An Idea for Coming Years

Here at the Parris House we are almost-empty-nesters.  All of our sons are grown, but our second son, James, is temporarily home teaching biology and environmental science at a nearby private school before he makes a big and permanent move to Canada.  Our oldest son, Robert, is getting married in September and has been living in the Philadelphia area for years now.  Our two undergrads, Peter and Paul, are always doing co-ops, internships, and research with profs during the summers and no longer come home except for holidays and short visits.  Upon graduation from college, they will have permanently flown the nest also.

As it has for many empty nesters living in old houses like ours, it has occurred to my husband, Bill, and I, that a five bedroom, four bath, approximately 5000 square foot, 200 year old house and barn – no matter how well loved and historic – is an awful lot for two people to wander around in.  The options become many.  Downsize?  Make the addition in to an apartment for visiting family and Airbnb guests?  Or something else?

There is a lot to be said for keeping the Parris House.  We like our neighborhood (most of the time…), we love the history of the house and we feel responsible for stewarding that.  We raised a pretty happy family here and would like to give our future grandchildren the benefit of visits to “where Dad grew up.”  It is a significant but not insurmountable thing that Parris House Wool Works is named for this location.  Both my public and private studios are in this complex of buildings, the former in the main house and the latter over the garage.  My husband’s pottery studio (Sunset Haven Pottery) is established in a finished, heated section of the barn, with the kilns conveniently next door in the garage.  We have very good locations for our chickens, bees, and organic garden.  We have enough apple trees to produce an abundant crop without so many that they are another big job to do.  We are not down a long driveway, nor are we secluded, which, for me at this stage of life are drawbacks, but perhaps when I am 80 or 90 could be beneficial.

Perhaps the biggest factor in favor of keeping it is that my husband is a very change averse human being by nature.  While I am always up for a move, an adventure, a big change, a “let’s chuck this all in and…,” he is decidedly not.  The move from his home state of NJ to Maine was a very big deal for him, and moving from our home now of eighteen years to another, even if smaller, easier to manage, much cheaper to heat, and closer to work for him (but probably not newer – just not a big fan of non-antique homes), does not seem to appeal.

We have had a great deal of success with Airbnb for our Little Sebago Lake cottage, Sunset Haven.  Several years ago I put together a small, exclusive hooking retreat there over a September weekend and I do believe a good time was had by all.  We had a guest teacher, we went on a nature walk, we hooked, we ate lobster, and we laughed a lot.  As Airbnb Superhosts, we get a lot of email from Airbnb.  Recently we learned that some hosts do Airbnb Experiences, which are value added stays at some of the destinations.  Hosts provide a class, an activity, a tour of the area, or something similar as part of the stay.  It’s an intriguing idea and not unlike ideas that have occurred to me in the past for both Sunset Haven and the Parris House.

When we first purchased the Parris House the most common exclamation from our friends back home was, “You could have a B&B!,” to which our most common answer was, “Hell, NO!”  But there’s a compromise solution in there somewhere between a full time B&B and a set of lovely rooms and bathrooms sitting empty and gathering dust.

Currently the upstairs at the Parris House looks like it houses four young men, because that’s what it’s been doing for the past eighteen years.  But with the application of fresh paint, some careful vintage furniture shopping (I’m looking at you, My Sister’s Garage), and a program of wonderful weekend activities along with home cooked meals (thank you, Parris House hens, bees, and gardens), a retreat center could easily take shape.   Bill and I are both Registered Maine Guides and beekeepers, he is a Reiki Master, soap maker, chicken keeper, and a potter (when he’s not at his professional job as the Controller for a Lewiston firm), and, obviously, I am a fiber artist, gardener, and hopefully by then, a published author.  Together we have a skill set that could keep guests entertained and relaxed for a weekend away, and it would also be imperative to bring in guest teachers for additional class offerings.  During non-class or activity hours, guests could assist with the daily tasks of gathering eggs and picking vegetables, take a turn in the beehives, pick apples, light the wood stoves, or, alternatively, they could do none of these things and simply knit, hook, read, or go out and sight see.   Click through the slideshow below to see some scenes from the Parris House and Paris Hill Village.

