Hard Drive | Mary’s FarmPhoto Credit : Illustration by Clare Owen/i2iArt
The man who built my house in 1762 also built my road. He was the first settler up here, having moved from Massachusetts. He raised the barn first, then built the house and, finally, the road. I doubt very much that he was awed by the view, if he ever took time to look at it. For him, this was a place to live and a place to farm, working the forest soil and pulling the stumps and roots and boulders and stones out of the earth until it was tillable. And so it grew, along with the history that today is visible all around us. He and his family were here a long time without neighbors; I still have only one house within sight.
When I first lived up here, a car passing by was a rare event. I used to estimate that we had about three per day. But that was 20 years ago, and only two of us lived here year-round. There are more now—and the more people, the more cars. I would not have thought it, but the prevalence of GPS has brought more cars here too. While I don’t have GPS (it doesn’t work well in my area), apparently there’s a setting that allows you to find the “most direct” route to your destination. Imagine my surprise when I heard the rough grinding of gears preceding the polished grille of an 18-wheeler straining up the hill past my house.
Beyond my driveway, the road turns to dirt, and then a 180-degree turn begins the plummet down what we call Number Four Hill. I had never seen anything like this truck here, and I knew the road well enough to know what would happen next. Thirty years ago Number Four Hill was similar to a dry riverbed, a rutted single-lane road, and today it’s still all I can do to squeeze my VW past another car coming the other way at a crawl. Sure enough, soon enough, the big truck was slowly backing up.
After that, I witnessed more and more trucks making the grade up the hill—and coming back down in reverse. I went to talk to the selectmen. “Someone’s going to get killed,” I said. They didn’t have any suggestions. “You have to talk to the folks at GPS,” they said with sly smiles, which meant Good luck! And then the invasion ended, just like that. Somehow the truckers got the message: The road might be faster, but all roads are not equal.
And now we are back to the occasional car. For the most part, I know to whom the cars belong, which gives a cozy feeling, watching the neighbors come and go. Anne going to get groceries, Nina on the way to get her mail, Noel heading to the dump with his dogs. In haying season the traffic is constant, with tractors and hay wagons working the fields all around—a time I refer to as “the circus.” There is always something to watch, which is a contrast to the still life outside my windows most of the year. The longer I am here, the more I feel part of the vista, part of the scene. Like the big maple out in front of my house, my limbs spread wider and my roots grow deeper.
Edie Clark’s books, including her newest, As Simple as That: Collected Essays, are available at edieclark.com.