Most New England schoolchildren have an ambivalent relationship with the poetry of Robert Frost. Too many of us were forced to commit to memory and recite “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”. The exhaustive dissection of the poet’s implied metaphor and meaning and the meta-meaning of the poem managed to suck most of the juice out of the poem and most of the poetry out of us. We didn’t need someone to tell us what Frost meant, it was right there on the page.
Fortunately, I gave Frost another try. “North of Boston” spoke to this girl from the North Shore who loved the woods and the enormous familiarity of the places, experiences and things Frost wrote about.
Earlier this week, the Husband and I packed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and our hiking boots and went up to Derry, NH to Frost’s farm. He worked it around the turn of the last century and some of his best work (OK, my favorites of his work) was written there.
The farm was nearly deserted. We were enthusiastically greeted by the two Park Service docents on duty who were positively burning to share their knowledge and love of the poet with us. Their zeal was a little daunting, especially once they told us that the paid tour of the farmhouse actually took nearly an hour and a quarter because of all the stories they had to share. Given that it looked to be a six room farmhouse, that calculated to be roughly 15 minutes per room. We simply couldn’t, not on a glorious blue and white and sweet-scented summer day. So we thanked them courteously, declined firmly, dropped a couple of bucks in the donation box and went off down the Hyla Brook Nature/Poetry Trail, stopping to taste a few noon-hot blueberries from the bushes beside the barn.
I surprised myself by not wanting to use the interpretive guide after a few stops. I love Frost’s poetry and I was familiar with many of the lines they highlighted. But that felt a little too much like being back in that English class with someone else telling me what the poet might have thought and felt. Walking the paths Frost cut, looking at the shape of the fields and forest and brook that he loved, smelling the ancient timber of his barn and watching a turkey vulture slip off the wind above his hay field seemed a better way to appreciate the poet and his words that day.
Now, when I read “The Voice of Trees”, I will hear the branches, scent the ripening apples and half-rotting peaches, the warm pine and the cool mud in the nearly dry brook. It will be these clouds I see, that breeze I feel and I will share that longing better than I ever have before.
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.