For skiing we are close to Sunday River, Shawnee Peak, and Mount Abram ski areas.  Hiking and trail walking/running are abundantly available, including at the Cornwall Preserve right down the street and the Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway.  Norway Downtown provides shopping and great restaurants including Norway Brewing Company, 76 Pleasant Street, Cafe Nomad, and more.  Also there for fiber enthusiasts and makers is Fiber & Vine and the Folk Art Studio there.   Within the National Historic District of Paris Hill, just a short walk, you can golf at the nine hole Paris Hill Country Club which also has a cafe, or explore the Hamlin Memorial Library & Museum and the Paris Hill Historical Society.   For those so inclined, the Oxford Casino is about ten miles away.  There is also public access to Norway Lake, about seven miles away.

At most, the Parris House will sleep seven.  There are three available bedrooms that will take two-person beds for couples (or singles to have more space!) and one, my favorite, that is a beautiful, vintage refuge for one.  There are two baths that would be shared between the four bedrooms, one with laundry facilities.  The fifth bedroom and bath would be for us and is with my work studio.  So full retreat weekends would be somewhat exclusive because of that space limitation, although there are possible options for lodging elsewhere in the village as well.  We are thinking these retreats could run, at first, once a quarter, and if they are well attended and in demand, perhaps more often, but that would be a lot to commit to from this time distance.

This is where you come in.  Give us your feedback.  Do you like the idea?  Is this something that you could realistically see yourself doing?  What classes and activities would you like to see offered? What seasons would be your favorites for a retreat?   How far would you travel for a weekend away at the Parris House?  Would you also like to see us run another retreat at Sunset Haven?

These retreats could not be offered before 2019, possibly even 2020, so this is some long range planning, but we were just interested to see what kind of response the idea brought.

In other news, I think there’s a football game or something on today.  If you are a football fan, enjoy the day, and happy hooking! – Beth

Giving Back – Our Choice for 2017

Back in the late fall, I announced that Parris House Wool Works was going to choose a worthy non-profit to support in 2017.  I knew that I could not give much – Parris House Wool Works is still finding its feet – but I wanted to give something, as much as I could.  I got a lot of absolutely great suggestions through the company page and my personal page, and I hope that by putting those threads out there all of those organizations got a little boost.  But ultimately, something really clicked for me just this month when my friend Betsy Brown posted an appeal for a girls’ camp here in Maine.  Betsy works at this camp, knows its strengths, its benefits, and most importantly, its girls.

Let me tell you a little bit about me, and it may become clearer why this cause hit me just right.

When I was a little girl growing up in southern NJ, I spent summers on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine with my grandparents.   Many of you have read one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on that experience.  If you haven’t, it’s here.    At any rate, I was phenomenally fortunate to be able to leave a situation in NJ not without personal problems and pressures and spend my summers lakeside with people who showed me unconditional love, who believed in me without exception, and where I could have new and empowering experiences like swimming, hiking, learning about plants and animals, cooking and baking, or just having the time to reflect.   Later, while raising my own sons, I would bear witness to the summer camp experience at Camp Hinds on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine.   “Hinds,” as so many of us call it, is a Boy Scout camp where Scouts from all over the country spend weeks or more in the summer.  These boys are coming from a variety of life situations, and the experiences at Hinds can be life changing for them in the best possible ways.  My third son, Peter, an Eagle Scout, spent the most time there, but all of my sons experienced it in some way.

Fast forward to just the past few years when I have taught at the Squam Art Workshops, which is basically a wildly creative summer camp for grownups, attended mostly by women.   If you want to know what that was like, you can check on my previous post here.   I titled that post, “And the Universe Said Yes” because that is what it was like for me…decades…as in four decades…after my experiences on Little Sebago with my grandparents, I still needed and benefited from the empowerment (there’s that word again, but it’s irreplaceable in this context), camaraderie, unconditional love, and art and skill building that are the hallmarks of Squam.

And where do I go when I need to be creative, centered, feel my best about myself, and maybe discover more about myself?  I go to our own cottage on Little Sebago, Sunset Haven, and allow myself to breathe.

