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In the Shadow of the Mountain

(Photo: freefotouk)


In the Shadow of the Mountain

(Photo: freefotouk)

Very soon now, I am going to slide my chair back from my desk and turn off this infernal machine. I am going to do the dishes, take out the trash, give my insane cat three days worth of food, and watch out the window for my wife to come home from work. When she gets here, I am going to throw our bags in the trunk, get behind the wheel, and aim the car north towards New Hampshire, where my mother lives.

It's fantastic drive, one of my all-time favorites, second only in my mind to the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California. While that road is everything that is the West Coast, the road to my mother's house is everything that is the East Coast. Once you get out of the city, which doesn't take long, the way is all small, winding country back roads that seem made for filming BMW commercials on. I don't have a BMW – I have, in fact, a rather battered ten-year-old Toyota – but it's fun to pretend. There are miles of ancient stone walls that run alongside the road, a testament to the pitiless, obdurate New England work ethic that defines this little corner of the world.

We will pass farms and fields, a couple of large lakes, and finally come to a left turn just outside a town so small that it has exactly three buildings to its name, one of which is, of course, a soaring white-board church that is every New England white-board church that was or ever will be. After the turn, the road goes to dirt almost immediately, and for a few miles we are back two centuries in time, with nothing but the wind in the woods and the crunch of the tires to fill our ears. Sometimes there are deer, sometimes there are moose or the occasional lone coyote, and the locals will tell you there are six black bears in the neighborhood. I've never seen one of those, which is probably for the best.

After a fashion, we will come to my mother's driveway. We will pull up to the house to the sound of her two dogs going berserk. They will charge out the back door and fly to the car, heedless of any notions of personal safety, jumping all around until we finally slide to a slow stop and get out to accept their inevitable slobber-flecked mauling. My mother will be at the door to greet us, and in the distance behind her, as ever, will be the silent sentinel that is Mt. Monadnock.

No one has been able to adequately explain to me what a mountain is doing there to begin with. The White Mountains don't get going in earnest for many miles to the north, the land around Monadnock is almost uniformly flat, but there it is all the same, this bald knob of stone looking down on my mother's house. Someone once told me the reason why the top of Monadnock is bald is that, more than a hundred years ago, sheep farmers whose stock had been getting plundered by wolves herded those wolves up to the top of the mountain, and then set the whole thing on fire. I don't know if that's true or not, but it is one hell of an image to contemplate. Imagine, a century before electric lights stole the mystery of country darkness, looking up to see the top of that mountain wreathed in flames. It would have lit the land for miles around. Like I said, it may be nothing more than local Apocrypha, but there aren't any wolves in those woods anymore, so who knows.

I will be three days in the shadow of the mountain, eating and drinking and playing with dogs, with my wife and mother at my side. I intend to think very few deep thoughts in that time, other than to count and contemplate the blessings in my life. My wife's MS is very much under control – burn in Hell, you bastard disease, you don't scare us – and my mother is in her glory. I have a new nephew named Connor who is all the cute things in the world rolled into one little ball of awesome. I enjoy my work, am surrounded by friends, and have the great privilege of being able to avoid any aforementioned deep thoughts for this little expanse of time.

When we return after the holiday, I will get back to the business of chronicling the Occupy movement, of writing the obituary for the not-so-supercommittee, and begin preparing myself for the year-long horror comedy of the Republican primary season. There is plenty of bad news to go around, but it can all wait until Monday. I know how lucky I am to have what I have, and I intend to steep in it like a contented little tea bag until I am forced to stop.

May all blessings and good fortune be upon you and yours. It is a hard world right now, and luck seems difficult to come by. Cherish what you have, and hold on to the hope that more and greater blessings are just over the horizon, waiting like the dawn to come shine down upon you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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