Category Archives: General

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

The Cabin Site: Walden Pond

By Tom O’Malley

Your house is finally open now

No walls to interfere

With the sweeping winds of change

And the storm of ideas you found

Here — so long ago.

Now

Your roof is the endless sky

Of succulent colors

Filtered through the breath

Of patient

Trees

And the hidden language of birds

Who love to gather by your open

Door

And sing you to wakefulness.

So fitting here

Where we stand silent

Receiving the welcome blessing

Of your words

And the life you still live

In us.

Tom O’Malley is an adjunct professor of English at Canisius College. 

 

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Filed under General, Henry David Thoreau, Living Deliberately, The Roost

The New Henry in Town

By Corinne H. Smith

When Richard Smith moved to West Virginia at the end of 2017, he left behind nearly a two-decade legacy of portraying Henry David Thoreau in Concord, especially at Walden Pond, where he greeted visitors as Henry in the Thoreau house replica on a regular basis.

Last summer while Smith was contemplating his move, another Thoreauvian, Brent Ranalli, was exploring the idea of taking his efforts at historical interpretation to the next level. Ranalli did not know there would soon be an opening for some one to portray Henry David Thoreau in June 2018.

Brent Ranalli as Henry David Thoreau at Thoreau Farm.

Ranalli’s path first intersected with the Thoreau crowd when he participated in a panel presentation at The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering in 2009. The subject of the session was the publication of Environment: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, a textbook which Brent helped to edit. He quickly felt a camaraderie with the people involved and attending the conference. He has been a regular presenter at each Gathering ever since.

Ranalli is interested in Thoreau’s fascination with Native Americans. He admires how Thoreau was able to take on a walking style that many of his friends equated with that of an American Indian. Ranalli has written and spoken about Thoreau’s gait, as reported by the people who were close to Henry. His research made him wonder: Why not study Thoreau’s gait by donning Henry’s style of clothing and portraying Thoreau himself? Ranalli began to gather parts of the wardrobe and the props he would need for this venture.

Meanwhile, Visitor Services Supervisor for Walden Pond State Reservation, Jennifer Ingram  was responsible for finding a new historic interpreter who could portray Henry and fill the void Smith had left. Over the winter, Ingram sent queries to members of the local historical collaborative in Concord. While she pursued some leads, none of the applicants seemed to fit the position.

Ranalli eventually heard about this new opening through The Thoreau Society, where he is a member, and contacted Ingram. She was immediately impressed. He certainly had the background and the interest; was in the right age range; and had the right build to portray Thoreau.

Ingram had a final test for Ranalli, however. The two met at the Pond office one day, and went to sit in the replica for an hour. Ingram felt that this experience would be critical for the prospective Thoreau. It would offer the reality of the interpretation. If the potential Henry didn’t feel comfortable being in this space, or if he felt he had to leave after a few minutes, then that would be that.

Instead, Ranalli stayed.

“It felt comfortable,” he said. “One could make a home there. With the replica furniture and the working wood stove, the house definitely feels authentic. It makes it easy to enter the world of the 1840s.”

He had not only passed Ingram’s test, but one of his own. And, he interacted well with the public who stopped by the house that day to meet Henry.

This month, Ranalli did his first Henry gig at an Acton elementary school. (He was careful not to talk to any classes that included his own sons as students.) He reports that the appearance went well. He was stymied only once. This was when someone asked what kind of car Thoreau would drive, if he were alive today.  (I suggested that Thoreau would be likely to take public transportation.) Yet, Ranalli feels as though he has already gained a deeper understanding of the author-naturalist by stepping into his shoes.

Brent Ranalli will portray Henry Thoreau at Walden Pond State Reservation on Sunday, May 27, 2018, beginning at 1 p.m. Be sure to stop by and chat with him as he “is” Henry at the house replica. Just don’t ask him about cars!

Corinne Smith is the author of Henry David Thoreau for Kids among other books; a frequent contributor to The Roost;  and is a tour guide at Thoreau Farm.

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Filed under General, Henry David Thoreau, News and Events, The Roost