, the trail now provides hikers, bicyclists, and snowmobile enthusiasts the chance to immerse themselves in nature while preserving a piece of history.

Be sure to take advantage of the many side trails along the way. Most are short diversions into picturesque settings perfect for picnics and photography opportunities.  Autumn and Spring are absolutely breathtaking, but be sure to pack the bug spray. May and June are dubbed “black fly” season here in New Hampshire and the little insects can be quite pesky.

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Using Artwork for Writing

Inspiration comes in many sources. The most profound and thought provoking stimulation for me has come from works of art. During one of my early writing classes, our instructor gave us a picture of abstract art. The assignment was to stare for ten minutes…no writing, no taking notes, just stare. At the end of the time, we were given twenty minutes to write about the picture. When we gathered again, the results were amazing. Some writers created eloquent poetry that painted a picture as vivid as anything canvas could capture, while others had personal memories jolted from slumber. The end result was not only the act of creation, but the realization that this was my creative spark.

Since then, art has intrigued me in ways never thought of before. One of my favorite stories…and by far my darkest…sprang forth from this picture by Pieter Claesz, a 17th century European artist (picture credited from the Web Gallery of Art). I’m still searching for a place to publish this…one that won’t shy away from the horror of a story entitled “The Skull Artist.” While I am really a positive person, I use this piece as an outlet for the bad times in my life. Some people drink and some exercise to relieve anger, but I release these feelings by throwing them onto paper. It’s a cathartic exercise that I highly recommend! Here’s a taste of what came out of my inspiration.

“The path to the Skull Artist’s house lay hidden just past a long covered bridge. Wind howled through the structure, and the swollen river below added to the din. Anxious to reach his home, he scurried through the bridge to the other side and waited. The stranger’s footsteps pulsated throughout the structure. The thumps reminded the Skull Artist of a heartbeat…blood surging through the body, the crunch of bone as he freed his canvas, the tearing of flesh and muscle.”

A Weekend of Play

While this weekend was about play, I couldn’t help but feel awestruck at the splendor of Artisan’s Park in Windsor, Vermont.  Nestled along the banks of the Connecticut River, it is a collection of local artisans set among the mystical beauty of the river.  Play comes easy in this eclectic mix of outdoor adventure, art sculpture, food, and drink.

After a day of canoeing down the Connecticut River, we settled into our Tipi and explored the vast landscape of the outdoor sculpture garden. A quick snack at Harpoon Brewery refueled us, and we explored the shops offering a plethora of local cheese, wine, candy, and so much more. As a medieval history nut, I could not resist the temptation of buying a bottle of local mead (I labeled the purchase as “research” since mead can be found in my novel.) Next, we made a quick stop at the on-site vodka distillery for a free tasting of Silo Vodka and returned to our Tipi.

As the sun set along the river, we made smores around the campfire and played in the sculpture garden.  Running through the massive hedge maze at night is definitely a highlight of camping at the Path of Life.    With only the moon and stars to guide you, the experience is absolutely thrilling!

Sunrise brought a whole new day of beauty and a sense of sadness at leaving. We departed with a renewed sense of energy along with some great photos and memories.

As children we are constantly told to “go play.”  Somehow, that concept disappears when we reach adulthood and becomes almost taboo.  This weekend is about “PLAY” and finding the lost art of laughter and fun.  We are off to spend the night in a Tipi along the banks of the Connecticut River. In addition to our regular camping supplies of hot dogs and smores, we have brought a plethora of toys to occupy our time.  Harry Potter wands…check…who can run through a several acre hedge maze and not think of the Goblet of Fire?   Four foot broad sword…check…a large rock within a circle of wild plants is the perfect place to re-enact pulling Excalibur from the stone.  We have dubbed today “Movie Reference” day and will continue to search for crazy ways to honor our favorite movies.  Stay tuned for pictures!

Time to Play

Quechee Gorge in Quechee, Vermont

Quechee Gorge is a natural masterpiece carved by the ice age thousands of years ago.  I am embarrassed to admit that even though I have lived most of my life in New Hampshire, I had never hiked down the Gorge until today.  I wish I could say the drive was too long, or come up with some other believable excuse, but I’ve got nothing! I must have driven past the gorge dozens of times, each time fascinated by people walking along the bridge and looking over the edge to “something” down below. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of granite, but I was always too busy to stop.

The older I get, the more I realize we have to make time for the little things. There will never be a magic moment when neon lights blink “now is the time to do everything you were too busy for.” So, this afternoon on a whim my daughter and I drove to Quechee and stopped!  We stood on the bridge and absorbed the beautiful scenery I had only wondered about.

In the distance, we could see people swimming in pools surrounded by granite walls.  While neither of us was dressed for swimming, the allure was too much to resist.  We weaved our way down a pleasantly easy path until we reached the rocks and spent the afternoon skipping stones.

My only regret, besides not having a picnic lunch or bathing suit, was that I had missed out on such a beautiful piece of nature all these years.

A Picnic in the Alps..Part Three

After a morning of stimulation overload from the stunning scenery, it was time for lunch.  While expecting a sampling of local cheeses and bread, plate after plate of home-made food arrived. At first, we eagerly devoured the offerings, but as they continued, we realized our stomachs would reach their end before the food. I began to pace myself…perhaps I only needed five balls of fresh mozzarella instead of ten.  My efforts at moderation failed miserably! Finally, my taste buds succumbed to exhaustion, and I returned my fork to the table. Then I saw it…dessert. Oh, you evil little fruit tart!

As I strive to “live in the moment” and savor the experience of “the now”, our day spent at this little farmhouse in Northern Italy will always stand as the definitive measurement of “the now”.  Sometimes, my quest to enjoy the moment disappears and time blurs. Is it really Saturday already?  August…how did it become August so fast?

Today is a good day to look back at my pictures and again strive for “the now.”  As I sit and eat my bland breakfast, the memory of those mozzarella balls dances across my tongue.  I can almost smell the sweet flowers so irresistible to the goats from the fields below and hear the echo of bells clanging across the fields.

Writing Between Life’s Call

Life gets in the way of writing!  Like little dust bunnies gathering on wood floors, demands sideline even the best intentions.  While I’m not a coffee drinker, missing my early morning writing sessions is like secretly switching someone’s coffee to decaffeinated.  However, work calls…and pays the bills, so I guess this week I’ll have to be content with decaffeinated writing.  I’ll let the words swirl around my head and hope none get lost behind countless spreadsheets and meetings consuming my day.  Tomorrow is a new day, and I will go for the double-shot!