Some folks might remember Helen Milbank, who lived in Nelson for several years with her husband Robbins, at Schoolhouse Farm. She died in 1998 and is buried in the Nelson Cemetery
Helen was a socially formidable woman and among the first few women to break into the male-dominated field of being a war correspondent. She is mentioned in an article published many years ago in the Grapevine: Our Write Wing – The Authors of Nelson, by the late Henry Putzel.
While Helen’s formative, and even career years, did not involve Nelson, she found the community resonated sufficiently for her to feel at home here. Read Helen’s Obituary
Nelson Scouts participated in a food drive, accepting donations outside of Hannaford this past Saturday. Scout leader Elaine Giacomo was excited to report that 140 bags of groceries were donated. This will be dispersed to local food pantries.
The Stoddard Connection
For the Lake’s most prestigious residents, we don’t believe they see the town lines at all! ~ Wendy Wollaeger
It would be very easy for Nelson In Common to include news and activities from other towns, but we’ve tended to be firm about drawing the line in Nelson, otherwise there would simply be too much to cover. The happy exception to that is how we think about the Granite Lake community, half of which is in Stoddard. Residents there are members of the Granite Lake Village District, which is its own municipality within the two towns. Perhaps a more significant connection, at least for our purposes, are the strong memories that many Granite Lake residents, regardless of their town, have about the Munsonville Store. And we know that for the people residing around this beautiful lake, seasonally or year-round, there is a feeling of neighborliness. To this end, we’ll give a plug to the Granite Lake T Shirts for sale – see the details elsewhere on this page.
Vaccination Clinic Update
This Saturday, November 13, the Nelson Town Hall hosts a Covid vaccination clinic sponsored by the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network. Every vaccine recipient will get a free gift, and will be entered into a lottery to be eligible for four different prizes. See the details here.
The Nelson Select Board recently established a Community Power Committee to study establishing a program by which Nelson residents could elect to join in purchasing their power as a group, instead of individually. The incentives for studying this include the ability to purchase our energy at a cheaper rate due to bulk purchasing, exploring sources that use more renewable energy, and the possibility of establishing a reserve fund for future projects and investments. Patsy Beffa-Negrini will be chairing this committee and is looking for members to join. Please feel free to contact her, at 603-827-3337 or email@example.com, or your Select Board members if you are interested in joining the committee.
Excel Pro to Python Novice— An Absolute Beginner’s Guide
~ John Wengler
This book started as a bunch of Post-Notes several years ago when I started teaching myself Python. Available books and the Internet were great but nothing quite spoke to someone like me who literally knew nothing about coding and was not interested in the kind of “Boolean Talk” that coders seem to relish. I decided to organize my notes and slowly added more and more.
After 75 pages I realized I might have the makings of a unique book, akin to somebody recording what it is like to learn to ride a bike. One never forgets how to ride a bike but we certainly forget what it felt like to learn. So this book is written for the confused, the frustrated and the desperate (which is likely a large market indeed!)
I’m hoping to find a few folks who’d like to “try on” a chapter and give me some constructive feedback so I can move this project into the home stretch.
Editor’s note: If you’re thinking that Python has something to do with those snakes running rampant in the Everglades, or a British comedy show, you probably aren’t a candidate for this project. This Python is an interpreted high-level general-purpose object-oriented computer programming language.
Photos from Paddy Moloney’s visit to Nelson
In the Update of October 13, we noted with sadness the passing of Paddy Moloney, founder and leader of the Irish Band, The Chieftains. Paddy was enchanted with the Nelson Town Hall when he played here in 1987. At the time we did not have any photos of that event, but since then we have found a few. Here are a couple to commemorate that wonderful evening.
Unknown harpist, Sean Potts. Paddy Moloney, Sean Keane
The season of long lasting squash and root vegetables has arrived. This time of year I always wish I had a root cellar. The Nelson Library has a book called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel. In a corner of the cover in a white multi-pointed star it says “Keep your produce ‘Harvest-Fresh’ in your own basement, porch, garage or closet hideaway!”
Nelson has been relatively fortunate with the recent rains. Our roads remained largely intact, and where damage occurred, it was quickly repaired. Not so every where. We do see that the Bailey Brook Falls, while still vigorous, is much more subdued than a week or so ago (see a video). We are seeing some interesting and unusual things in and around the forests.
Shroomhenge, an ancient Celtic phenomenon that emerges here periodically.
Bailey Brook Falls
A few months ago we ran an announcement for a new Writer’s Residency, to be sponsored by The Old Library. This Residency is for emerging poets who require time and space for creative work. The original Olivia Rodham Memorial Library which sits up on a little knoll just off the Common, has in recent years come under the ownership and management of The Old Library, a NH non-profit dedicated to using the building for events that promote the arts and land conservation.
