BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 18-a visit to the Emerson Inn by the Sea

As a child, growing up on Banner Mountain, I began writing poetry and continued writing it in high school. I loved reading poetry and hearing my teachers discuss poets and their work. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a poet. And I certainly never thought that one day I would spend a night at the same Inn by the Sea where Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) had visited, where he had been inspired to write some of his masterpieces.

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This lovely bed and breakfast–the Emerson Inn by the Sea–is where Ralph Waldo Emerson sometimes vacationed.  The Inn has been renovated and the renovation left a portion of the original rooms where Emerson had stayed with his family. It was renamed Ralph Waldo Emerson after their most celebrated guest. Much of his inspiration, it is said, came from visiting this rocky coastline of Rockport, Massachusetts.

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Rockport -- A Place Beside the Sea

Rockport — A Place Beside the Sea

I visited this romantic place and stayed at this unique Emerson Inn by the Sea with my husband and part of our family a few years ago when we returned to New England to show our children where we had lived. My husband was stationed at Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire for three years. We lived in Kittery, Maine when our third child was born. What a treasure to revisit New England, see old friends, begin a new poem, and to set foot on the rocky coast where Emerson once found inspiration to write!

© Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 17

Wild violets grew in the woodlands surrounding my homeplace at Banner Mountain.

Thinking of the wild violets, I remember how we children played a game using the flowers. We picked some of the violets and when we hooked two blooms together and pulled on each stem, one of the blooms snapped off its stem. We called them rooster flowers and that was a pretend rooster fight. Always a winner in that game.

Just as sure as real roosters, hens and bantam chickens were a part of our life at the homeplace, the rooster flowers were a part of our springtime. How beautiful the little blue-violet flowers were. I saw the violets and other lovely wild flowers every day when I was a child. They appeared early in spring, like magic.

I still recall the day my brother, Billy, brought home a little bantam rooster. Billy set him down in the barnyard.  And right away a big rooster ran over to the little rooster and began a fight.  Bill picked up a chip of wood and threw it at the big rooster. The chip of wood struck the big rooster and he fell over dead!  What now? That was Mama’s big, old rooster. Oh, no! I witnessed the entire event. Looking back, it was the only way that Billy could save his little bantam. The only way. Even though I saw it all, I was never called in to testify as to what had happened to Mama’s rooster.

And now, after all these years, I don’t remember what happened to the bantam rooster either. Did he grow old and die a natural death? I guess that’s not important. Perhaps my brother remembers. Sometimes a writer’s memory is called to a task of embellishing certain experiences. But not this experience. I can tell you that the chip of wood buzzed as it whizzed toward that bullying rooster!  Billy really didn’t mean to kill the big ,old rooster; he only meant to protect the little one.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

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BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 16

TEN CHOICESDSC_0746                                                                           Mystery Birds

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL #13

WOODPECKER

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This red-bellied woodpecker has grabbed a bite of food and is lifting off in flight to wherever he is nesting. The ever-present sparrow at the lower right corner of the photo huddles quietly, awaiting the departure of the bossy woodpecker. Blue jays are often rude and aggressive wild birds, but even they move away from the woodpecker when he flies in.

Bluejayswoodpecker in flight

I don’t recall woodpeckers at Banner Mountain. But they probably were there. My favorite birds were the mockingbirds and the whippoorwills. I remember the red-tail hawk that circled the sky, whistling, and looking for chickens to catch. Mama sent me outside many times to scare the hawk away. We had lots of sparrows around our homeplace. And there were quail. Crows, too, and owls. The hummingbirds were the most entertaining. They hovered over the honeysuckle and raided the sweet nectar in the colorful hollyhocks that Mama planted by the garden fence. Once I found an abandoned bird’s nest that hung down from a limb like a sock.  I don’t know what kind of bird built the nest. But it was an awesome find for a child who would grow up to become a writer with a big imagination.

© Freeda Baker Nichols

BANNER MOUNTAIN GIRL # 11

Banner Mountain Girl #11

On Banner Mountain, I stand looking at the house, now empty, with brush around it, deserted, falling down. I see the well still covered. I listen for sounds of laughter. Echoing from the past, the sounds ring in my heart. In a flash of memory, someone’s drawing water from the well—and as I look at the house, I wish I could be a child again and put my bare feet into a creek. I wish that I could feel the sun upon my back as I walk barefoot down a dusty road. That I could touch velvety moss in the woods and hear dry leaves crackling.

And draw water from the well.

I wish that I could hear the whippoorwills across the hollow on a warm night. And that I could sit on the front porch again with Mama, Daddy, my sister Yvonne and my brother Bill. Just sit there, not talking much. Then wander into the yard, trying to stay cool. Wash my feet in a pan of cold water and go into the house and go to bed. And see again the morning sun on the tall, thick yard grass, and look at hollyhocks that Mama planted beside the fence.

Draw water from the well.

Watch Mama milk Old Jerse, and later help Mama churn butter in an old-fashioned churn with a dash. Watch Daddy plow the fields. I wish I could once again trade a warm egg to the peddler for bubble gum. Meet Piggy, the mailman, at the mailbox to see what delightful cards, catalogs and letters he would bring. Read again the letters from my best friend, Inez, that Piggy delivered the same day by hand-canceling the three-cent stamp. See Mama sitting in the shade of the peach tree, shelling beans, then stopping to read a letter from my brother when he was overseas during the war.

I remember growing up, and, with Inez, Doris, and Lois Jean, watching for the boys to go by. I remember pie suppers and boys collecting money to buy the cake for the prettiest girl. I recall dinners on the ground, the taste of coconut pies. People visiting. Children playing and laughing. Time unhurried. I cannot be a child again, but I’m thankful for Banner Mountain – whippoorwills, picking cotton and drawing water from the well.

~© Freeda Baker Nichols