By MARY O'NEILL
Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group
I propose that understanding poetry should be easy for those who live in the Lakes Region. Who would not be able to relate to the words of W. B. Yeats when he said, "I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore...I hear it in the deep heart's score" or Robert Frost as he watched the "woods fill up with snow" and heard "the sweep of easy wind and downy flake." These images are easily evoked for a person traveling around the Lakes Region's handsome forests and picturesque lakes. There are a thousand places in the Lakes Region to walk "between the woods and...lake."
Ahern Park, a 128 acre state park in Laconia, is one of these places. It is a favorite of locals and considered their "secret." With an easy walk from many of the Laconia neighborhoods, a person is instantly transported back to old New Hampshire. Lush open fields give way to a tall pine forest. Deep in the forest, wooded paths lead you to the edge of Lake Winnisquam. A wide gravel trail piled deep in fallen pine needles follows 3,500 feet of jagged shoreline and offers breathtaking views of the lake and mountains. It is truly a walk back in time. Robert Frost would certainly have approved of this unspoiled spot "between the woods and...lake," only one of many such spots to be discovered in the Lakes Region. In addition to State parks and forests, the Lakes Region Conservation Trust properties offer many hikes and walks on old carriage and logging roads.
William Campbell wrote of experiencing dawn on an island with "stretches of water flamed-bathed by the incoming light...as God sends the manifold mystery of the morning and lake round to me." How well this describes the feelings of one who wakes and looks over the waters of Winnipesaukee, Squam, Newfound, Kanasatka, Wicwas, Waukewan or one of many other lakes or ponds. Anyone who is blessed to have a house or camp on one of the hundreds of islands or near the shores of the lakes can relate to this description – a beautiful expanse of water reflecting the colors of the day to come. "God's mirrors underneath the sky." They can join Campbell as he cries out, "O magic region of blue waters throbbing."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described a village in celebration, conjuring an image of many a festival in any one of the towns in the Lakes Region. "Group after group appeared... thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups at the house-doors sat in the cheerful sun, and rejoiced and gossiped together." In all four seasons, communities like Wolfeboro, Meredith, Center Harbor, Gilford, Belmont, Sanbornton, Alton, and Laconia are bustling with local activities and events: fairs, multicultural days, races, carnivals, sports gatherings, holiday celebrations, and this year's inaugural pumpkin festival. There is a sense of community, friendship, and common purpose in the Lakes Region towns, a truth that would lead many to agree with Mark Twain when he said, "Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage – a village is the place. There you can know your man inside and out – in a city you but know his crust; and his crust is usually a lie."
And when the festivals are over and the populace returns to their house or farm, an enjoyable peace settles over the Lakes Region. Now to take the lines of Alexander Pope: "How happy he, who free from care, the rage of courts, and noise of towns, contented breathes his native air in his own grounds."
"Ours is a great wild country: if you climb to our castle's top, I don't see where your eye can stop." What better expression is there to describe Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough than these words of Robert Browning? This unique treasure of the Lakes Region is a mountain top mansion with an unusual history. It was built in the early 1900s and rests on 5,500 acres of the Ossipee Mountain Range. Its many hiking trails afford spectacular views of the lakes to the south and the White Mountains to the north. Other mountains surrounding the lakes offer an amazing array of hikes where you "don't see where your eye can stop." From the top of Mt. Major in Alton, the entire blueprint of the Lakes Region expands north and merges with the distant White Mountains. A short distance to the west in Gilford, Belknap and Gunstock Mountains present equally remarkable views. Rattlesnake, Fayal, and Red Hill to the north give a different perspective looking southerly as the lakes sprawl out and meet the Belknap Range and hills beyond. Each culminates in breathtaking views that require one to borrow the words of Anne Bradstreet: "The more I look'd, the more I grew amaz'ed and softly said, what glory's like to thee?"
Everywhere you go in the Lakes Region you are confronted with history – the names of lakes and rivers that reflect the Indian heritage going back hundreds of years; the old settlements with roots to colonial days; a monument here, a old building there, that reveals a glimpse of the past. The lakes, as a drawing card for Indians and settlers alike, made this region a treasure trove of the mysteries of history. Each road has a story to tell, each town a secret to disclose. "Through all time I hear the approaching feet along the flinty pathway beat of him that cometh, and shall come...and all town-sprinkled lands that be, sailing through stars with all their history." These words of Ralph Waldo Emerson could have easily been written in the Lakes Region.
"Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy." Could it be this poetic verse by the psalmist was composed while experiencing a vision of a color-filled fall day in the Lakes Region? When Robert Frost penned the words, "There were ten thousand fruit to touch, cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall," could he have been sitting on a rock at Smith Orchard in Belmont, Stonybrook Farm in Gilford, DeVylder Farm in Wolfeboro, or one of many other Lakes Region apple orchards? Probably not, but one can only guess what works of art have been inspired by the beauty of the Lakes Region. It has and always will be a source of inspiration.
Citizens of the Lakes Region, dust off your poetry books. Yours is the place of which poems are written. It is time to rediscover the Lakes Region in a thousand poems. But why stop there? The Lakes Region can be found in a gallery of paintings, a library of novels, a museum of fine art. Yours is the substance from which these are made. Yours is a place worth painting, a wellspring for novelists, and a muse for poets.
Wallace Stevens wrote, "Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake." These mysterious words surely have many meanings, but perhaps they are telling those who live in the Lakes Region, "Continue to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful place where you live because it is the closest thing to true living in this chaotic world." And for those who don't live here, the words are telling them, "Don't just read a poem. Come live a poem."
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith & Laconia, NH and can be reached at (603) 366-6306. rocherealty.com
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