The benefit of a good summer camp with a loving staff, especially for children and young people not normally exposed to nature, empowering skills and activities, or even broad and caring acceptance, is immeasurable.  I know, because even though my “summer camp” experience was in a private home, it saved me in a number of important ways.

Some of the kids who need this experience most come from families who can not afford to pay for it.  One two week session at the camp I am about to introduce you to costs $1,450, which, to me, seems like a bargain given everything that this camp offers.  Take a look for yourself as I introduce you to West End House Girls Camp on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.

Photo courtesy the WEHGC Facebook page.

This introduction to West End House Girls Camp is taken from their web page:

Welcome to West End House Girls Camp. We believe in the power of camp to change lives.

For many girls, summer camp isn’t in the cards. That’s where West End House Girls Camp (WEHGC) comes in.  Building on the 100-plus year history of Boston’s West End House, WEHGC offers need-blind summer camp opportunities for girls and young women from all walks of life, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have this experience.

WEHGC opened its doors in 2011 alongside the West End House Camp (for boys) on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.” We now support over 140 girls per summer and have plans to grow to accommodate over 300 girls per summer.

What do girls get out of our camp? On the surface, the things everyone gets from camp: Sunshine. Laughter. Campfires and new friends. But for these girls, camp is also a chance to feel safe, be themselves, and experience a judgment-free zone – things they may not experience elsewhere. They learn to make independent, responsible decisions when faced with challenges.

Ultimately, our goal is for campers to develop in a variety of ways. Whether it’s new skills, self-confidence, or a side of themselves they may not have known before, we want them to carry something special with them beyond their days at camp, into the real world – life-changing experiences.

I would encourage you to go their website and surf around.  Look most carefully at the “Values” page, where you will find a list of everything we need more of in this country and this world today, and perhaps some of the things these girls need most in their lives as well.   Their testimonials about what the camp has meant to them are here.

Girls and women need to know that they are valued, that they can achieve at a very high level, and that in spite of the challenges they face, they have within themselves the power to make a better life for themselves.  No matter what childhood situation we are coming from, we need to know that, and more importantly, be shown that.  I believe that West End House Girls Camp does exactly that, and I believe we are at time in America where this is as vitally important as ever.

I have made an initial pledge to West End House Girls Camp for $1000 this year, with a goal of another $450 if I can which would round out the cost of one entire two week scholarship.  I am humbled by the fact that I can not yet give more, but it’s a start, and if I can surpass the $1450 goal with the kind of growth I’m looking for this year, I absolutely will.  Chances are also good that I will not feel as though my support of WEHGC is over at the end of the year, and I will continue my support in to the future, hopefully in bigger and better ways.

If this is something that interests you as well, you can find the West End House Girls Camp donation page here.  I will be bringing you news and updates about the camp throughout 2017, especially on our social media.  You can follow them on Facebook by clicking here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will be moved to either support WEHGC also, or some other worthy nonprofit of your choice.  Our country and our world need a heavy dose of all that is right, good, empowering, and compassionate, one person, one act, one donation, one hour at a time.  It’s up to us.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Logo courtesy the West End House Girls Camp Facebook page

Artistry of Hooked Rugs Show at Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, New Hampshire

This past weekend was my 50th birthday, and when asked what I would like to do I naturally answered that I would like to spend it with my family.  Fortunately, three of my four sons are home for the summer.  We went to Moultonborough, New Hampshire to see the Artistry of Hooked Rugs Show at Castle in the Clouds.  This will be mostly a picture blog.  I did not take a photo of every rug, and would encourage any of you near enough to get up there and see the show in person.  It runs through June 29th.

On the day we were there, the show was being tended by the very talented and knowledgeable Grace Collette of Raymond Rug Hooking.  It was a pleasure to meet her and chat rugs with her, and also see a rug she has in process right now.  Grace is using so many different materials and techniques in her new design, it was truly an inspiration to view.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am unable to tag each rug with its designer and maker.  Please respect their originality and intellectual property by not copying any of their designs.  I realize this goes without saying for most readers, but I feel I must reiterate it whenever I post pictures like this.  In addition, some of these rugs are for sale, so if you really love it, hooker or not, why not support a fellow artist and purchase one?

Without further ado, here are a handful of the fifty or so beautiful rugs on display.

