April 30, 2010
At Cornwall, Ct.
It was 51 degrees and windy when I arrived atop Mohawk Mountain about 9:45 yesterday morning. Sitting on a rock was an older woman, wearing warm clothes and gloves, whittling a hiking staff from a dead sapling that was something less than two inches in diameter at its thick end. We were the only people atop the mountain, elevation 1,677 feet, from which there are expansive views of the surrounding Litchfield Hills and into the Massachusetts Berkshires.
I approached, asking if in fact she was making a walking stick, and she said, pleasantly, that she was. She said she likes to take a cut or fallen sapling or branch, strip the bark with her knife and let the wood dry. Then she burns images into the stick. Perhaps images of wildflowers one day, images of leaves another. She said that she likely would decorate this stick with an image of the Berkshire peaks that spread before us on the horizon.
Her name is Martha, and she lives in Morris, a rural town not that far away. She has lots of interests that keep her busy, she said, and this was one of them. She also makes quilts. She is 82. I told her that one of the reasons she is 82 and headed for 102 is that she took the trouble, on this cool morning, to venture to the top of one of Connecticut’s higher peaks to whittle in a peaceful setting with a view. She is not passing time, I thought, she is living well.