Day 10 Campton to Ashland cont.
We reached Ashland – which if we had thought Plymouth was a big town, we discovered Ashland was a metropolis. We passed car dealerships, trucks, Dunkin Donuts (!), and stores with names I was familiar with. Now we were talking.
I had arranged to meet our contact, Susan, at the Ashland Post Office.
“Do you know what she looks like?” asked Griffin when I told him the plans.
“Not at all.”
Griffin sighed. “I’m not sure that I like this” he said in his most parental voice. “I think you’re forgetting all about Misery again.”
“Actually, Misery is the wrong reference, this would be more like House on the Hill.”
“Not making me feel better mom”
As it turned out Susan was nothing to be afraid of. She arrived and seeing our backpacks on a table came right over and introduced herself. She’d drive us to her house where we would spend the night. When she opened the trunk of her car and I saw Buddhist flags strung from one end to the other, I knew that Susan was going to be a friend.
No House on the Hill for us tonight.
Susan turned up the long dirt driveway that led to her home. Gorgeous, warm, filled with wood and clay. It was the first time in 10 days we hadn’t ended our day in a hotel. She offered us showers and the use of her washer. She told us that a few members of the town council wanted to have dinner with us later that evening.
Griffin and I each took a long hot shower. We used nice smelling soaps and dried off using fresh thick towels, large enough to warp around our bodies. When we were done with our showers both of us were in a conundrum. Griffin had two hiking shirts one he slept in and one he wore, both were dirty (And when I saw dirty, I mean you could smell it from across the room). I had one hiking shirt and a long tee shirt that I used as a night gown. My hiking shirt was just as dirty as Griffin’s and that long shirt wasn’t something I could wear in public.
And besides, at this point in our journey, even though I washed our clothes in the shower each night, they never really got clean. Let’s face it – our clothing stunk. There was no time to do laundry before our dinner and we couldn’t wear (trust me, we really couldn’t) our stinky shirts to dinner.
Griffin and I decided to wear our polar fleece shirts (yeah for having the foresight (luck) to pick them up when I did!) to dinner. Sure it might have looked a bit odd but at least we wouldn’t be offending anyone with our smell.
Although we had needed so very little day to day, wealth for us that night would have been an extra clean shirt to wear.
Three others, already friends by invitation, met us at the restaurant. We all sat at a round table, an empty canvas on which to weave memories.
If you want to know someone, I mean really get to know them, break bread with them. Tables are where we all share meals in congregation. It’s where stories are told, and where friendships are established.
That night, Griffin and I told stories of the road. I told our new friends about Blister Man and Motivational Mom. Griffin told them about the bear. I told them about Lyme disease.
Drinks were poured (Still wasn’t going to have a beer although I looked longingly at the ones on our table) and the stories continued.
We heard from Liz who had walked the Camino in Spain and was planning to do it again. And who with her husband were avid hikers of the White Mountains. Liz told me about a device women could use to pee standing up and she took note when I mentioned the miraculous HikeGoo that I swore was helping me stay away from blisters.
Everyone laughed at our realization that the Bambis we saw were being raised for meat. We were told that the deer being raised for food were Red Deer. A distinct breed from Europe that was not found locally in the United States. You weren’t allowed to breed domestic deer and this was a way for inspectors to make sure that that didn’t happen.
Sure you could raise Bambi for meat, but you had to do it right.
We heard a story from one woman, (a self-professed cat lady) who had left her porch door open with food inside for a stray cat she had spotted on her property. Come morning, she discovered that a raccoon had instead made itself at home in her porch.
We heard about a lightning strike that was felt for miles. Windows had rattled, the earth shook.
We laughed. We ate. We drank and ate some more.
At the end of the meal, when the remains of the desserts had been scraped up with forks and in some cases wiped up with fingers, we parted. New friends we hadn’t known we’d meet. So many treasures, we were finding, along the way.
Susan took us back to her house. Back to our rooms filled with plants and books and art. I gathered our laundry and while Griffin went to sleep, Susan and I stayed up and talked while the clothes got cleaned and dried.
Susan’s house was thick in the woods. When I looked out the windows, I only saw a deep and intense darkness.
“Do you ever worry about bears?” I asked.
“No, not really” she replied. She told me that the previous year there had been five bears who were often in her yard – A male bear, a mama bear, her two year old cub and this year’s twin cubs.
“Oh that reminds me,” she said as she went outside. She came back in. “I had forgotten to take down the bird feeders. “If you’re careful about the bears, they won’t bother you.”
I looked around this house of a woman who lived peacefully alongside bears. Everything in her house was beautiful – everything was there because it was loved. I saw clay vases, wooden cabinets, a trusted old dog sleeping in on a bed, and a jungle of plants growing in the corner of the living room. The outside invited in – all together.
Clothes dry, it was time to go to bed. Going up the stairs, I spotted a painting of Kokopelli, the North American Indian God who went from village to village telling stories.
I looked down at the tattoo on my wrist of Kokopelli – a promise I had given to myself years earlier to honor my desire of forever being a storyteller. I thought about the friends we had met, the generosity so freely given to Griffin and I this night – simply for being travelers on a journey.
Oh I’d be telling stories about this one.
(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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