Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tomthemick@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Cold Morning Muse



Moonset over Chatham, NH

So cold it was the other morning the leaves of my wife’s rhododendrons were curled up. The previous night’s full moon lit surrounding woods with silver and it’s nearly always frigid under a full moon in a Maine winter. The sun had been up an hour and I should have gone out to run, but I decided to wait ’til noon. My iPhone app said it would be 22 degrees by then and my ears wouldn’t freeze too badly. Could wear a hat I suppose, but I don’t like to.
The Moats and Mt. Kearsarge

Cold winter mornings put me in writing mood and that’s what I planned. By noon I’d feel like getting up to stretch my muscles and clear my head. Running in cold air helps that. It was time to renew work on a big writing project I had put down last spring because I had to get away from it. I was so far into it all winter that I couldn’t see it whole. So immersed was I in its parts that it wasn’t clear how they’d fit together and flow and I hoped my six-month respite would remedy that.
The Baldfaces in winter

My workspace in our Lovell house is an upstairs office, and it was a mess. I don’t let my wife clean in there so everything had a layer of light-gray dust. Cobwebs formed in the windows and mustiness assaulted the nostrils of anyone entering. Anything touched would leave fingers chalky. Clutter covered my desk and every other horizontal surface. Boxes spilled out of the closet prevented closing its bi-fold doors. It’s a former bedroom and was always neat and clean when it belonged to my daughter - and she went off to college twenty years ago. I had cleaned it up before, but I couldn’t remember the last time. Organizing my writing project would take several weeks at least and attempts to do it in an unorganized environment would probably retard the effort.
Winter sunset over Jackson, NH

In case the reader get an impression that I haven't labored in my office for a long time, let me say that I have a high tolerance for messy work environments. However, it had deteriorated to the point where even I couldn’t stand it anymore. Cleaning up my sorry space should only have taken an afternoon, but so many old papers and pictures were unearthed to re-read and re-examine that it took me two days. Such textual and visual remnants of times gone by evoked memories and emotions - most good, some not, but all of them vestiges of ordinary life. I had to feel them and let them go. Some of these sentimental remnants I saved, but the bulk of them went to the dump along with old computer equipment, old files I would never need (I hope), and even some old photographs. These last were images that looked great on a computer screen, but lost something when I sent them out to be printed as eight-by-tens. There was enough old stuff to fill two trash barrels, which I immediately took to the dump lest I change my mind and retrieve any of it.
The back field in winter

My office windows overlook a back field I spent seven years clearing with my my old chainsaw and a 1949 Ford 8N tractor. Never do I tire of looking at the view all that clearing exposed. I cut about eight cords a year to heat the house each winter until I opened up the woods as much as I wanted. All four children have been gone for several years and we don’t really need all this space which we now heat with oil. My wife would like to downsize - and I see the logic in that, but I like it here. Some of my life’s labors haven’t produced much but that long labor did. Where else would I be able to look out on such a beautiful result? Someday I’ll leave, but knowing me, I might put it off so long that I’ll do so horizontally.
August sunset over Mt. Washington, NH
All photos are views I see from my office. Be hard to leave this.

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