From the top of the blueberry barrens on Clarry Hill I can see from North Haven Island clear across to the White Mountains that border New Hampshire. An expansive vista like this is all the more dramatic when the morning thermometer declares 38°F and there are no trees to break the wind’s rush up and over the mountain. Earmuffs get mentally placed on my wish list and I am glad I opted for a wool turtleneck. I am warmed, also, by the idea of joining this hardy group of hikers, convened by the Georges River and Medomak Valley Land Trusts. I am not usually deterred by hiking solo, but during hunting season, I prefer the comfort of a bevy of walkers. We cross paths with a trio of pheasant hunters and their German short-haired pointers. I have never seen bird dogs in action, and I am impressed with their single-minded focus. I wonder if their pursuit will be successful; I wonder if ours will. Are we the chasers, or are they? Aren’t we all seeking our own versions of life, liberty, happiness?
We continue walking down along blueberry fields that were harvested this summer, and will lie fallow for the next year – allowing us more leeway to meander through them, not worried about trampling the plants underfoot. Crossing diagonally, we come upon a huge stone dragon, lying silently mid-meadow, its tail snaking 100 or so feet down the hill. A sort of New England Stonehenge, the assemblage recalls my childhood, hours spent picking rocks out of the garden. My mother was captain of the ‘Two Birds with One Stone” drill team – teaching us why pioneer life was less preferable than going to college and why we should never declare our springtime boredom. It never occurred to my sister and I to populate the garden perimeter with scary mythical creatures or even elegant, balancing sculptures, à la Andy Goldsworthy. His mother may have used similar directives, but with better results.
Rilke says that our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure. It is true. I have come face to face with dragons before and indeed have been rewarded with unlocked gems. But it is no mistake that these mythical creatures breathe fire, for when we open the chest, sometimes the glare is so intense, we trip and stumble in our stunned blindness. Eventually though our eyes adjust to the wider spectrum and we not only regain our footing, but see the dragon transformed and ourselves as well. Now, we begin to gather and stack our own stones, the crucible giving solidity to our longings.
These are the daydreams I walk in my mind. The brilliance of fall kindles my imagination, as it has also inspired the unknown artist who has left us this magical creation. A simple rendering of stones; a springboard for poetic ramblings.
Most of us hiking today seem taken with The Clarry Hill dragon. It is certainly the tamest I’ve come across, but not my first. Since befriending a serpentine monster or three, I have learned some tools for navigation. One, when you encounter a dragon, recognize its beneficence – it’s just a big pile of stones. Two, you must approach it by yourself, but bring along others – you’ll feel better knowing you’re not alone. Three, see the vast field of fruit in which it is crouching – wild blueberries will never taste so sweet.