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


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

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

Beth Will Be Teaching at the Squam Art Workshops, and Is She Ever Excited!

For those of you who have not heard of the Squam Art Workshops, directed by Elizabeth Duvivier and held both on Squam Lake in New Hampshire and in Providence, Rhode Island, I recommend you click HERE and watch the video, less than a minute long.

I’ll wait…

Did you watch it?  When I first watched that video earlier this year, my first thought was, “This is me.  This is who I am.”  My New England soul immediately connected with the lake, with the women lost in creative endeavor, with the natural surroundings, and I thought, “I have to go there some day.”

Imagine my delight and surprise when I was presented with an opportunity to teach there!  And that is just what I’ll be doing for the Spring Retreat, held June 3rd through the 7th, 2015.

I will be teaching a class, suitable for beginner hookers, called Modern Heirloom.  The pattern shown at the top of the page will be our foundation, but you can bet not a single one of them will look exactly like that finished, and if I’ve achieved my teaching goal, each one will reflect the inner heart and creativity of the individual student.  I will provide a wide variety of hand dyed and as-is wools, as well as a plethora of more unconventional materials for experimentation and expression.

If you’d like to know a little bit more about me, my teacher profile is here.  But be sure to read about all of the other wonderful teachers too, including my amazing friend Sarah Sousa who will be teaching a workshop called Found Poetry.

I will be teaching two classes of ten students each, so if you’d like to join us, please sign up soon!  Students come from all over the country and many describe the retreats as life changing.  Registration information may be found here for the Spring Retreat.  I hope to see some of you there!

Happy Monday, Happy December, and Happy Hooking! – Beth

Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine – by Beth

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…

Virgil Delphini Parris
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 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.


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.

ParrisForest20 ParrisForest19 ParrisForest18 ParrisForest17 ParrisForest16 ParrisForest13 ParrisForest12 ParrisForest11 ParrisForest10 ParrisForest9 ParrisForest8 ParrisForest7 ParrisForest6 ParrisForest5 ParrisForest4 ParrisForest3 ParrisForest 15

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!).


Libby Hill Trail, Gray, Maine – by Beth


This is the first in an ongoing series on trails and hikes.  I was originally going to write a single post on a number of trails here in Western Maine, but received feedback indicating that we have plenty of outdoorsy followers who would like to see multiple posts.  Since trail running, hiking, and snowshoeing are some favorite recreational activities for me, I’m happy to oblige.

Not too far from our lake cottage, Sunset Haven, is the Libby Hill Trail System in Gray, Maine.  The highlighted link will give you a fine array of information regarding location, events, and other details about this trail.  It’s beautiful, and fairly gentle, at least on the white blazed trail which, admittedly, is the only one I’ve done in its entirety so far.  I hope to get on to some of the other parts of the system before the fall is over.

It was a spectacular fall day last Saturday when I went out on the trail.  Record warmth was on tap for Maine, and it felt almost like summer except for the tell tale signs of fall all around me.  Gray is in southern Maine, and a bit away from the higher elevations as well, so the foliage was not in full glory yet.  These woods are gorgeous year round, however.

The Libby Hill trails are also used as the cross country trails for the Gray-New Gloucester school district.
I must have been influenced by endorphins, because it occurred to me to use my head to show the scale of the boulders behind me. In fact, the pic does not do the boulder justice.
In looking at these yellowing ferns, I could not help but think about the tiny, fuzzy, delicate little fiddleheads they had been in the spring. The seasons are wondrous.
This is the cellar hole of the old Libby homestead, just by the side of the trail. A remembrance and brief history of the Libby farm is posted trail side.
Color. Everywhere.
The trails are well marked. Note the white blaze on the tree to the left. There were only a couple of cross paths where I’d wished I’d had a trail map in hand, but it didn’t take much figuring to know which way to go. Disclaimer: Do not go in to a trail system without access to a trail map. I did not have one “in hand” but knew I could look it up on my phone at any time.
It’s been pretty dry, but this little thing is managing to survive.
The stone walls throughout the Libby Hill trails are a reminder that this was once farmland. Whenever you’re in the woods in New England and the Northeast and see old abandoned stone walls, look around at the trees. Chances are very good that the trees are not ancient. Then imagine all of that land cleared, because it was.
Monument to the Libby (or Libbey – it’s spelled both ways) family. There is a side trail that runs near this dedication marker.
These were falling all around me, reminders of the mighty oak that grows from the small acorn, although this one was not so small. There’s a life lesson in that.
These tree species markers are all over the trails. I was reminded of a species or two that I’d forgotten, but no one here in the “Pine Tree State” can forget this one.
As I said, foliage was not near peak in Gray last weekend, but this lone standout was pretty marvelous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse of the Libby Hill trail, and that you might even get out on it, or one near you, this fall.  Happy hiking!