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Christmas at Eagle Pond

by

Christmas at Eagle Pond Cover

 

 

Excerpt

SUNDAY

ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE of 1940, the darkest day, I rode a train into central New Hampshire. I was twelve and traveled for Christmas to my grandparentsand#8217; Eagle Pond Farm, where I spent summers haying with my grandfather. The Boston and Maine passenger train was a puffing steam engine followed by a coal car, a mail car, and a coach barely populated. We slowed and stopped in West Andover, at the tiny depot called Gale, and the conductorand#8212;in the summer he wore a handkerchief tucked between his collar and his neckand#8212;set down the yellow step for me to descend with my suitcase. Dimly in the darkness, I saw what I looked for: my grandfather Wesley Wells with his horse and buggy, Gramp whispering into Rileyand#8217;s ear because the clatter of the train made him skittery.

and#160;and#160;and#160;We said, and#8220;Gramp!and#8221; and#8220;Donnie!and#8221; and hugged. We stuffed my suitcase behind the buggyand#8217;s seat. My grandfather had always before picked me up in the high light of June. This Sunday it was wholly dark at six P.M., with scrappy snow on the ground. I saw that Gramp had hung oil lamps at the front and back of the buggy, and nowand#8212;having snuffed them out to save kerosene as he waited for my trainand#8212;he lit them again with a wooden kitchen match. We climbed into the seat and set out for the farm. There were few cars on the road, but we needed to be visible as we rattled down Route 4 with wheels in the gutter. Two Model Aand#8217;s pulled around us. We passed the glacial boulder looming through the darkness at the side of the road. Riley shied at it, although he had passed it ten thousand times.

and#160;and#160;and#160;After we spoke encouraging words about my motherand#8217;s operation, we hardly talked; we were both too excited. Ahead I watched for the lights of Eagle Pond Farm, and soon I saw not only the porch light but through the window a lighted Christmas tree.

My parents and I lived in Hamden, Connecticut, a suburb of New Haven. I was a single child, like so many during the Depression. My motherand#8217;s operation had been successfuland#8212;she would recover fullyand#8212;but medical habits were different in those days, and my mother remained in the hospital ten days. Soon she would be home, in bed upstairs; there would be little Christmas in Hamden on December 25. For many years I had asked my parents if we could drive north to the farm for Christmas, because I wanted to see it in winter, and because my mother had entertained me with her girlhood memories of Christmas there. This year they let me go by myself. It was my biggest present.

and#160;and#160;and#160;My father drove me to the New Haven railroad station

and#8212;a great cathedral, high-ceilinged over rows of benches, one wall grated with ticket stalls. We bought my ticket to Boston, and my father nervously put me and my suitcase on the streamliner, its engine shaped like a bullet wearing skirts. I took a window seat as the train puffed through the railway yards past empty passenger cars and unloaded freight trains. We chugged by rows of houses beside the noisy tracks and emerged into a countryside bordered by Long Island Sound. Between the train and the water hovered the remains of a derelict trolley line that once took passengers, with many stops and transfers, from Boston down the coast to New Haven. Over the marshes, the broken line swooped on great wooden trestles, dangling tracks where a thousand seagulls perched.

and#160;and#160;and#160;The train stopped in New London, Westerly, Kingston, Providence, Back Bay, and finally pulled into Bostonand#8217;s enormous South Station. My aunt Nan, youngest of three Eagle Pond sisters, was waiting for me as I stepped off the streamliner. She was working in a Boston bookstore while her husband did a stint in the Coast Guard. My parents had been relieved that she could lead me across Boston, although I could have done it myself. I felt babied. A yellow cab took us to the smaller and older North Station, where the Boston and Maine dispatched trains north to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I bought my ticket and waited an hour talking with my aunt before departure. We hugged and said goodbye, and I climbed into the little train we called the Peanut. There were two passenger cars, and I boarded the front one because the second would be dropped off at the big city of Manchester, New Hampshire. The Peanut went all the way to White River Junction in Vermont, stopping at a dozen depots on the way, and returned the morning after. Now it passed through the populous area north of Boston, through Lowell and Lawrence and into farming country. For the first time I looked at snow on hayfields, and on barns that sheltered Holstein cattle. Approaching Manchester I watched as houses displaced fields. We dropped the second car and headed toward Concord, the state capital, where a railway station rose on the alluvial plain of the Merrimack River. Then the Peanut stopped every few milesand#8212;Penacook, Boscawen, past farmland into the market town of Franklin. We stopped at the East Andover depot named Halcyon, three miles later Andover, two miles later Potter Place, two miles later West Andover, where my grandfather waited at its depot called Gale. The stations were close together because, not so long in the past, farmers carted their milk by oxen to the railroadand#8217;s morning milk car, on its way to Boston and H. P. Hood. These days, a truck picked up the cans at Eagle Pond Farm.

