Friday, January 27, 2012

Interview with Nate, Protagonist from Hillside Museum the novel

I’m intrigued by the outside of the old stone cottage as I walk up the weathered steps. The door opens and a tall good-looking young man motions me inside. He’s wearing Levis and a tee shirt, his work clothes for the day. I thank him for taking time to talk with me, since I know he’s busy preparing the gardens and landscape for the 100-year anniversary celebration of the Museum set for this coming weekend. 

His curly dark-brown hair is clipped short around his tan face but long in the back and in need of a trim. The high sculpted cheekbones and a noble nose work together to make him very handsome. The brief smile he gives me makes just-as-brief crinkles at the sides of his mouth. He runs a hand over the back of his neck and glances apprehensively at me with brilliant blue eyes which stun me with their depth, yet make me worry he’s nervous about this interview.

“I’m just getting some history for the article I’ll be writing about the celebration for the Farmington News,” I tell him. “This shouldn’t take too long. By the way, I’m Linda.”

He reaches out and offers me a large work-worn hand, and as I clasp it, I notice how dry, rough, and solid it feels.

“I’m Nate Manning, Head Landscaper here at Hillside Museum,” he says. “Things are in pretty hectic right now. This hundred-degree heat isn’t helping.”

“I know, we haven’t seen these high of temperatures in July in a long while,” I reply, glad there is air conditioning in the small cottage.

As we take a seat on the couch in the small front room, I glance around. A well-worn leather couch, two plaid-cushioned chairs, an antique desk with a high-backed chair, and a small entertainment center are strategically arranged in the room to give the best traffic flow. The wall behind us separates the kitchen, with a round oak pedestal table visible from the front room. A hallway to the side most likely leads to bedrooms and a bathroom.

“How long have you lived here?” I ask.

“This cottage has been passed down in my family for the last four generations, along with the head landscaping job at the Museum. I grew up here from age eight. I’ve been back here with my mother a year now since I graduated from college and my father passed away,” he says quietly.

I knew his father had passed away because I attended the funeral for the newspaper.

“You’ve made some great improvements here,” I say, hoping that will get him to start talking. 

“I’ve mainly been working to rebuild the garden areas and bring back the landscaping. My father had been ill and unable to take care of the grounds for a while, so they fell into some disrepair.”

“They look lovely, as much as I could see driving in,” I reply.

“Thanks. I’ve also created two nature walking trails for the community,” he says, his eyes finally lighting up. “I remember playing down around the pond and meadows when I was growing up here and seeing lots of different animals and birds. I’m hoping to put something together with the schools to use this area for a nature study.”  

“Sounds perfect. I know my son would enjoy that. We live in a condo in downtown, so it would be a real treat for him. What’s your favorite area here?” I ask.

“The Sunken Garden and the Rose Gardens are my favorites. I like the greenhouses also because they remind me of my grandfather. I learned a lot from him about roses, especially growing and propagating them.”

“The 100 year celebration is a special time for Hillside. What do you know of the history of the museum?” I ask.

“It used to be the manor home of George and Isabella Harris and their daughter Anna. In their will they donated it to the city to be used as a museum, complete with furnishings and art work. Many of the paintings here are from the impressionist era. It is pretty amazing to see.”

“Why were the cottage and this landscaping job passed down through your family?” I ask.

There is a pause while he stares out the window. “I’m not sure,” he finally says. “But I made a promise to my grandfather that I would continue the legacy, so that’s why I’m here doing this job.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Haikuing with Nature

Italian Cypress
Now burdened with cold wet snow
Stoops like an old man

                                              Tall wispy branches
                                              Naked and reaching upward
                                              Pray for warm sunbeams

The stream runs madly
Giggling its bubbly song
Tripped up by boulders

                                              Huddled together
                                              Horses dressed in drab blankets
                                              Stare as I pass by

Sky washed in dull gray
White silhouette of the sun's
All that shows today

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Grocery Store

The local grocery store is a gathering spot for our small community, a meeting place of sorts. Today I counted four groups of people stopped in the aisles, carts side by side, comparing experiences of the snow storm that dumped 13 inches of white powdery snow on our community this week.  Old and young were out to replenish food supplies that were depleted during the week of school, business and road closures. It was most likely their first venture out now that the streets were safe to drive again. 

Two elderly women, dressed in rubber boots and heavy coats with bright blue flannel scarves, were standing at the front entrance when I arrived, and still there 30 minutes later when I left.  The slump of their shoulders and the sad and somber looks on their wrinkled faces spoke of some recent tragedy. 

In one aisle, a mother was trying unsuccessfully to quiet her young crying baby, while the father hurriedly gathered canned vegetables and tossed them in the already chock-full cart. Their young daughter glanced around, head down and eyes darting to either end of the aisle as if she were embarrassed her baby brother was behaving so badly.

A brilliant rack of ruby red valentine decorations and heart shaped boxes of chocolate covered candy filled one aisle making sure everyone knew it was time to get ready for the next holiday. Three teenaged girls were reading the valentine cards, laughing loudly, making smooching sounds, and poking each other in the side.

Even though the harried check-out clerks were busy, they had a smile and a sincere word of salutation for each customer. I stood in line behind a young boy who simply couldn’t stand still.  His mother carried a cake with “Happy Birthday” written on it.  She raised her eyebrows and laughed, “Grant has ants in his pants.” Grant said, “I’m six, I’m six!” as he hopped forward like a kangaroo when the line moved. 

 As I left with my purchases I was surprised to see bouquets of golden daffodils and flats of purple, yellow, and white pansies displayed to the side of the entrance. They did look cheery, but with snow still in my flowerbeds, I wasn’t quite ready for spring yet.