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This rug was my favorite. It is designed and hooked by Grace Collette. The motion in the sea is breathtaking, and she has used a variety of fibers to give it dimension and depth. She completely captured the scene, the mood, the darkness of the sky. Just…incredible.
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I loved these irregularly shaped rugs.
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Another by Grace Collette. Fantastic design and texture using a variety of materials.
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I recognized the Lunenburg waterfront immediately when I saw this rug. My second son attends university in Nova Scotia, and we have been to Lunenburg on a number of occasions.
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This fantastic pictorial of Tamworth, NH is for sale. If anyone is interested, please contact me and I will get the purchasing information on it.
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No New England lake is complete without its loons.
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Hello, bear…
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Parcheesi anyone?
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A wonderful, motion filled contemporary take on lupines. I loved this rug.

After we viewed the rug show, we took the Brook Trail just beyond the Carriage House for an easy to moderate hike.  It was a beautiful day and I can not resist getting in to the woods when the opportunity arises.  The Brook Trail at Castle in the Clouds has seven waterfalls along the way.  I have pics of just a few of them for you here, but would encourage you to visit on your own.  The main attraction at Castle in the Clouds is the early 20th century “castle” house itself.  I had seen it before and was there primarily for the rug show, but if you’d like to view my pics from my trip to NH several years ago, that include in the first section Castle in the Clouds, click HERE.

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My boys spotted this little guy just off the path.

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There are plaques for each of the falls.  Here are two:

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There is one week left to the Artistry of Hooked Rugs show, and, as you can see, many other things to do and see at Castle in the Clouds.  I hope some of you can take a day to get up there.  You will not regret it!

Happy hooking! – Beth

And the Universe Said, “Yes.” – Squam Art Workshops, Spring 2015

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I am rarely at a loss for words.  I’m an avid writer of blog posts, and an even more able chatterer (unless the context is public speaking…then all bets are off).  Words are my thing.  I usually choose them carefully and aim them true, but here I sit finding it difficult to find the right ones to convey everything I experienced at the Squam Art Workshops last week.  The last time I was this verbally lost over an experience I had taken my oldest son and fellow Thoreauvian, then 17, to Walden Pond. The blog post that followed that trip was called, “Speechless…for a change.”

For months prior to teaching at Squam I had been contemplating what my proper direction in this craft really should be.  Like all big decisions, the answer was right there all along.  You know how this feels.  The answers are located right in the center of your being, it feels almost like they’re sitting at the center of your body, and therefore the old turn of phrase “gut feeling” applies.  We treat these gut feelings like heartburn or hangovers.  We ignore them when we’re very busy doing whatever it is we think we should be, or when they don’t seem convenient.

But at Squam, you’re living in that space where the answers are, and the pressing and influencing expectations of others, or even of yourself, fall away.  You are encouraged to be in the present moment, to be attentive to process, not product, and to shelve your preconceptions and let the retreat unfold for you as it will.  As it is said at Squam, this is where the magic happens.

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The lacy dreamy dreamcatcher at the Squam Art Workshops. We were encouraged to write our dreams on a feather and pin them to the bottom. I actually pinned the dream of a dear friend on to this, because at Squam, you feel as though all of your own have come true.

Squam feels magical, but I would be remiss if I did not say this:  the magic is made in part by the vision and hard work of Director Elizabeth Duvivier, her assistant Forrest Elliott, and every single person who helps her, including the staff at Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake.  While I am a true believer in the manifestation of dreams, I believe equally that none of that manifestation takes place without the hard work behind the dream.  Elizabeth and everyone involved do that hard and heartfelt work, and to them I am so grateful.

Of course, I went to Squam to teach rug hooking at the beginner level.  I owe this to Elizabeth’s generosity in inviting me, on taking a chance on someone and something completely new to Squam, because my friend, poet Sarah Sousa, called my work to her attention last year.  As I was explaining to my own teacher and mentor yesterday, I learned so much from my students that I am still processing it all.  At Squam, students are uncommonly open, adventurous, and filled with energy.  They are also collaborative and incredibly kind.  I’m not sure there is another teaching experience quite like this.   There are those that are as good, but Squam brings together artists and artisans with a unique kind of creativity and camaraderie, and to teach them is really an honor.   I hope I lived up to it.