We pulled into the U-shaped driveway, my grandmother smiling in the kitchen door wearing a cardigan over her print dress and apron. While my grandfather backed the buggy into the carriage shed, detached Riley, and led him to his stall, my grandmother Kate held me close. I followed her into the kitchen, warm from the rangeand#8217;s fire. Gramp had finished his chores and supper before picking me up, and now he joined us as Gram served me baked beans with brown bread. I was mopping up the last of the beans when the telephone rang twice, which on our party line meant that the call was for us. Central told Gram that it was person-to-person for Donnie Hall, which didnand#8217;t surprise anybody. Gram gave me the phone, and I heard my motherand#8217;s frail voice from the hospital bed. I told her I was fine, how was she? She was feeling stronger, she said, and handed the phone to my father. He repeated that my mother felt better. and#8220;By the time you get back,and#8221; he said, and#8220;her doctor says sheand#8217;ll be home. Soon sheand#8217;ll be downstairs sitting up.and#8221;

and#160;and#160;and#160;The cows already milked, now Gramp shut up the chickens, and we sat in the living room, warmed by the Glenwood stove. My grandfather spoke vigorously of and#8220;Franklin Delano Rooseveltand#8221;and#8212;Gramp sounded like a Fourth of July oratorand#8212;and his reelection last month, the first third term for an American president. Gramp was the worldand#8217;s most enthusiastic Democrat; possibly he was New Hampshireand#8217;s only Democrat. His father had been a Copperhead, and brought up his children to despise Lincolnand#8217;s party, although he fought in the Civil War to march with his neighbors. Grampand#8217;s voice quieted down as we spoke together of the war in Europe, and how we would inevitably join itand#8212;despite the crazies at America First yelling about staying out. We talked until we turned on the radio that took up a corner of the room. On weekdays in summer evenings, we listened to Gabriel Heatterand#8217;s booming dramatic voice, as plump as a pumpkin, when he gave his nine oand#8217;clock fifteen minutes of news. Today was Sunday and we heard an ordinary voice. The Luftwaffeand#8217;s incendiaries burned London; Piccadilly was in flames. When the news ended it was time for bed. My grandmother drank her cheese glass of warm Moxie; my grandfather slurped his bread and milk. Gram took the kettle from the range and filled hot-water bottles. I walked through their icy bedroom to mine, even icier, and stuffed my hot-water bottle under the sheets to warm my feet. Crawling beneath the covers I shivered a moment, but the quilts were thick, my feet almost too hot, and soon I fell asleep in my familiar goosefeather bed at the house I loved most in the world.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780547581484
Author:
Hall, Donald
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin
Author:
Azarian, Mary
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Single Author / American
Subject:
General Poetry
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20121131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
15 b/w images
Pages:
96
Dimensions:
7 x 5 in 1 lb

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Featured Titles » General
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Religion » Christianity » Christmas

Christmas at Eagle Pond Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.95 In Stock
Product details 96 pages Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) - English 9780547581484 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Former Poet Laureate Donald Halland#160;draws fromand#160;his ownand#160;childhood memories in this moving and masterful storyand#160;to give himself the thing he most wanted but didn't get asand#160;a boy: a Christmas at Eagle Pond.
"Synopsis" by ,
A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall

In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church. The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane's dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.

