“Do you want some chicken feet for the dog?” The owner of the farm where we’d rented our cabin nodded at Destructo. “We’re slaughtering Thursday.”
“Do you do the butchering yourself?”
He gave a satisfied nod. “We used to pluck by hand until we were able to make a plucker.”
Although the farm was hundreds of miles from home, we found we shared a connection: The owner sold wool to a highbrow place near our home; a sterile place whose shoppers, I was sure, wouldn’t give a moment’s thought to the farm and the people and the animals that had produced that wool. Thus connected, we were invited to gather the eggs from the chickens just outside our cabin; to visit the turkeys and the pigs and the sheep. We could pet the goats and the horses used to plow the fields. We were free to milk the cow, provided we got up early enough. And, of course, the hundred acres were ours to explore.
And we explored with abandon: We passed a hundred-year-old farmhouse and went on to the pigpen where baby durocs no bigger than our—admittedly fat—cat ran round the pen en masse while their mother looked on wearily. A pasture down, there was another pig, sequestered from a lamb and a couple of horses by a wire fence. Drying on a wooden fencepost was the horned scalp of a goat. Here and there, where the rocks would allow, were patches of garden: Scallions and tomatoes and lettuces to the right; Further down the path a bed of peas and green beans, still in season in August.
We passed a syruping shed, two cabins similar to ours, and a grouping of tents where the farm interns slept. We walked all the way to a giant pond where we found a canoe and a thin yellow life jacket tucked among tall sawgrass that snagged at our legs as we passed.
We turned around and headed back to the barn to observe the turkeys that don’t, in my view, gobble, but kind of chatter quietly; much more quietly than you’d expect, given the bird’s size. We greeted the cow with her calf, the horses and the sheep. In search of eggs, Squints entered the field where the hens roamed and went into their roosting building, a long trailer with individual nesting boxes. At the entrance to the second trailer, the hens stood their ground, and frightened Squints away.
* * *
Sunday after church, we had to get Squints a pair of shoes to replace the ones he’d forgotten to pack. While he looked with my husband, my daughters and I went into a bookstore, two doors down. It was a local bookstore and catered to local books and authors with a nice smattering of best sellers as well. It was a happy way to spend a half hour on a stormy Sunday, but as we left the store, I saw a sign on the door: Our friend is missing. If anyone has seen him or given him a ride, please call. There was a telephone number and picture of the missing man, gone since last September.
* * *
Monday, the weather cleared. We headed to the quiet part of Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula. There aren't impressive mountains here. And, as the name implies, this section of the park isn’t on an island, as the rest of it is. But it’s quiet and peaceful and just as lovely as the rest of the park.
“Want to hike?” My husband asked.
“Think he can handle it?” I indicated the dog.
Now, we don’t make a habit of taking our pets on vacation. Frankly, sometimes it’s a relief having a break from four mile walks and brushing and feeding. Sometimes, it’s nice not to have a constant, demanding paw upon your lap; to have those pleading eyes staring into your own. But, much to our dismay, circumstances required us to take Destructo on this trip.
And a surprising amount of people do vacation with their pets: At every rest stop, we saw several dogs in the “pet station”. And at Acadia, there were all kinds of dogs straining at the ends of leashes.
The highest point in the park is less than five hundred feet above sea level. But the getting there isn’t always easy. We climbed over rock. We climbed under rock. We walked between rocks and over rock bridges, Squints always in the lead, V and my husband always in the rear with Destructo.
We walked in silence, observing the pine trees and the dewey ferns. There were flowers and moss and mushrooms. There were two eagles nesting in a high tree. And there was rock, of course, large boulders of granite and magma.
And it was here, navigating a thirty-foot rocky descent, that Destructo balked. The rest of us had reached bottom, but Destructo—and my husband—remained at the top.
A couple approached with their little red dog named Doug. My husband pulled off the trail. “Go ahead,” he called down to us. “I’ll let them pass.”
We went ahead a couple of feet and waited.
“Get on down there, Doug,” the husband encouraged.
“He can’t get on down there,” his wife snapped. Her voice was whiny and shrill and so out of place among those peaceful rocks.
The kids and I looked at each other. I shook my head, to warn them against any giggling. We stepped a little off the path, tried to conceal ourselves behind the rock. But in those woods, I was only willing to wander so far to avoid getting lost.
“He can’t get on down there, because I have to get down there first.” The woman’s voice was jagged and rough, like the rocks behind which we tried to conceal ourselves.
Filibuster bit her lip. I turned my back and tried to melt against the rocks.
Too late. She spotted us. And I knew the second she did: In an instant, her voice changed. It softened and turned sweet. “And I can’t get down there because I didn’t bring my good shoes, honey.” She got off the rock; approached us standing there, pretending not to have heard her. “Is that your dog back there?”
“Yes,” someone said, grinning wider than necessary.
She spoke through her embarrassment, babbling on about her dog being frightened and young and how cute our dog was. Then she turned to her husband. “I’ll take my glasses now.” And she walked away.
Destructo made it off the rock and re-joined us on the trail and together we hiked back to the ocean where we walked along the shore, trying to avoid stepping upon the snails and the barnacles clinging to stone.
And as we walked, I thought about the fragility of life—and of love.
Labels: Boys, Community, CSA, Daughters, Farms, Gardening, Girls, Maine, Nature, Raising Children, Sons, Traveling, Vacations, Walk