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Zodiac, the home to our class, Modern Heirloom, at Squam.
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I brought a little wool for my students…

I want to apologize for not getting pics of my first of two classes.  To my students in that first class, you are every bit as dear to me as those in the second!  I was simply very focused on running that first class for the first time and did not break out the camera.

Here are my amazing and beautiful students from the second session.  Every student I had, from both classes, picked up this craft in a heartbeat and immediately started making it her own.  Some had stories to tell of how their fore mothers had practiced rug hooking, and of the hooked pieces that had been handed down.  Since part of our mission is to keep this heritage craft alive and thriving in to the next centuries, it was so rewarding to see the enthusiasm and creativity at work in these wonderful women.

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We hooked inside…
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We hooked outside…
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The variety of interpretations of the pattern was really fun to see.
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This was the prototype design, but every student created something very unique to her own aesthetic and style.

Why did I choose a dock and dragonfly for the prototype design?  Well, this is Squam lake, our venue…

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Having grown up summering on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine (see a previous post on this here), I really feel at home and in my element in this kind of environment.  It centers me in a way no other space can, and this contributed to the magic I felt at Squam.

Also contributing to the magic?  Great lodging and great food.  I shared our cottage, aptly named “Bungalow,” with Sarah Sousa.  We had a great time catching up, having not seen one another in person in almost two years.

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The food was amazing. Whatever your dietary choices or restrictions are, you are well taken care of.

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And then, of course, there was yarn bombing.  Lots and lots of yarn bombing.

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And the chalkboards…every day at the dining hall…

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The Squam Art Fair and Ravelry Revelry, held on the last evening of the retreat, is a hand made paradise.  The amount of talent and creativity in that one room is humbling.  It is open to the public, and I highly recommend you visit it – and shop! – whenever it is held.  I did not get many pictures of the fair because I was a participant with a table, however, there are many pics out there on the net.

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I went to Squam not knowing exactly what to expect.  I was a bit nervous about teaching for the first time there.  Would I be good enough?  Would my class be engaging enough?  After all, this was a very accomplished group of students who had already worked with some very well known teachers.  Would I be enough?  What I discovered was two-fold.  On the one hand, I was enough.  I received the sweetest feedback on my class from my students, and I want to reach through the screen and hug every one of you.  On the other hand, I have so much to learn and so many directions in which to grow.  I was enough, but I can be so much more.  This is one of the primary lessons of Squam.  We are enough.  Right here and right now, in this moment, we are enough.  And yet, we are filled with potential at every point in our lives to do more and be more and catch our dearest dreams.

In the midst of these lessons, I gained clarity.  Questions offered up for weeks and months were answered resoundingly in the affirmative, and that’s a gift.   I do not believe my experience is unique.  I think this was happening all around me, in the lives of my fellow “Squammies.”   If we give ourselves the space and the freedom, the answers come.

The little fairy village below was on the wooded path between the dining hall and my classroom.  Literally and figuratively, love and spirit can be found along the paths at Squam.   Hope to see you there next year.  In the meantime, happy living and happy hooking.  – Beth

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It’s a New Week – Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

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Every Monday I try to put a graphic or post on our Facebook page that’s motivational.  This week, I’m writing my own because from Friday afternoon through the weekend, so many things pointed in the direction of Tolkien’s much used (overused?) quote from “Lord of the Rings”:  Not all those who wander are lost.

Let’s start with Friday afternoon.  My youngest son, Paul, was being inducted in to the Cum Laude Society at Hebron Academy.  Cum Laude is an honor society, similar to Phi Beta Cappa at the college level, for outstanding high school students.  It’s not just about grades, but also about human qualities of compassion, leadership, enthusiasm, and others.  He is the second of our sons to be inducted in to Cum Laude, and needless to say we are very proud of him.

