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Strawberries and Bunting in New England

Author: laurie pitcher
Date of Trip: July 2007

Strawberries and Bunting in New England

We followed the strawberry season up to New Hampshire, The Granite State, over the weekend. Upon arriving at the inn on Friday night we were treated to fresh chocolate-covered strawberries made from the berries the innkeeper had picked that afternoon for the upcoming Strawberry Festival.

Strawberry Shortcake was to be served on the village green, or village “Common” as they call them in New England, on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. It was the weekend before July 4th and American flags and red, white and blue bunting could be seen everywhere you went. If a village wasn’t celebrating with strawberry something, they were having a chicken barbecue, a flea market or an antique show. Everyone’s gardens were in full bloom. I began to wonder how one garden after the other could be so perfect and beautiful. Anyway, the flags and the buntings were everywhere. New Englanders are very patriotic and were getting ready for the Fourth. Since July 4th fell mid-week this year, this gave everyone a chance to celebrate twice. There is something simple and beautiful about a white clapboard community church adorned at each window with our nation’s colors. We meandered through tiny village after village, photographing quaint village commons, window boxes filled with a rainbow of flowers, old and new barns and the mountains.

Mount Monadnock was the centerpiece of the area. We saw and photographed it from every direction, marveling at this natural wonder. It’s the second-most climbed mountain in the world, rising up to meet the sky at well over 3,000 feet. As we circled around the Monadnock Region you could look over your shoulder and see it from wherever you were. It felt comforting almost, knowing that it was there forever. We dreamed of a house in New Hampshire, overlooking a lake which overlooked the mountain which overlooked the white-steepled church with the Paul Revere bell.

Guide book in hand and a tank full of gas 50 cents less per gallon than on Long Island, we explored the area, not missing a village or a covered bridge. We stopped frequently. I needed to get Vermont cheddar cheese, New Hampshire maple syrup, post cards and yes, more strawberries to bring home. We hiked a small gorge, took a tour through a beautiful cottage for sale on Spofford Lake and marveled at the beauty of the area with each passing mile. You need to know that daisies, Black-eyed Susans and Forget-Me-Nots grow wild on the side of the road. No need to try to guess my favorite flowers… The people who live up there take so much pride in their homes and their land. They plant beautiful gardens. They all seem to have windowboxes full of flowers. They make stone walls as they clear the land. The houses are freshly painted old fashioned traditional New England colors which aren’t just white with green trim anymore. They’ve put color on the landscape with colors that compliment the simple lines of these houses. One after another they sparkle and shine. They are warm and inviting and you just want to move right in. People wave as you pass by. They invite you in for a glass of wine and give you muffins for the road. They give you directions, not attitudes. They hike and bike and kayak and take time to relax. It’s all so refreshing.

There are some mill towns around. Some are tired, some are in the midst of a face lift and some have already been preserved. We saw one of each but remember the latter most. The library hung over the pond where the lilypads were in full bloom. They still make yarn in this little gem of a town where the mountains are reflected in the surrounding water. The Sunday Times cost $5 here but it’s worth every extra penny to be able to buy it at the General Store. This store, like many others, sits on New Hampshire granite and has Vermont marble steps.

Meanwhile, back at the Inn, The Ashburn House in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, picture homemade (not Eggo) waffles with maple syrup made by the innkeepers. (That’s syrup and waffles BOTH made by the innkeepers). Picture a warm blueberry crisp or strawberries with whipped cream colored pink with grenadine. Picture individual banana nut breads and a white linen tablecloth. Picture edible Johnny Jump-Ups and tiny mint leaves used as garnish, completing the presentation. So simple and perfect, and picked right outside the door of the kitchen. No extra charge for morning dew on the petals.

And, then there was the Cathedral of the Pines. Once again, Mount Monadnock was the background for this powerful, sacred, beautiful place. The eye of the camera catches the stone cross in the foreground and the mountain in the background but the heart of the person taking the photo feels the power and the glory and the holy spirit all around. You walk away from the Cathedral of the Pines a little different from when you entered there. A little better, I think. So, I’m going home and getting windowboxes and a bunting for my house if I can find one. I’m going to make muffins for the kids and pray more. I doubt I’ll be able to tap my maple trees for sap next mud season but maybe there’s still time this summer to plant some daisies, Forget-Me-Nots and a Black-eyed Susan or two. I have a renewed pride in America after seeing a piece of New England in all its July splendor. I feel like I just walked out of a beautiful picture postcard just in time to celebrate our country’s independence. Happy Birthday, America!

By Laurie Pitcher

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