On Memorial Day, the relocated 1870s one room school house was open for the afternoon to our community. It was a magical afternoon spent with three former students, neighbors, and friends, hearing stories dating back to the early 1900’s of teachers, snowball fights, school yard antics and the small details that made up Life. It was appropriate for Memorial Day. Our little cemetery on Zoar Road well-represents patriots who fought to establish and then keep our nation undivided, patriots who fought domestically and abroad for democracy and decency. They are forever woven into the history of our road, and their humanity is reflected partly in the early lives of children taught in this small school.

Memories bring us back to a moment in time. Former students, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, displayed mischievous smiles recounting pranks in and around the school. Stories of the old 4H Club meetings of the “Zoar Patriots” held in the spacious classroom. Field trips that were literally trips in the fields and forests, sometimes to collect milkweed pods sent to service members for linings in coats and bedding. Community “box dinner socials” whereat anonymously decorated boxed meals were bid upon by men hopeful for a dinner with the maker, proceeds (of course) going to support the school. Stories of snowshoeing, riding and bicycling to school. Lunches warming on the wood stove. Recess fun in the school yard. Appreciation for the peaceful setting, central on Zoar Road and overlooking the valley. What a treat it was to revisit the memories of our neighbors and friends while sitting in a place so integral to the fabric of our community.

The little school house was more than a school–it was a community anchor and point of pride. It was a place where lives launched and also came together for meetings, reunions and other community purpose. It was a proper place to remember. Reading accounts of loss yesterday underlined how remembering brings back a crystalized moment, with all of the old emotion and vulnerability. It is an important exercise. We must remember to remind ourselves that we are not lost, and that we are a community of souls just a memory away.

A former student of the school, Ethel Mae (Lee) Ingalls left her family farm on Zoar Road and went into the world to study, work and raise a family of her own. Ethel Mae wasn’t able to join us yesterday, but she was with us in spirit. Ethel’s beautiful poem, “Child Topography,” captures her girlhood memories of life on Zoar Road. I will leave you with this wisp of life remembered–life near the doorstep of a loved schoolhouse:

Child Topography

Here is where
I climbed
Steeply tilted hillsides
Gnarled apple trees
Fences of stone
Nearly vertical stairs
To my bedroom
Ladders to the haymow
Or up the silo chute

Here is where
I walked
Through grasshoppers
Pregnant corn
Black-eyed susans
Dust powder dry
Dark ferny woods
Muddy ooze
Rock slippery streams

Learning the earth
With my feet
And the life
With my sinews.

Here I
Carried
Pails of warm fragrant milk
Soft downy newborn pigs
Acrid fertilizer
Bales of hay
Buckets of gathered eggs
Still smelling of the nest

Here I
Pulled
The long hay rope back
Weeds from the garden rows
My body into my tree
Milk-filled tits
The emptied wagon rack
Feathers from scalded hens

Here I
Pushed
Corn stalks into the cutter
Needles through garment hems
My brother in his wagon
The wet mop
Across the kitchen floor
The calves into their pens

Learning the earth
With my feet
Learning life
With my sinews.

Here is where
I search
Time eroded landmarks
Sun shimmered days
Fields gone fallow
Faint flitting echoes
Unfamiliar
Familiar places.

Here is where
I learn life
With my heart.

– Ethel L. Ingalls
1998

Deanna Nelson

Deanna Nelson

A barrister by day, Deanna won’t be giving up her day job, yet she enjoys nothing more genuinely than being in the woods or relishing the beauty of Zoar Road and surrounding environs with this tight-knit community and her three children.
Deanna Nelson

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