This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trip to Butterworth Farm and Environs

YESTERDAY, A GLORIOUS MAY MORNING, my friend Dermot and I were invited to lunch at my dear friend Allen Young's place, nestled in deep and numinous woods on the grounds of the intentional community at Butterworth Farm, in Royalston, Massachusetts. (see Allen's house above, 'The Octagon.') Allen is a wise and wonderful friend whom I first met after A Map of the Harbor Islands came out, when he set up a reading for me at Bruce's Browser in Athol, the perfect bookstore for the lingering class, as part of that town's annual Gay Pride Celebreation. Allen is also the author or co-author of many books, including the wonderful 'North of Quabbin Revisited' and 'Making Hay While the Sun Shines,' both of which explore the wonderful North of Quabbin area. (Allen incidentially will be reading/speaking at this year's Athol Gay Pride Celebration, details of which are at the end of this entry.)

It was my perfect kind of day for a ride into the country-- a robin's egg blue sky, punctuated by lazy galleon clouds of 10,000 various whites, greys, and yellows-- heaven, and the open road beckoning beneath. We stopped in Arlington, at the fabulous Quebrada Bakery where we picked up dessert (a variety of fresh scones) and then at the Robbins Library a little further up Massachusetts Avenue, where we toured the lovely gardens adjacent to the granite building, then went inside to Oooo and Ahhh at the lovely architecture, and also so that I could return Ulysses, and pick up a cd, Sacred Earth Drums, by David and Steven Gordon. Then we picked up Route 2 at Pleasant Street in Arlington, and were off.
Dermot is a lovely motoring companion and there was no lack of chat. The little yellow fuel light went off someone in Harvard (I think) so we got off a few exits later seeking gas. The winding country road went on, and on, and we began to grow trepidatious. It would have been most awkward to run out of gas there, especially with us starving and luncheon awaiting. Finally we found a filling station where we met the lovely and helpful attendent, Shawn by name. When asked what he thought about soaring gas prices, he echoed many of our sentiments by calling them ridiculous and unbelievable. He said that he himself rode a bicycle, and predicted that this would be the new wave of the future. In fact he rides his bicycle back and forth everyday between his job at the gas station, and his home in Shirley, Massachusetts, a not inconsiderable distance. Although Shawn's wise and healthy travel arrangements do both him and the environment good, I nevertheless can add him to the growing list of Americans who cannot afford to shop where they live. I began cataloging this list when I would speak to cashiers at Whole Foods, and Wild Oats, who told me that could not buy healthy and organic food at these places, as the prices were beyond their means. There's something wrong in that, I think, and distinctly un-American in the best meaning of that latter word. The House Committee on Un-American Activities I think should reconvene and investiagte these growing discrepencies between the Haves and the Have-Nots in an increasingly India-like America.

The mammoth, interesting, conversation-starter clouds lowered and expanded as we penetrated further west-- plus our road was rising, thus we were coming up closer to the clouds. The result of all this movement was a series of showers as we entered Worcester County. But things brightened and lightened after a time, and we arrived at Allen's with a soft, swirling sky above us, both sunshine and shadow. Butterworth Road is two miles long, unpaved, and bordered by soaring hemlocks, white pine, and white and yellow birch, and the feeling, as well as the drenching smell of the clean air, is defintely one of having entered The Country. Allen was his usual emminently-hospitable self, and treated us to a magnificent comfort food lunch of tuna salad, tossed salad, and broccoli from his garden dressed with a cheese sauce-- heaven. Mint tea and scones were the perfect finishing touches and filled up whatever small corners of our bellies were still empty. While we were finishing, another member of the Butterworth Community, Celt by name, dropped by, smelling of the earth, as well he should have as he was working in his garden. He came by to offer Allen some extra seedlings he had. Finally we hit the road, and stopped by two more houses in the intentional community, one to observe and the other to visit, the latter being the wonderful home-made home of Buddy, originally a Dorchester boy. His beautiful border collies greeted us warmly, as did Buddy. He showed us a swallow's nest tucked near the top of one of his wonderful rock walls, and as we gathered round to gawk the mother swallow decamped and flew off. You could see the eggs in her nest, so we scampered off, leaving her in peace. Inside, we toured Buddy's lovely house, most of which was built with his own hands, including the furnishings, cabinets, doors, and bookcases thereof. He's got a grand and lovely cast iron wood-burning stove in the kitchen. Then he showed us his collection of 45's, and in fact played a few for us. It brought back so many memories to hear, and see, the lovely click-clack of his record-playing machine as it dropped the 45 down and the needled arm swung, crane-like, into place. We listened to 'Ape Man' by the Kinks, 'Mona Lisa' by Nat King cole, and a camp version of 'My Boyfriend's Back' by a gay male singing group from, where else, NYC.

