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MARTHA SEZ: Some spring in this spring

June 3, 2013
MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

This spring is as beautiful as any I can remember. It's a great year for lilacs, and the blooming fruit trees are apparently unscathed by the recent frost.

Sunday drivers see tall clumps of white- or purple-flowering lilac bushes by the roadside or in fields, marking the spot where a farmhouse once stood.

There is a flowering crabapple tree in Keene Valley behind a house where Charlie Holt and his wife Agnes used to live. Agnes planted the tree, probably about 80 years ago. It blooms every other year, saving up its energy to put on a spectacular show, completely covering itself in frothy pink blossoms. On Airport Road, visible also from state Route 73 in Keene Valley, is its sister crab, which blooms at the same time. The story I heard is that when Gladys Holt, Charlie Holt's cousin, saw the tree Agnes planted, she went out and got one just like it for her own yard. Now, for a week or two every other year, the crabapple trees planted by Agnes and Gladys Holt put on a show for whoever is in town. People stop to take pictures.

I was reflecting on the beauty of the spring when I picked up my mail from my box at the village post office at the hardware store. Among the usual bills and catalogs I found something unusual: a personal letter, addressed to me in black ink. It was from my old friend Woody.

As I opened the envelope and pulled out the letter, small bits of something dark and dry fell out. Bark? A crumbled leaf? It was not like Woody to use mulch as confetti, or for that matter to put any sort of confetti into his correspondence.

"Dear Martha," the letter began, " More and more I am coming to grips with the demise of the letter. If I had anything urgent to say, I could just call you, or I could email you. I have to play make-believe with myself to justify using a pen to communicate; but I do it because I enjoy the scribbling."

It occurred to me that I could make believe I was someone else, someone who always answered her messages and liked to clean house and exercise. But no, I decided, I'd figure it out.

At this point one of my neighbors approached her box, and I moved out of her way, pushing Woody's letter into my pocket to read later.

Later that day I was sitting on the bank of the Ausable River in Keene listening to Fred, another old friend, elaborate on his philosophy of life, which pretty much boils down to what he calls "sucking air." Fred comes to the Adirondacks to enjoy the benefits of nature, including breathing clean, fresh air.

Fred was talking about how, after a storm, he walks along the river bank to see what the high water has deposited on top of the boulders and rocks in the streambed. Sometimes he will find another rock, other times a stick or some other flotsam or jetsam that had presumably been carried by the rising water, dropped on the rock, and then stranded as the flood receded.

You know that must be how it happened, he said, but you never see it happen. You never see the exact moment the stick washes up on the stone and then is left there as the water level goes down.

Maybe if you sat and watched, I said.

Yeah, for hours. It might happen on other rocks, but not on the one you were watching. Who'd have time? he asked.

An old guy. A retiree. Someone with time on his hands, I said. And naturally something would interrupt you so you'd look somewhere else, and then when you turn back to your rock, there's the stick on top of it.

Yeah, someone could make a movie of it, Fred suggested. It would be a really, really long movie. It would go on and on, and in the end the stick might or might not get stuck on the rock. It would be incredibly Zen, he said.

When I got home I remembered that Woody's letter was in my pocket.

"Another thing you can include in letters but not emails," the message continued. "Little items like pressed flowers. I include an insect wing for your delectation...on second thought, I'll let you have the whole insect!"

There's one mystery solved.

Have a good week.



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