Category Archives: General

Celebrate 20 Years of Preserving Henry’s Birth House with NPR’s Jack Beatty, Authors Diane Ackerman and Lucille Stott

Join us for one or more of our many programs  during your 20th anniversary weekend, Saturday, November 16 through Sunday, November 18.

A Principled Life: Panel Discussion

Saturday, November 17, 2018, 3 PM, Concord Academy’s Performing Arts Center, 166 Main Street, Concord, MA

Join us for an afternoon of fun as WBUR/NPR news analyst Jack Beatty moderates a panel discussion on what it means to live “A Principled Life.”

Historians Robert Gross and Jayne Gordon and documentary filmmaker Joseph Stillman are the featured panelists. Audience participation is encouraged!

Suggested donation $10 at the door includes the 4PM film preview of “Citizen Clark… A Life of Principle”; students free. Please RSVP info@thoreaufarm.org .

Sponsored by Thoreau Farm, the Thoreau Society, and Maguire Associates.

READ ON FOR MORE 20th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS!

 Citizen Clark … A Life of Principle

Saturday, November 17, 2018, 4 PM, Concord Academy’s Performing Arts Center, 166 Main Street, Concord, MA

Following the panel discussion will be a 4 PM preview of Citizen Clark … A Life of Principle, a documentary about former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, that features NYPD Frank Serpico, who is also a producer of the film. A Q & A with the film’s director, Joseph Stillman, follows the film.The Nov. 17 events are open to the public.

Suggested donation $10 at the door includes the 3PM panel discussion; students free. Please RSVP info@thoreaufarm.org 

Sponsored by Thoreau Farm, the Thoreau Society, and Maguire Associates.

READ ON FOR MORE 20th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS!

Celebrate the 20th Year Anniversary of the Purchase of Thoreau Farm
Sunday, November 18, 2018, 1:30 PM
, Thoreau Farm

Join Thoreau Farm Trust as the Town of  Concord dedicates a plaque to those who contributed to the initial acquisition of the Breen Farmstead/Thoreau Birth House.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP info@thoreaufarm.org

READ ON FOR MORE 20th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS!

Author talk, “Saving Thoreau’s Birthplace: How Citizens Rallied to Bring Henry Out of the Woods”

Sun., Nov., 18, 2 PM, Thoreau Farm, 341 Virginia Road, Concord, MA

Lucille Stott, former president of Thoreau Farm Trust and former editor of The Concord Journal, presents her new book, “Saving Thoreau’s Birthplace: How Citizens Rallied to Bring Henry Out of the Woods.”
The book launch will be followed by an author reception and book signing.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP info@Thoreaufarm.org .

Sponsored by Thoreau Farm and the Thoreau Society.

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Filed under General, Henry David Thoreau, The Roost

Critical Hours: Search and Rescue in the White Mountains

By Richard Higgins

I was startled a few years ago when the man training me in CPR, a very safety-conscious person who had saved many lives, declared flatly that there were no accidents.

No accidents? What could be more preposterous, I thought. “What about car accidents,” I asked with moderated sarcasm, “don’t they fit the bill?

Car crashes are not accidents, he replied. “They always could’ve been prevented with adequate forethought or risk assessment. Yes, that could mean not passing, not taking a certain road or not driving at all, but if that’s the cost of your life, it’s worth it.” I grudgingly had to admit he was probably right.

Sandy Stott makes the case for prudence more firmly in his book Critical Hours: Search and Rescue in the White Mountains, a compendium of heroism and hubris in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. The hubris comes from hikers who perished (or nearly did) near those peaks, and over the course of the book their tales tumble together into an avalanche of poor choices and missed cues. The heroism comes from the hundreds of dedicated volunteers and professionals who test their own limits as they yank injured, dazed or frozen people from the jaws of danger again and again.

In recent years, search and rescue has become more necessary and more challenging, writes Stott, himself a seasoned hiker and former editor of the Appalachian Mountain Club journal Appalachia. The promise of safety from cell phones, locator beacons and other high-tech devices has made recreational hikers, and sometimes even experienced ones, overconfident. And the hell-bent, triathlon-before-breakfast extreme fitness culture has turned to mountains paths for endurance training.

Critical Hours is partly a history of hiking, from the Romantic era forward, and of search and rescue efforts when the hiking goes awry, as well as the culture behind each, partly an inquiry into why we ascend summits and partly a biography of Mount Washington—all wrapped around a series of rescue stories Stott analyses for lessons.

The mistakes take many forms: not knowing the weather forecast, hearing but ignoring it, being fooled by mildness at the base, setting off too late, being experienced or poorly equipped and leaning over a waterfall. A missed trail sign, glove dropped or twisted ankle can snowball into full-blown crisis. While most of those who make such mistakes live to tell about it, the rescues are not always pretty or even truly necessary. My favorite numbskull is the large man who reported a badly sprained ankle, which required alternating teams of 12 men to carry him down in a litter—and then, in the parking lot, pronounced himself better and got up and walked away.

