Open to the elements

This photo from an August, 2009 concert at the First Congregational Church in Hillsboro, New Hampshire is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Open. It’s not yet warm enough to open our windows to this weekend’s rain and snowmelt, but that will come in due time.

Repaired stone bridge

Remember the old stone bridge that was damaged in last year’s flood and subsequently covered with a protective tarp? Well, Old Stone’s in the process of receiving a face-lift, and here’s how she looks these days: almost as good as old.


In August, crews erected a wood scaffold under the crumbling portion of the double-arch stone bridge off Route 9 near the Antrim border in Stoddard, New Hampshire. With the help of this scaffold and piles of reinforcing gravel, workers have successfully re-pieced the largest of the tumbled stones, re-assembling a centuries-old structure whose only modern use is as a backdrop for scenic pictures.


It’s nice to think that some of our tax dollars here in tax-free New Hampshire are lending a hand to a fallen friend. With Old Stone standing securely again, the only thing keeping this scene from its pre-flood glory are the piles of gravel re-routing the Contoocook River around the damage. I’d like to think that by the time our fall foliage reaches its peak brilliance around mid-October, Old Stone and the river that runs through her will be in picture-perfect shape for the annual invasion of Leaf Peepers.


New Hampshire has long had many covered bridges, and now it has at least one blanketed bridge. Last night, during another getting-to-know-you drive in Miss Bling, Reggie and I visited the old double-arch stone bridge on Route 9 near the Stoddard-Antrim border, which I’d blogged both before and after last October’s devastating floods.

In the months since I’d last seen Old Fragile, someone has covered her ruined side with a sandbag-weighted tarp, presumably to prevent further erosion.


I don’t know if there are plans to repair this old bridge: she no longer carries vehicular traffic, so she’s not useful to anyone except camera-toting tourists (and an occasional blogger) who pull off Route 9 long enough to snap appreciative photos. Still, it’s comforting to know that someone is keeping the patient comfortable even if she’s suffering from a terminal case of Gravity. Old relics die hard, and they deserve the decency of a respectful passing.

Flood damage

I’m sad to report that at least one of the old stone bridges of Hillsborough County didn’t survive our recent floods unscathed. (Click on any of today’s images for an enlarged version.)

This past Saturday I drove NH Route 9 from Keene to Concord: the first time I’d driven this road since October’s flood. The portion of Route 9 that crosses Otter Brook in Sullivan had been swept away, and I seldom have business in Concord. But by Saturday, Route 9 had been repaired, and a social gathering in Concord beckoned. And so on Saturday I found myself driving the once-familiar road which wends from Keene, where I work and now live, to my old home in Hillsborough: a portion of winding, scenic road I used to drive in all times and temperatures, a portion of highway I once knew like the back of my hand.

You mustn’t think me a raving sentimentalist when I admit that my eyes filled with tears when I saw the chuck of stone and soil that had been ripped by floodwaters from the old double-arch stone bridge that spans the Contoocook River near the Stoddard-Antrim border, leaving a semi-circular ring of keystones jutting from the earth like jagged stone teeth:


This centuries-old structure was fragile to begin with, no longer strong enough to withstand vehicular traffic and thus set aside like an anachronism with an attendant historical marker and parking lot: the object of curious tourists’ photos. When I pulled into that parking lot on Saturday to snap these hurried pictures, another car was parked with nobody near: in the fall around these parts, a sure sign that hunters are afoot.

Unsafe - Keep Off - Bridge Closed

The last time I visited this bridge, Reggie raced over to explore the other side, and I followed more slowly, snapping pictures along the way. Now, this old bridge is closed to even pedestrian traffic, the remaining stones that support one half of its double-arch being of questionable stability while a gaping, dangerously eroding hole nibbles its edge.

Here in the Granite State, we feel strongly about stone, seeing rock as emblematic of our own hardy selves. The last time I visited Stoddard’s old double-arch, Reggie sniffed out two long-dead, road-flatted beavers that had freeze-dried over a long New Hampshire winter. Life in northern New England is rough, and no one (wild or tamed) gets out alive. Even though we solace ourselves with the presumed stability of stone, even granite erodes, cracks, and eventually crumbles, the river of Time always reigning supreme.

Contoocook River

It seems senseless to cry because here Nature finally reclaimed one of her own, there being nothing more unnatural than the sight of stones arranged to arch over air. Now in November, nothing is more apparent than the passage of time as birds head south, leaves fall from trees, and bears and other mammals disappear for a long seasonal sleep. And yet, here in New Hampshire, we like to think that we’re like stones, solid and unmoving, planted for centuries while weaker souls flourish and then flounder around us like water-tossed weeds.

Ultimately, though, the force of water is like the pull of gravity and the tug of time: slow and inexorable, it always (inevitably) has the last word.


Luna moth

I had to dig deep into my photo archives to find this contribution to today’s Photo Friday challenge, Silky. This is a luna moth that clung for several days on a living room window screen at my old home in Hillsborough, NH. Never having seen a luna moth up close, I couldn’t believe how intricately detailed–simultaneously furry and silky!–its body scales and antennae were: a winged miracle. (Click on image for an enlarged view.)

Orchard fence

Robert Frost once wrote “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Although good fences might not make good neighbors, I certainly love the look of an old stone wall, like this one surrounding an orchard in Hillsborough, NH. I once saw a moose effortlessly leap over this wall, so it’s not keeping any of Nature’s neighbors out. But it looks picturesque nevertheless.

While I’m on campus beginning my action-packed final week of spring semester classes, I’ll leave you to do some wandering (if not wall-hopping) of your own. Hank from Wild Thoughts magazine has recycled an old post of mine titled “Stone Girl Dancing,” which questions the stability of stone. And elsewhere in cyberspace, Marcia from The Heart of New England is featuring a revised version of my vintage posts on the Minute Men of Concord and Keene. I hope you won’t mind savoring leftovers while I’m off teaching classes, grading papers, and administering end-of-term evaluations. Something there is, after all, that loves golden oldies.

Stone wall

During Friday’s walk at Fox State Forest in Hillsborough, NH, I marveled at how bright green moss had gathered on nearly every non-rolling surface, stumps and stones alike.

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