"Synopsis" by ,
Throughout his writing life Donald Hall has garnered numerous accolades and honors, culminating in 2006 with his appointment as poet laureate of the United States. White Apples and the Taste of Stone collects more than two hundred poems from across sixty years of Halls celebrated career, and includes poems recently published in The New Yorker, the American Poetry Review, and the New York Times. It is Halls first selected volume in fifteen years, and the first to include poems from his seminal bestseller Without. Those who have come to love Donald Hall's poetry will welcome this vital and important addition to his body of work. For the uninitiated it is a spectacular introduction to this critically acclaimed and admired poet.
"Synopsis" by ,

The first, full-length volume of poems in a decade by former poet laureate of the United States Donald Hall

 

"Synopsis" by ,
Donald Halls remarkable life in poetry — a career capped by his appointment as U.S. poet laureate in 2006 — comes alive in this richly detailed, self-revealing memoir.

Halls invaluable record of the making of a poet begins with his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut, where he first realized poetry was “secret, dangerous, wicked, and delicious,” and ends with what he calls “the planet of antiquity,” a time of life dramatically punctuated by his appointment as poet laureate of the United States.

Hall writes eloquently of the poetry and books that moved and formed him as a child and young man, and of adolescent efforts at poetry writing — an endeavor he wryly describes as more hormonal than artistic. His painful formative days at Exeter, where he was sent like a naive lamb to a high WASP academic slaughter, are followed by a poetic self-liberation of sorts at Harvard. Here he rubs elbows with Frank OHara, John Ashbery, and Edward Gorey, and begins lifelong friendships with Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, and George Plimpton. After Harvard, Hall is off to Oxford, where the high spirits and rampant poetry careerism of the postwar university scene are brilliantly captured.

At eighty, Hall is as painstakingly honest about his failures and low points as a poet, writer, lover, and father as he is about his successes, making Unpacking the Boxes — his first book since being named poet laureate — both revelatory and tremendously poignant.

"Synopsis" by ,
This original paperback brings together for the first time all of Donald Halland#8217;s writing on Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home in New Hampshire, where he visited his grandparents as a young boy and then lived with his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, until her death. It includes the entire, previously published Seasons at Eagle Pond and Here at Eagle Pond; the poem and#147;Daylilies on the Hilland#8221; from The Painted Bed; and several uncollected pieces. In these tender essays, Hall tells of the joys and quiddities of life on the farm, the pleasures and discomforts of a world in which the year has four seasons — maple sugar, blackfly, Red Sox, and winter. Lyrical, comic, and elegaic, they sing of a landscape and culture that are disappearing under the assault of change.
"Synopsis" by ,
Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry speaks of the death of the magnificent, humorous, and gifted Jane Kenyon. Hall speaks to us all of grief, as a poet lamenting the death of a poet, as a husband mourning the loss of a wife. Without is Hall's greatest and most honorable achievement-his gift and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.
"Synopsis" by ,
This volume contains the finest short poetry Donald Hall has written, poems of landscape and love, of dedication and prophecy, poems that have won thousands of readers, as well as various prizes and honors.
"Synopsis" by ,
For nearly forty years, Donald Hall has stood in the front rank of American poets. The title poem, an autobiographical sequence, takes Hall from his boyhood to his growing acquaintance with poets--seniors like Robert Frost and contemporaries like Robert Bly. It sees him growing into manhood, fatherhood, grandfatherhood, and a happy second marriage. When his life inevitably moves into vicissitude, even tragedy, he will tell the dreadful truth about himself and the challenges of his time on earth.
"Synopsis" by ,
You might expect the fact of dying--the dying of a beloved wife and fellow poet--to make for a bleak and lonely tale. But Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry, facing that dread fact, involves us all: the magnificent, humorous, and gifted woman, Jane Kenyon, who suffered and died; the doctors and nurses who tried but failed to save her; the neighbors, friends, and relatives who grieved for her; the husband who sat by her while she lived and afterward sat in their house alone with his pain, self-pity, and fury; and those of us who till now had nothing to do with it. As Donald Hall writes, "Remembered happiness is agony; so is remembered agony." Without will touch every feeling reader, for everyone has suffered loss and requires the fellowship of elegy. In the earth's oldest poem, when Gilgamesh howls of the death of Enkidu, a grieving reader of our own time may feel a kinship, across the abyss of four thousand years, with a Sumerian king. In Without Donald Hall speaks to us all of grief, as a poet lamenting the death of a poet, as a husband mourning the loss of a wife. Without is Hall's greatest and most honorable achievement — his give and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.
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