How do we fit into the story of the place where we live? Maybe it’s like stepping into a river that is already flowing.
Our family lives in an area other people like to visit. They fish and kayak the pond in the summer and skate it in winter. They set up tripods by the waterfall across the street where the water wheel once was. It generated power for the knife shop that stood there. The wheel and shop are gone. The stone foundation and falls remain, and the people keep coming. Not so much for the history as for the beauty.
Nestled in a valley, the conifers and deciduous trees of the surrounding state forest shelter us from noise and modern advancement. Its preservation was a gift from our forward-thinking forebears. Canadian geese, turtles, and heron grace the pond. From the back window, I see sap lines and taps the farmer up the road rents from the state for his sugar bush. Except for the occasional black bear or hurricane-force winds, the lines remain undisturbed.
My husband’s ancestors built this house in the mid-1800s. The foundation and a few remaining hand-hewn wooden beams bear witness to this home’s place in the history of Northfield. The basement’s cement walls, chipped in some places, reveal early brick. Gaps in the brick long since filled in were once windows. Back then, the room served as an after-hours tavern for the men who worked in the knife shop. When I descend the stairs to fill the wood furnace, sometimes I imagine their laughter and the clinking of glass mugs.
In spring, I trim the English ivy my husband’s ancestors planted by the front stone wall when they built the house. Perhaps just a couple sprouts. Transplants from Great Britain? The hardy vines have since spread wide, securing stones safely in place against the shifting forces of time. Like the ivy, the Nicholsons still grow here. Generations raising gardens and families, harvesting memories, holding the rest together.