There is always a guest speaker at Cum Laude ceremonies.  This year it was Hollis Hurd, a prominent attorney who has written a book called, “You Just Have to Be Smarter than the Rope.”  It’s an advice book he wrote for his grandchildren, and for young people in general.  He spent most of his speech outlining a concept in the book called “reverse engineering.”  The examples he used were about how, during his lifetime, he has reverse engineered goals.  One example was how he looked carefully at the steps he’d need to take to become a partner in a law firm.  He worked backwards from that goal through the steps of what kind of law student he had to be at what point in his education, and the step by step career milestones that would lead to that goal.  Another example was how he won a military drill competition at his high school.  All very plotted, very calculated, very linearly driven from point A to point B.  He recommended the students pick a goal, far in the future, and work to it on the straight and narrow until it is achieved.

Do I think this is admirable?  Heck, NO! I thought this was terrible advice for young people.  It is way at the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum of how we raised our four sons, all of whom are experiencing tremendous academic, personal, and working life success.

I regret not visiting with Mr. Hurd after the ceremony and saying, “With all due respect, not all those who wander are lost.”

I thought of all the goals and plans I made in my teens and twenties, and the ones I worked to in that fashion, only to realize perhaps they were not what my spirit really craved.  Did I get a degree in business administration/marketing, and then work in corporate America, because I was told I’d never get a job in music or art or writing or teaching English, my first loves?  Yes, yes I did.  Did I settle down for way too long in suburban New Jersey when my heart was firmly planted in rural Maine from the time I was a toddler?  Yes.  Why?  Because I was afraid to wander.  I was afraid to take the side path and try it.  The advice given to the beautiful, bright young students with a thousand paths in front of them at Hebron Academy on Friday afternoon was, “Don’t wander…at least not too much.”

I know this generation, though.  I’m sure many, many of them will not heed that narrow advice.  Yay for them.

Fast forward to Sunday.  I ran out a favorite running path, Mount Mica Road in Paris, Maine, for the first time since last fall.  It was positively exhilarating.  I have run this country road many times, but every time I do I see something different, notice a different plant or shadow or scent.  Something.  I have wandered off the road to check out the abandoned cellar hole of a farm long gone.  I discovered 19th century grave stones to the side of the road in another area I’d passed scores of times before unnoticing.   I found them because finally I took my eyes briefly off the familiar path and caught the sight of hewn granite in the brush.  Later on Sunday I climbed Streaked Mountain in Paris with two of my sons, James and Paul.  James is home from college for the summer, an aspiring ecologist/wildlife biologist.  He and Paul went off the trail a few times to observe some early spring plant, or sometimes just some thing left a decade before by a careless hiker (for example, an old pop top Old Milwaukee can).

Were I not off the metaphorical trail I set for myself in my younger years, there would be no Parris House Wool Works.  I worked in real estate for a decade prior to founding this company with Jen.  Real estate was a logical fit for me, the business/marketing college graduate, the person who grew up in a family business, the person who knew how to do sales from attending the occasional trade show.   I have no art training.  I never went to an artisan school.  I had no background in textiles except for the fact that my father’s business was clothing manufacturing.  But I was eager to get off the path I’d so carefully constructed for myself, and in the stupor of grief following my mother’s death, looking for what I called then and call now a “zen craft,” I wandered in to Artful Hands in Norway, Maine and asked hooking guru Connie Fletcher to teach me to hook.

That was one of the best detours I ever took.  And the evolution of Parris House Wool Works has been marked by serendipitous events and opportunities we could not have imagined, let alone planned.  We have a very long way to go; we are very fledgling in this endeavor.  We have a lot of planning to do, but more than a little wandering too to find out about the things we can’t possibly see now.

Not all those who wander are lost.  On this Monday morning, I would encourage you to wander.  Be ok with uncertainty, because it often brings opportunity, surprise, and joy.

Happy wandering and happy hooking.  – Beth

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The summit of Streaked Mountain, Paris, Maine. May 3rd, 2015

Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine – by Beth

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Trail head to the Packard Trail, Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine.

My husband had off for Columbus Day, so we decided to go hiking.  It was unseasonably warm, and we had run a 5K race the day before, so we opted for a very easy trail.  The Virgil Parris Forest in Buckfield, Maine was the perfect choice.  The trail head is on the Sodom Road, which is off of Route 117 in Buckfield.  It’s easy to find, but the road does go to dirt and varies in condition depending on the time of year.  Four wheel drive would not be a bad idea in the winter or during spring mud season if you’re going to visit this trail.