Then it was off to do a little sight-seeing. We took two cars and I followed Allen and Dermot as Allen zipped up hill and down dale through Royalston and Orange, beautiful rolling countryside of woods, fields, barns, and lovely old homes, and ancient sugar maples lining the up-and-down by-ways. We came into the commercial center of Orange, to the Peace Park, to see the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's Official Peace Statue (see pic above). It's a very moving sculpture, showing a World War I doughboy, holding a young boy and explaining, seemingly, the senseless and wasteful horrors of war; just beneath is a plaque proclaiming IT SHALL NOT BE AGAIN, with a funereal figure beside dressed in a shroud-like hooded ensemble, looking very much like the Banshee in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People. IT SHALL NOT BE AGAIN-- would that it were so, and would that these words, and their meaning, had been drilled into the thick skull of GW when he was a young boy blowing up frogs with firecrackers. The statue is located at the center of the park, and several brick paths take one there. Many of the bricks have been inscribed with the names of loved ones, as a memorial. The North Quabbin Woods website has this to say about the statue:
Memorial ParkSouth Main St., Orange, MA
A nationally recognized 12-foot bronze memorial to veternas of WWI and the official peace statue of Massachusetts.Description:
The official peace statue of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—so designated by the legislature in 1998—resides in the lovely Memorial Park on the banks of the Millers River in the center of the peaceful town of Orange. The 12-foot bronze sculpture, created by Joseph Pollia in 1934 as a memorial to veterans of World War I, depicts a weary doughboy with one arm around a young schoolboy. A plaque on the base carries the inscription “It Shall Not Be Again” against a shrouded figure of grief ; 13 stars honor Orange veterans who died in the war. The nationally recognized statue provides a moving background to gatherings of veterans’ organizations, of peace activists, and of causal visitors who are perhaps less casual after contemplating the memorial.

From Rte. 2, take Exit 15 and follow Rte. 122 north. Memorial Park is on the right, just before Orange Center.
Click for a Map Contact:
Orange Town Hall, 6 Prospect St.Orange, MA 01369
After this we drove up to the beautiful and rural communtiy of New Salem, much of which was taken away by the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. The common here, the old town center, is pin-drop quiet, and bordered with lovely old white clapboard homes and churches, and the remnants of the old New Salem Academy. One of the churches has been converted into the 1794 House, a performing arts venue-- you can learn more about this wonderful place by visiting them at Not far from this is the wonderful New Salem 'Overlook,' a drop-dead view of the Quabbin from the end of a trail that begins right behind the fire station. Then we came back into Orange, for a delightful pizza supper, before heading back to Boston, our minds and hearts warmed by hospitality, and beauty. Thanks, Allen!

The fourth annual Gay and Lesbian Pride movie and book series will take place on four Tuesdays in June in “the back corner” at Bruce’s Browser, 1497 Main St., Athol. All events begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. All films are not rated.
Diane Lincoln, proprietor of the Browser, who planned the program along with local author Allen Young, has chosen a documentary movie, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” as the first event, to be screened on June 3. Lincoln explained that this movie strives to answer several provocative questions: “Does God really condemn loving homosexual relationships? Is the chasm separating Christianity from gays and lesbians too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?”
The film discusses these issues through the experiences of five Christian, American families, including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson. Lincoln said, “The movie illustrates how people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child, family member, friend or neighbor, and I hope people in our community who are addressing these issues will view the film with us.” There will be opportunity for discussion.
On June 10, the Canadian film “Whole New Thing” will be shown. It’s an offbeat coming of age story about a young teenage boy who has been home-schooled by hippie parents. His parents decide he should attend public school, where it becomes clear he is not familiar with acceptable social rules. This causes problems, which worsen when he develops a crush on his English teacher.
A lesbian-themed romance, “The Gymnast,” will be the feature film on June 17. When an injury ends her career as a gymnast, the main character in this film falls back into a lackluster job and a passionless marriage (to a man). Things become complicated when she begins to work on an aerial act with another beautiful gymnast.
On June 24, AllenYoung will sign books and speak about the early years of the gay liberation movement launched after the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City. Young, who became a gay activist at that time, is co-editor, with Karla Jay, of the 1970s books “Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation” and “Lavender Culture,” reissued by New York University Press. Gay authors who previously participated in this series at the Browser are Felice Picano, Neil Miller and Joe Hayes.


Anonymous Allen Young said...

Joe's gracious account of his visit to my home is much appreciated. Here's an additional tidbit of information: The cheese sauce I made had milk and cheese in it from Chase Hill Farm, Warwick, Mass., located only 5 miles from my house. I am trying to consume more locally grown food; it makes me happier and is good for the environment. Joe is such a wonderful house guest and visitor. It's quite nice, and not always easy, to make new friends fairly late in life.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lovely story.

One correction: It is the North Quabbin Center for the Performing Arts at the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem. (Not the 1794 House.) We would certainly welcome you to any of our many musical performances every summer (this is our 18th season).

Thanks again,

Nicholas Thaw
Executive Director
1794 Meetinghouse, Inc.

9:37 PM  
Blogger BiscuitsBoy said...

Thank you, gentlemen, for your kind comments, and Nicholas, I would love to see a performance in your wonderful center, and hope to get there this summer.


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3:53 AM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

Nice road trip story. I recently purchased a little woodlot north of Athol and not far from Chase Hill Farm. I look forward to exploring and learning more about the North Quabbin region.

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