Said & Done: The beauty of getting back to the country

  • “If you were born a countryman, you might quickly tire in the face of overwhelming urban sights and sounds and smells, and find you can’t wait to leave them behind in your rush back to God’s country.” — Paul Seamans Recorder File Photo

  • SEAMANS Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The best part of a trip to Boston is the drive back to Greenfield. Not that Boston lacks charms and attractions. It’s a fine place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Boston, or any other of our super-size cities; if you were born a countryman, you might quickly tire in the face of overwhelming urban sights and sounds and smells, and find you can’t wait to leave them behind in your rush back to God’s country.

Frankie Laine popularized a song with words, “I must go where the wild goose goes.” Few of us have ever seen where the wild goose goes. Wherever that place is, wherever the honking of air-borne geese comes back to uninterrupted listeners, that’s where our compulsion drives us when we’ve had enough of the city.

Every boy once read Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” It was the Yukon Territory he celebrated in his book, a country so far away that like a Shangri La, it was practically impossible to get to. It was half a life-time before I understood what London’s call meant — that it was the appeal in all of us, a reflection in all of us to get away from all the sights and sounds of our nearest neighbors.

When you are next in Boston, stand still at any intersection and watch the people. For the most part they hustle along with their heads down, intent on business at hand. There the “madding crowd” moves in an urban rhythm that takes no break, no holiday.

Three hours west of the rush, there is a dilapidated cabin slowly falling apart in a sunless spot where trees have grown no bigger than the cabin maker ever thought they could. There you can sit all day on the porch until your heart’s content. Now, on account of the trees, there’s no road in, nor any road out. The only sound is the sweet-sad sound of wind in pine trees branches. The only creature you might lay eyes on would be a deer moving silently through the trees.

What would be his reaction if in one instant you could transport a Boston apartment-dweller to this primitive, nearly original sylvan setting, so different from the crust of the city so thick on him that he’d fail to realize he’d been carried to where the wild goose goes? Or would the crust be shed so fast he’d know he’d found the source of “Call of the Wild?”

Take a look Friday afternoons at Route 2 and the Mohawk Trail. There, you will see our urban brothers and sisters answering the call. By the thousands, they invade Vermont and New Hampshire, no doubt trusting that the patina of city life will be removed as each mile carries them closer to nature’s bosom. They spread out to the left and right of main arteries as they near their weekend retreats. Car lights go out as house lights go on, and most are snug in rural havens by mid-evening. Let us hope they find what they came for.

Our tender sentiments were once abused when I was 10, by a man who seemed to have it all. He was a dairyman who owned and worked at a handsome farm on the upper side of Thorn Mountain in Jackson, N.H. As a school boy, I commented on the beauty of the place, the outlook of his barn on the Presidential Range. “Sonny,” he said, “I’m so busy pulling cows’ tits I never have time to look up.”

That man owned a prosperous milk business, and was rich in his Coos County township by our standards. However, he was blind and poor. That Yankee cow-milker made plenty of money, but failed to take in the advantages of the place.

Henry David Thoreau complained that he was out of sorts with himself when he found he’d been in the woods an hour without being in the woods. What he meant, of course, was that his feet were at peace, but his head was not.

Not until we pass Concord and drive west toward home does the press of the eastern half of the state begin to be relieved. Traffic lets up, hills appear on the horizon, the air is clearer and cleaner, and peace is practically tangible.

Now, the wild goose may set down only as far away as the Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River. For us Franklin County people, that’s right in our backyard. We should appreciate it.

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. A picture window on his room’s west side gives a full view of Shelburne Mountain, a continuing inspiration for “Said & Done.” Some of his columns have been previously published.