This trail system has special meaning to me.  Virgil and Columbia Parris purchased our home in 1853, and it remained in the Parris family for nearly the next century, thus “the Parris House.”  Parris House Wool Works takes its name from this heritage.  While the web page for the Western Foothills Land Trust says zero about Virgil Parris and his family, the history is interesting.  Here is an excerpt from a previous blog post I did about our home:

“Located in the Paris Hill National Historic District, the Parris House dates back to 1818 and is named for its most well known owners, Virgil D. and Columbia Parris.  They purchased the home in 1853 and it remained in their family until the 1940s.  Virgil was a member of the United States Congress of 1840, a United States Marshall for Maine, and an acting Governor as well.  Perhaps even more interesting, however, is the story of a young man Virgil and Columbia adopted after Virgil prosecuted a slave ship, the Porpoise.  One young man aboard that ship had been abducted to be a slave from East Africa.  His African name was Tovookan, but he came to be known as Pedro Tovookan Parris.  Pedro came to live at the Parris House and became a very popular member of Paris Hill society.  He was a public speaker, a water color artist, a ventriloquist, and an inspiring survivor of his time as a slave.  There is much more information on Pedro and his life that I can share with anyone interested in his story.  Our stewardship of the Parris House has brought us in to close contact with this story and it has been a very moving experience.”

Here are some pics of the Parris family…

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Virgil Delphini Parris
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Columbia Parris, right, and her sister, Abigail Prentiss, when both ladies were at an advanced age. Columbia was past 100 years old when she passed away.
Pedro
Pedro Tovookan Parris

What I have not been able to ascertain is specifically why this tract of forest preserve was named for Virgil Parris.  Virgil’s father, Josiah, was a Revolutionary War veteran and the family lived in Buckfield when Virgil was growing up.  Virgil also was the founder of the Buckfield Railroad in the 19th century.  However, whether this specific land had any connection to the Parris family, I do not know, and nothing I have been able to find on the web explains it.  I would have to (and probably will) contact the Western Foothills Land Trust to ask that very question.  Again, I find it odd that there is no explanation of this by the land trust, but then I have to think that sometimes the people who thankfully and very ably preserve land for our use are not always historians, or even that interested in history.   I will update this post if I find the answer.

On to the actual nature of the trail though.  The primary trail through the forest is called the Packard Trail.  At the trail head there is a nice box containing the trail map (although it is impossible to become lost on this very well marked trail) and a guest book.

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It is a loop, with a very short additional trail, called the Cascade Trail, coming off at one end.  We did not do the Cascade Trail as we were running short on time, but will in the future.  The Cascade Trail has a falls on it, and there are other water falls on the trail as well.  On this particular day, the streams were on the dry side and the falls we saw were just a trickle, but it is not at all hard to imagine how they would be rushing in the spring and I look forward to going back and seeing them then.

A few things struck us about the trail.  The forest growth is generally very, very young.  Again, it would be interesting to know more about the history of this land that would explain why so much of the growth is so young.  As a result, the trail feels relatively open and sunny.  The foot path itself is nicely maintained, although there are many very small stumps sticking up from it which present a bit of a trip hazard in the fall when they are obscured beneath a little blanket of leaves.  I don’t know that I would recommend trail running this at this time of year for just that reason.  We opted to walk.  Really, it was such a gorgeous day, and the trail is so pleasant, that walking gave us more time to soak up the beauty of it all.

I could not help but think that this trail would be fantastic for snow shoeing in the winter, and it is meant to be used that way.  It is also open for cross country skiing.  I would not recommend the trail to inexperienced cross country skiers because there are areas where it would be pretty easy to slide down some steep side slopes toward South Pond if you were not in complete control of your skis and trajectory.  I do plan to visit again over the winter.

What follows are some photographs I took along the trail.  The trail runs right along the shore of South Pond, and as you will see, the pond was absolutely breathtaking on this day, the water reflecting the foliage like a mirror.

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Needless to say, it was just one more day in the paradise that is the great state of Maine.   From my husband, Bill, and me to you…happy hiking (and happy hooking!).

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