Back-to-the-Land, Six Feet Under

A home burial in the Peach Orchard Hill Cemetery.

| Fall 2016

Thanksgiving 2015, the first since my husband’s death, we climb the hill to offer him the last cider of the season. Our granddaughter pours the libation around the homemade grave, on creeping thyme, heather, and love-in-a-mist. Richard Coutant, a small-town lawyer, historian, photographer, traveler, builder of bicycles, loved the orchard and tended the trees until cancer overwhelmed him. This has been a banner year for apples: Pound Sweets and Baldwins hang on the trees in late November. Family and friends keep showing up to turn the press. We can’t stop crushing this tart, sweet fruit. Or boiling cider down to jelly so strong it stings.

Memorial Day 1968, four dozen years ago, I stood on this hill among peach trees in full bloom, gazing with my friends into the distance. The great northern forest was the closest neighbor. That suited us. Fresh from the riots in Washington, D.C., we envisioned a future on these acres, its open fields, woods, rickety house, barn, and outbuildings. At 23, I wanted to live my life as a poem right here, in a loving community.

Sudden Eden

For that pinkish haze across the orchard,

ten thousand blossoms on a widow’s peak,

we forsook the Revolution and bought the farm.

The widow Rosie Franklin held our mortgage. We were her Social Security for ten years: $26,000, hard earned. The locals, rumor had it, thought “the hippies got taken,” but we were as pleased with Rosie’s 1937 Home Comfort wood kitchen range as she was with her all-electric apartment in town. She told us that Forest, her husband, had collapsed in front of that very stove. Winters were hard: the two of them, alone in the drafty house, a few cows in their stanchions, no other families on the last-plowed, winding dirt road.