The residency provides the use of this building, as well as accommodation in the nearby historic former home of the poet, May Sarton.
Alec Hershman will be in the first “Writer in Residence” at The Old Library from this Sunday August 8th through Saturday August 14th. He will be staying in the “May Sarton” house in the Village. Friday, August 13th there will be a reception to meet him (with appropriate Covid protocols in place). There will also be a public reading on Saturday. Times to be announced soon and should be posted on this website’s calendar.
Alec teaches writing and literature at Washtenaw Community College, and does community organizing projects with service industry workers in the Ann Arbor area. He earned his MFA at Washington University in St. Louis, and is the author of two volumes of poetry–Permanent and Wonderful Storage (2019), winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize, and The Egg Goes Under (2017)—both available from Seven Kitchens Press. His latest project is tentatively titled Spandrel: a Queer Ecopoetics. He lives with his husband and their two dogs in southeastern Michigan.
Below you’ll find a link to an article that starts with a look at Log Cabin Road. Meanwhile, there was some interesting activity going on along that road recently: Val Van Meier sent us this video. We think there’s a story there – so hopefully when we are back next week we’ll have more to tell.
Editors note: Rich is a professional musician, a member of the Nelson School Board, and parent of a graduating fifth grader.
I spent a week in September as the chaperone for the 5th grade’s trip to The Ecology School in Saco, ME. It was a great experience, and the students learned a lot about ecosystems, native flora and fauna, astronomy, weather, and a bunch of other things related to the natural world. A few months later, in a collaboration with The Harris Center, they studied the wetland across the road from the school, building on the knowledge gained earlier, and I helped out for a few days then as well. As I watched the students record their findings in their journals, I began to get an idea, which I later pitched to the 5th grade teacher, Ms. Whippie-Prior: what do you think about having the kids synthesize all of this knowledge into an original song? She agreed, and I came back a few weeks later, guitar in hand.
I used one of my own original songs to talk about where inspiration can come from, and then focused on the basics of song structure: verse, chorus, rhyme scheme, melody, and so on. Then we brainstormed ideas based on what we had learned while studying the wetland. Finally, I played them the chorus I had written, and laid out a pattern we could use for the verses. The students broke into groups, chose a topic from our list, and got to work. Within an hour, with some coaching and encouragement, they had four verses completed, and the song was done. We sang it all the way through just as our time was up, and I have to say, it sounded great. We were all impressed (and a little surprised) with what we had accomplished in a few short hours.
Soon, a new thought began to poke my brain–we should make a recording! Once again, Ms. Whippie-Prior was on board. I laid down the music and a scratch vocal in my basement studio and sent in a rough mix the students could use to practice. On a warm day in early June, we got to work. After a brief explanation of the recording process and the equipment I brought, we recorded multiple takes of each chorus. With each pass, the students became more confident, and their performances got better and better. By the end, with the addition of some percussion and a raucous cheer, we were done. I mixed it down and congratulated the students on becoming bona fide recording artists.
At graduation last week the song was debuted for the assembled audience, with the addition of some nifty choreography by a few brave 5th graders. It was a hit! It was a real joy to see the smiling faces of the students and their families as we all experienced the magic of the wetland together through song.
Listen to Pull On Your Boots
Pull on Your Boots (The Wetland Song)
~ Rich Popovic and the Nelson School fifth graders
The stream flows softly down the forest to the wetlands nearby It’s been raining the past 3 days so the water’s rising high The water gets colder as the winter nears The wetland is beautiful, so much to see, so much to hear
Chorus Rain comes down and the water flows Over the rocks and under the road Where it goes next, well friend if you want to know, Pull on your boots and follow me
So many animals in the wetland marsh, too many to count In the mucky marsh there are frogs to see, they are there without a doubt Everything they need can be found right here Its food and its water, and its shelter are near
Come on down to the beaver dam and you may see some flat tails While you’re there take a look around and you might spy beavers in the cattails Underneath the Sphagnum moss you might spot a big ole rock a hawk flies up above you when you’re on your great big walk
Little legs and an oval abdomen, the nymph of a dragonfly Emerging from the water, it spreads out its wings and heads off to the sky Tall and colorful standing all around Birch and pines and all the beautiful bird sounds
~ Nancy Selig
Amy Zydanowicz’s childhood summers in Munsonville and Nelson left such a positive impression on her that she wrote a children’s book based on her memories, Wishes Hidden in the Grass. Zydanowicz captures the innocence of her carefree days visiting the Granite State, creating the characters of Amelia and her grandmother.
In real life, Zydanowicz, along with her siblings, cousins, and family friends, spent summer vacations, fall weekends, and holidays at her grandparents’ home located near Granite Lake. Dubbed the “Red House” family farm, it was built in the 1950s by her grandfather, Al Guida, Jr., who later donated portions of the farm to build an extension to the Nelson Elementary School. Today, Red House is still the family’s treasured meeting place, as it has been for four generations.
