Moss Brook has seen so much over the decades. Moss Brook begins at Black Swamp, splashed through the forest to join Miller River for twelve miles, where they tumble into the Connecticut River. When I was younger, I imagined that I saw shadows of old Indian spirits move near her banks now and then. I’d walk upstream, past forgotten colonial damns, to the swamp. Sometimes I’d wander the forest, close to the brook, for much of the day.
No matter what the weather, Moss Brook can surprise. The first time I found the dam on what had been Thomas Jefferson’s land, the old stonework was covered with glittering icicles. It was like entering a fairyland. I had entered this place by walking down a small steep hill, into the gloom of a hollow carved out by the stream. When I looked up, the system of stone walls and bridge above me, a wall of glittery ice. Later that spring I found an old cellar hole, complete with a well and lilac shrubs across the road from this site.
Flagg Road was one of the earliest in town, and I’ve found three old dam sites that Moss Brook ran through, and two more on Quarry Rd. One, on my property, I believe was a soap factory. That’s a lot of work this small stream did for a new town from in the 1700s and 1800s. During colonial times people lived along the stream, and if you walk along with a sharp eye, you find old cellar holes and remnants of outbuildings and barns. I’m always finding something new.
There’s strength here, hidden between moss, fern & tree. The rocks and boulders are like old bones. What memories do they murmur to the water when it pools and eddies, before running fast again? What does Moss Brook whisper to the boulders as she enfolds them, closer than any mother or lover? They’ve been constant companions for time unfathomable.
In earlier times, glaciers came, ground the old landscape with new rock. Finally the earth slowly warmed. What animals slowly came first, and what people? Who were the earliest ones here? Moss Brook would be a gift from those glacial times, a remnant of an ancient Lake Hitchock. Eft, mayfly, turtle, brook trout, and otter life abound in the waters. Deer, coyote, bear, fox, porcupine, come to its edges, sometimes walk into the pools.
A couple years ago my neighbor Jon found two large cellar holes across the road from his house. He’s walked these woods for more than 35 years, but never in that just-right spot did he decide to walk off Woodman’s trail, and thereby noticed the leftovers from someone’s life, now gone. No one except the close-by brook has witnessed the lives spent in this patch of land here. Moss Brook watched when I moved here, cut down trees, built a house. The stream witnessed the kids growing up here, playing house, sailing toy boats, splashing in on warm days. She watched when I planted the apple tree saw it grow, and the stream loves the apples I share with her now. Each autumn I toss her in a gift of apples and watch as they bob downstream. I’ve spent this week watching the stream, the red efts, the tadpoles in the vernal pool, and planting the garden.
The stream is a lower now that the spring rains have subsided. Black flies abound now. The birds have returned, and sing me awake in the morning.
What do you notice as you remain close to home during this time of covid? How do you spend some of your time as we continue to cocoon? I’d love to hear from you.