Out in the Cold Rain and Snow

Serendipity has been circumventing my attempts to celebrate the winter solstice in any true style for several years in a row. This year I get to spend the 21st on a plane. I hope I have a window seat.

The other day I was walking on River Road in Sunderland at around one in the afternoon, getting towards the end of our first big snow storm. The precipitation had turned to a fine sleet, and underfoot were four inches of snow topped by an inch and a half of hard slush. I followed other people’s footprints when I could, but mostly they’d been left hours ago and had healed over with ice.

I was walking by a gap between farmhouses when I heard something from the big, empty field behind them. Music. A couple of chords played on a big ole synth pipe organ, strung together into part of a melody. The sequence repeated itself once, then ceased. I wasn’t sure if I’d really heard it, so I stood there in the iced-over driveway for a minute, looking around at the clapboards and the maple trees for a light in a window, an open garage door. Something that might hint at the source of the sound. Nobody was out.

After a minute I heard whoever it was play through the same half-melody once more. I recognized it, but couldn’t place it. Maybe it was part of a Christmas song. I wanted to figure out how I knew it, and who was playing it.

Fairies? Angels? The Dead?

I turned away from the road, between the farmhouses and into the field, into the wind, the wet ice coming down on my face, turning it numb. Straight ahead over the pines and hemlocks at the far side of the field were the profile of Mt. Toby and the Bull Hill bluffs. Left, a church spire—no, it was the tower of the Blue Heron. The building had been town hall once, but never a church. No synth organ music issued from any of the above. I didn’t hear it again.

The wool coat I had on was getting close to soaked-through. I gave up, turned south over the crunching, sopping-wet fields towards home.


  1. Fifteen years ago, near midnight in my back yard in Montague Center: The sound of fiddle music, a haunting tune, played to the stars.

    1. Liz! Hey! Nice to know you are still reading. 🙂

      So what’s your take on the mysterious musicians of the pastoral Western Mass? Colonial frontier ghosts?

      1. I love the idea of ghostly musicians in our landscape. There’s something intriguing, too, about the hall in Nelson, NH, which has had a contra dance once a week without fail for 200 years–except for the night Pearl Harbor was bombed. Ghostly dancers as well as ghostly musicians.

        Hymns, Shape Note music, and Contra–our New England musical heritage.

        And of course I’m still reading! Has it been that long since I commented? I guess it has. I’ve been reading the internet, but not interacting much, in general, I think. 🙂

  2. that looks gorgeous–very nice weather for stout!

    we are expecting 5+ inches tomorrow, which is a lot for down here, so it will be fireplace fire and stout pretty much the whole day! and any deluca cider i can find stored away….

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