The Monument

The Monument

This post is contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.

Editor’s note: This piece is from Barnaby’s archive.

golden marsh in November sunTake a road, any country road, and follow it into November’s landscape, over the hill and into the next valley and the next. Listen to the leaves whispering in your wake and let your eye roam over the fields, from house to house, past farms and through the woods. The lay of the land is bared once more. A black stream winding through alders flows into the distant tawniness of dead sedges and grasses, like a black jewel, beckoning to throbbing flights of migrating fowl to join the muskrat. A heavy rain borne on a cold wind has whipped gray branches clean in the night, and today has dawned clear with a meaningful change in the air, the full Moon two days past. There is a sense of looking into times ago with a fatigue on the land.

Somewhere down the road there is a monument to the aura of November. It is a tired old monument, standing idle and alone, forgotten. A sign on a barn says “PIGS,” but there is no sign of them about. Smoke coming out of a stovepipe suggests sides of bacon and hanging hams. On down the road, two men with guns stride off through an overgrown apple orchard. A few remaining yellow leaves flutter in contrast to their blaze-orange jackets.

A little farther on, five cows wait patiently by the door of a white barn. The silo with its tin roof towers over their yard, leaning a bit in the direction of an old manure spreader languishing on three flat tires.

milkweed pods in NovemberThe scenes pass by, mile by mile. With each thank-you-ma’am appears a separate world, and their sum belies the independent spirit that pervades this country. November reduces Maine to its elements, again, with what might seem a sad spareness . . . but for one thing: the traveler, everyone, everything, knows that this land never sleeps for long, that this momentary pause is just that, a gathering of strength for the next howling season.

And then you pass a small house. New bales of hay hug the perimeter of its foundation. A high pile of newly split firewood mounds at the back shed. A pumpkin sits on the doorstep. And there, in the garden, tended only by tattered stalks and dry stubble of corn, sits November’s monument – a rusted invention of angles and tines left in mid-row, frozen in its pose on the stony ground it was devised to till. Its handlebars strike upward, ungainly. An old galvanized tub hangs at a casual angle, upturned over the miracle of Briggs & Stratton on top – the only suggestion that any maintenance was ever attempted.

Of all things, this glimpse of the odd contraption contrived to turn one season into the next is a symbol to rest in the traveler’s mind. Just two hours in the year it sparks and churns, and in all the intervening months it idles in the contemplation of time, savoring November and the lonely company it keeps.

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.