Trouble above the tree line is not confined to the clueless or naïve, Stott tells us, noting that even Henry David Thoreau nearly lost the trail in a fog on Mount Washington. Even legendary climbers of the Whites are not immune. One famous hiker, Bill Curtiss, was so strong and fit at age 67 that doctors could not believe the deep musculature of his chest. Unfortunately, their discovery came during an autopsy. Curtis was consumed by winter’s fury atop Washington.

Stott is well equipped to narrate the tragedies.. Born into a family of hikers—his father performed one of the rescues in the book — he is steeped in the history and culture of the White Mountains. And insightful about why some of us are driven to extreme challenges.

He is very good at describing the twilight dimming effect of hypothermia of the body, how it slowly robs first our physical, then our mental, faculties. Indeed, the weather is almost a character in this book, and its personality is fickle and sometimes cruel as it teases or deceives us about its true intentions.

Self-awareness, the ability to see and take in actual conditions, regardless of preconceived thoughts or expectations, and alertness to potential perils, Stott says, is the only the way to avoid becoming an anecdote in any sequel to this book. A little fear doesn’t hurt either. In Moby Dick, the second mate, Stubb, declares that he won’t allow a man in his whaleboat who doesn’t have a healthy fear of the whale.

Those who ignore the perils will likely be rescued by the large and increasingly professional network of private and government rescuers. But these teams have their work cut out for them. Prometheus was in bad enough shape when he had merely stolen fire from the gods. Now that we, his descendants, have GPS, emergency locator beacons and various other high-tech gizmos, it seems inevitable that the vultures will have a lot more picking to do.

Richard Higgins is the author of  Thoreau and the Language of Trees.

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Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, The Roost

Apples

By Lorraine Martin

Some might wonder – why write about apples in late spring? Surely, that’s for the autumn, when we, here in New England, can think of little else. Well, perhaps it’s more that apple trees, rather than apples themselves, are speaking to me right now. 

Their distinct shape is particularly noticeable at this time of year in late spring. There they are, small, wide, kinda gnarly-looking, prepubescent, gawky and tween-like. I grew up in the southeast of England, where apple trees are common in the back-gardens (yards) of suburban homes. At least, we had one.

Our back-garden was a delight; maybe 30x15ft, the neighbor’s stone garage making half a boundary to the left, a tall wooden fence and our coal bunker forming one to the right. The far end, for many years, looked onto what I saw as a big vacant “field,” but which was really an overgrown space in-between housing parcels, the last vestige of the field that existed before all the houses on “Longfield Road” were built. To me, as a young girl, this area which extended beyond the safe confines of our well-tamed garden, was a thrilling, wild, land of mystery, which the grown-up Thoreauvian in me still feels. My brother, 3 ½ years older than I, would camp out there with his friends, but only occasionally would I myself venture in.

I remember, it was this wildness at the back of our house which made our house unique to me. We were the only ones who had this extra “space,” and it gave me a sense of freedom from suburbia which I loved. Our house was also special to me because of the view from the front: from my bedroom window, as we were the only house with no house built directly opposite us, I could see way off into the distance, across the “Green Belt” fields, even spying, on a clear day, an ancient windmill in the next small town over.

My mother filled the front garden with flowers: roses, irises, red-hot pokers, daffodils and tulips, and she lined the pathway with pansies, and all manner of small, colorful plants. Roses were abundant in the back garden, too, and honey-suckle cascaded over the fence near the kitchen window, whose deep-scented aroma filled my girlhood summer evenings. But the back garden was dominated by two glorious trees: the apple and the pear. Mum and Dad planted the trees the year they moved into the new house, and the trees and the house aged together. Over the years, the garden filled up with red currant, black currant, and gooseberry bushes, even a huge, rambling blackberry bush whose soft, sun-warmed fruit was there for the snacking all summer long. But right in the middle stood the glorious, old, white-blossomed pear tree, alongside the pink-blossomed apple tree, both providing fruit and beauty from early spring to late fall. They grew taller and taller, wider and wider, and dad had to constantly prune, just to keep them manageable, until I noticed a turn; Dad couldn’t stop cutting, and the trees grew smaller and smaller, eventually, I realized, becoming a symbol for the axe-words which were cutting my parents’ hearts on the inside of the house.

And yet, the apple tree, along with all the other fruit in the garden, provided so much sustenance. Mum would say, “take the colander, and go get…,” and off I’d go, gathering apples for Sunday dinner’s pie, or rhubarb for that night’s “grutze.” Growing up in-between the wars in Germany taught my mother a thing or two about living off the land. Thoreau would have approved, I think. I now live in Stow, Massachusetts, or “Apple Country,” as it’s known. A transplant, just like the apple tree.

Lorraine Martin is the membership coordinator for the Thoreau Society.

 

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Filed under Environment, General, The Roost