“There was the usual rivalry and camaraderie between all of us kids. We always had something to do and someone to do it with whether we were ice skating on the local pond, sledding down the hills of Old Town Road, or jumping off the island rocks into the lake. We were never bored. After we played together, there were the necessary chores to do together as well,” said Zydanowicz.
One chore she did not mind was hanging laundry outdoors to dry with her grandmother. After they were done, Zydanowicz and her grandmother would hunt for four-leaf clovers in the grass. Her grandmother always had an eye for finding these rare clovers. The pair’s special relationship is a major factor in the story and is part of the underlying theme of what it takes to find the rare four-leaf clover.
Zydanowicz dedicated this story to her beloved grandmother, Lottie Guida. “Grannie lived her life according to a specific set of virtues,” explained Zydanowicz. “She taught us important life lessons while cherishing the time we could all play and be together. Her constant demonstration of patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love were guiding virtues that all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren abide by today. Readers will come to understand these virtues and their relevance to four-leaf clovers as they read this book.”
Another link to the area in Wishes Hidden in the Grass is four-legged Mac, a chocolate Labrador retriever who was actually part of a litter born to a family living on Granite Lake. Mac and his antics only add to the twists and turns of the story.
Mac, Amelia, and Grannie were lovingly depicted with illustrations by Zydanowicz’s collaborator and aunt, Fran Guida. Guida also spent her childhood summers and vacations in Munsonville. With soft pastels and whimsical drawings, she captured the natural surroundings of the family farm and many of Zydanowicz’s favorite outdoor activities, from catching frogs to swinging on the tree swing. Today, she resides in Plymouth, Mass., and volunteers her time by playing the piano for people of all ages.
“Working together with my aunt was a true joy as we shared memories so dear to both of us. I hope those who read this story discover their own meanings to the four virtues and how they incorporate them into their own lives,” she added.
Zydanowicz, who lives south of Boston with her dog, Clover, has donated a copy of Wishes Hidden in the Grass to the Nelson Library.
Silver Lake and Little Monadnock in December light
Our gardens have gone into their quiet time, under frost, and, hopefully, snow. Nonetheless, I still find much that is interesting. Winter brings shorter days with its unique tangential lighting amplified by reflective white snow.
Silver Lake looks magnificent and large (without obstructing leaves) and glows like a gigantic sheet of aluminum foil. On a sunny day, the world seems bright and exciting. Tree trunks and branches casting shadows onto sparkling snow is as magical to me as my garden in full bloom (and no weeding required)!
Whenever I can, I go out mid-day and walk around my garden and nearby woods. I admire the puffs of snow weighing down branches, which I gently shake to reduce their load. It’s fun to catch the sunlight as it travels through ice and melting droplets, casting a rainbow of color like the most expensive diamonds. The chirping chickadees entertain me as they acquire their suet and take it to my nearby magnolia tree with its oversized grey-white, pussy-willow-like buds that say “touch me” (and I do!).
Greg has been clearing a path through the woods. We walk amongst the recently uncovered granite boulders while enjoying the crisp air and the crunch of snow and ice under our feet. We enjoy periods of silence, shared memories, and talk of our future landscaping and life plans. Our dog Kami energetically accompanies us. Afterwards, it’s time for a hot beverage and treats for all.
I experience a winter dormancy, not unlike nature’s. I think of the plants and flowers contained within the ground waiting for their moment to push through frozen earth. I hope this winter will provide me the time and space to dig deeper into myself. A few years ago, Yi-heng Yang, a chamber music coach of mine at Apple Hill, had suggested that perhaps there was a way for me to connect my garden interests with music. For a long time, I didn’t see a way to do this, but the seed was “planted” and has, perhaps, germinated. What if I could accompany my garden writing and photographs with piano music that I have been studying? My piano playing will not be “perfect”, but it is an important part of who I am. With a few keystrokes or voice commands, it is easy to hear the best musicians in the world, online. In the study of music, like gardening and many other interests we pursue, there is the constant, elusive bar of perfection. This suits my self-critical nature, though I have found it to be quite inhibiting. At this time in my life, I prefer to grow despite the associated risks and uncertainties. What better/safer venue than this? So with next month’s Musings, I plan to include the “Cello Etude” by Chopin. It’s a beautifully constructed piece with great emotion that I would like to share with you.
I hope there will be new “life” for you to discover during your winter dormancy. Spring vigor is so much more meaningful because of this time for introspection. I cannot imagine my life without it.
Amaryllis in Bloom – fortunately some flowers are breaking dormancy, even if just in our homes!