Connecticut River Valley, July

My people have farmed in the rich, silt-laden, flatlands of the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts since the 1920s. In the 1950s, my grandparents built a modest summer cottage on a nearby lake.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve gathered with family in those beautiful places. And now, as an adult, driving to the lake in the summertime, along the river, past the farm, and up into the hills, is deeply sentimental.

Fallow tobacco barn, Sunderland, MA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP2UBvavqc8

Connecticut River Valley, July

The ride to the lake in midsummer
is like tracing a finger
down the spine of my ancestors

The familiar road —
its gentle curves
flanked by the velvet green
of the flat expanses beyond the shoulders,
laden now with potatoes, onions, corn, tobacco —
leads from my head, to my heart, to my past.

Following a sputtering tractor
along the alluvial plain,
with fallow barns and glittering river,
whose waters once rose to the farm’s doorstep
and deposited black gold,
that when scratched,
sprouts my mother’s childhood
alongside her grandparents,
backs bent in the fields
where my people have tended their blueberries
and pickled the July sunshine
for generations

Then, suddenly, UP!
Into the canopy, different greens entirely!
Fields yield to forest,
the sharper turns,
the ascension,
build anticipation
for the salvation
that awaits in the cool water,
in the cinder block cottage
where picnics taste like family.

At my destination,
my finger comes to rest
on a mindseye memory of my six-year-old self,
bare feet sticky with pine pitch,
wrapped in a towel,
long hair dripping,
sun drunk, slapping mosquitoes,
watching waterskiers while
sipping punch from a Dixie cup
and nibbling a clown-shaped cupcake
baked by my grandmother
for every child she ever loved.

© Amber Eastman Black, 2019

Valley girl from the wilds of western MA. Music lover, art appreciator, connoisseur of irony, hilarity, spunk. Paddler. passthesongpassthehat@gmail