(Our home was on the road just after Birch Hill passes between Chalk and March ponds. Our beach is at the end of this small road.)
Two years and a new baby brother later, I came home to a brown raised ranch in New Durham, New Hampshire. It was miles up Birch Hill from a town center that had a general store, a multipurpose town office building, a volunteer fire department, an elementary school (student count under 100), and a tiny post office. The entire population of New Durham was lower than the number of students that attended my elementary school in Virginia. The bedroom I shared with my sister was much smaller than either of the ones we had to ourselves for the past couple of years, but what lay beyond the house was amazing: trees everywhere and our own sandy spot on Chalk Pond.
The spring-fed pond was already cooling down that first August, and sweaters were pulled out once the sun set. There were no street lights to interfere with nature’s light show of moon and stars, and most evenings the pond grew so still that it mirrored the celestial canopy above it. From the sitting rock on my beach, I could star gaze in the sky and in the water, and find in both the gracious presence of God.
Autumn painted the trees around the pond yellow, red, orange, and brown – all reflected as impressionist paintings in the wavy water. Winter brought bitter winds across the iced-over pond, snow drifts in the road, and a beautiful world to explore on cross country skis and winter boots. Some years, the ice froze like glass – a window into the depths of the pond. At night, the ice groaned.
Spring came with winds strong enough to overturn the ice among whitecaps. Fiddlehead ferns appeared in the marshes, and baby turtles emerged among the lily pads. A walk around the pond or up Blueberry hill was an adventure in new life – birds in nests, flowers on bushes, an occasional fisher cat or fox crossing the path. There was no street noise, very few people, and no need to hurry from one place to another – where was there to go in such a small town?
Life wasn’t perfect, but there was room for my spirit to grow along with the rest of me. Small house, quiet space, and sufficient time to enjoy both = large life: something I value to this day, and the template for how I’ve lived since.