When I opened my car door I was met with a chorus of birds as well as the oceanic sound of the hundreds of cars using route 495 not far away. I am familiar with this farm, in fact I am more used to seeing it bustling with activity since my only prior visits were for my CSA pickup in the spring and summer months of 2015. Last year was the first year for the CSA and it was such a treat to come and pick out my veggies from the beautiful displays of overfilled baskets.
As I walked up a short hill, I almost felt pushed by the power of the waves of the tar ocean miles behind me. Those of you who know me well know that my commute was a challenge for me. No amount of books on tape, NPR Radio or Spotify could trick me into thinking I was actually not just sitting in traffic wasting precious minutes of my life! So this sound at my back, the tide of traffic, propelled me forward. At the same time the wind and the birds were beckoning me up the hill and around the corner where I was treated to the a 360 degree view of a farm that seemed to be frozen in time. Rolling hills, a field recently turned in preparation of planting and a line of trees, standing tall, guarding the beauty behind them. I continued to walk the dirt road also used by the tractors or trucks of the farm until I came to a point where I needed to choose what path I was to take. I followed the blue path since it travelled along a rock wall. I love rock walls. Our neighbor at our cabin in Maine, Charlie Churchill, is a poet and has a beautiful poem about the rock walls scattered throughout the woods of Maine. It can be found in his book called “Early Settlement and Other Poems”. The poem is titled “Of Walls and Men” and it reads:
Stark moments to toil, and old stone walls
Convey uncertain words from ancient deeds
And by their very width of rock proclaim
The strength of man’s eternal will to own
What he can never hope to hold for long.
Some great-grandfathers’s younger eyes surveyed
This ponderous fruit of centuries that filled
His farm, and he and others bent their backs
To life, to place in balance for a wall
These scattered orphans from the glacier’s womb.
You come across them deep in pines and oaks,
Mute sentinels that guard forgotten fields.
These solid links of hard necessity
Still seem a barrier set against the world,
A rural handiwork of ancient gods.
Charlie recently passed from this life, and he leaves behind a presence in Maine as his character is most certainly knitted and weaved into the character of the lake. He also leaves behind his voice which takes form in so many of his poems. What a legacy. Makes me think to myself, what will I leave behind when I depart from this beautiful earth?
The line in Charlie’s poem reading “Mute sentinels that guard forgotten fields” always comes to mind when I come across a rock wall during hikes. Here at Chestnut Hill Farm, there are several that start and stop. A few look recently rebalanced, others fallen from the weight of weather over the years. Perhaps blurring the lines of ownership… The wall guides me to an opening where I begin my descent into the woods. With each step the bird chorus and rustling leaves begin to drown out the mighty ocean of doing. It is quite peaceful inside this space. As I walk I become more in tune with my breath and the life breathing around me. An owl is hooting somewhere to my left and the rustle of the leaves beneath my feet keep bringing me back to the moment.
As I come to the end of the trail I feel like I am at the edge of two worlds. About to step out of the one where the “mute sentinels” (which at this juncture include the rock wall and a line of trees that have grown parallel to the wall) are guarding me from the other where my to do lists, thoughts and worries hover – waiting for my reappearance. Although my exit from this sanctuary is inevitable, I bring a little of the peace I found there back into the rest of my day.
I am grateful for the Beal family who were so fortuitous in saving this land from development back in the 60’s, and to the efforts of so many individuals working with the Sudbury Valley Trustees and the Southborough Land Foundation that kept it from development since. And I am now grateful for The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), the most recent steward of this place, whose goal is to bring this special place back to life as a working farm. TTOR’s mission is to “preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts.” Chestnut Hill has been preserved beautifully and I for one am grateful to have the opportunity to turn back time and “be” among the mute sentinels. As I walk back to my car I notice this spring morning the farm is bustling back to life and I look forward to reaping the deliciousness this piece of history will be providing in the coming months in the basket of my CSA!