Time is a funny thing – A New Family

It’s funny how at certain times, certain ideas,things, and people seem to gravitate to you in life almost as if you are a magnet drawing them in.  I can reason that since I have begun writing a book set in the 1600’s in New England that ideas, artifacts, and information are finding their way to me. I’ve put out a call for them, if you will, asking for as much information I can gather and the Universe has responded.  Yet at the same time I seem to be bombarded with information of a scientific nature. Books, movies, and conversation about time and space and how they relate with one another are landing in my lap without ever a forethought or a mention for them. It’s almost as if bread crumbs are being scattered in front of me directing me to ,the next phase of my journey.

When I was very young, I remember passing time in long car rides by playing time games.  I would imagine myself in the immediate future and pretend that I was already there, then I would quietly whisper NOW and pretend that I had traveled to the moment I had only imagined just seconds before.  As I sit and try to describe to you it seems the silliest of silly, a simple child’s way to pass time in a car too young to care anything about the adult conversation in the front seat.  Just like it was yesterday though I can put myself into the back seat of my parent’s car and relive the feeling of awe at the workings of time and how much of a mystery it seemed to be to me.  Even though the simple game took place nearly forty years ago, the way in which my mind allows me to travel back and remember the sights, smells, and feelings I was experiencing makes it seem as though it was just minutes away.

Now as I drive to work or bring the girls to places they need to be, time is spent at stop lights and waiting for practices to be over with the discovery of a new gray hair.  My blonde strands that used to turn green from the pool in the summer have darkened and now sharing ever so gently with me that time constantly moves forward and my body along with it.  It’s a startling alarm waking me up to the many items waiting to be crossed off on my to do list.  Ideas demanding to be laid down on pages, places yearning to be explored and experienced, and memories not yet created or enjoyed, are less patient than they once used to be.

unnamedWhen we moved to the farm nearly two years ago a memory resurfaced of a picture I had grown up looking at.  I was too young in the photograph to remember the experience but being in and around the barn had made me want to hold the image in my hands again.  I reached out to my sister who was also in the photograph hoping that she might still have it somewhere at her house.  She responded that she did and it was actually set out on her bureau mirror.  It was my first experience  touching and being close to farm animals. As I grew up I would have never guessed that I would one day own a farm and take care of animals and share them with my family. Looking back over our own lives we almost have the ability to connect the dots of the events, experiences, and encounters that led up to where we are now.  It’s almost as if we have a birds eye view of the crumbs that were dropped  for us to hopefully pick up along the way to create the life we were born to live.

I feel the workings of the crumbs being dropped at my feet for the next part of my journey now as serendipitous moments unfold and coincidences pile up at my feet.  The more that I seem to notice and embrace each of these happenings the more frequently they appear with a greater certainty of meaning.  I’ve decided to embrace the crumbs being left at my feet and devour each and every one with the greatest sense of wonder and curiosity.  I’ve chosen to be aware and awake and have readied my senses for the next adventure of my journey.  I used to begrudgingly move forward one step at a time, slowly almost painstakingly, but now with a feeling of peace and acceptance of what may come I’m willing and wanting to experience the moments at hand knowing that everything always works out for the best in the end.  It’s a huge help knowing that at any time if I’m feeling uncertain at a place that I’ve come to I only need to reach out and Kyle will slip his fingers into mine and join me to help make uncertainty a little clearer or darkness a little brighter.



  • Diving Deeper – Mount Misery, The Novel

    George BurroughsThe past few days I have been living off of chocolate rice cakes and Nutella as I spend large chunks of my time in the late sixteen hundreds in Salem and what used to be known as the Bervicks in Maine. I’ve become consumed with Nathan Lord and his family and how he lived in the middle of the legend of Witchtrot Road with Reverend George Burroughs  in a time when fear and insecurities sparked a war on what are now recognized as innocent souls, victims of mere happenstance.  The fact that I’m now living in a 1600’s reproduction farm of one that sat on the outskirts of old Salem and was inhabited by the Reverend Capen of that same era hasn’t escaped me and on the contrary has seemed to pull me in even deeper into wanting to know everything I can from that period of time to somehow piece it all together in a work of historical fiction.

    Nathan Lord was a planter, a simple yet very connected man, who at one time owned a small farm just steps down the road from where I live now.  His homestead was just feet from what is now known as “witches hollow”.  As I dive deeper into his genealogy, incredibly thankful to have the internet at my fingertips, I become more aware of the commonalities that exist between the souls of his time and of those living in ours. His will was probated years after he passed away, cited that it was due to the Indian conflicts of the time. What struck me most was the simplicity of the listing of his possessions. What we would now almost view as toss away pieces were tediously penned and accounted for and assumed to be needed and treasured by the beneficiaries.  He left behind wearing clothes, a dwelling house and barn with orchards, out lands, and a meadow of nearly 200 acres. I imagined the land and what it may have looked like hundreds of years ago and found a simple comfort in the fact that I have skied and snowshoed over a handful of them.

    It was in the list that follows that I began to sense a stronger  connection to the time that they lived and the simple tenuous way in which they existed.  Kyle read the list to me as I sat at our kitchen island reading another article about the time and it’s connection to South Berwick. His will also consisted of 2 oxen, 3 cows, 2 mares, 4 swine, 2 pillows, 2 mugs, 2 feather beds, 2 bolsters, 7 blankets, 1 pair of sheets, 5 pewter dishes, 4 small knives, and iron pot, kettle, skittle, dripping pan, bronze spit pan, 1 pair of steel yards, 1 warming pan, wooden tray, 2 knot bowls, 2 meal sieves, a spinning wheel, a chest, napkins, table clothes, and 2 augers.

    parsoncapen interiorI imagined Martha, his widow, taking a careful account of her husband’s possessions and how she might have carefully folded his wearing clothes and placed them in the wooden chest. Then I paused and wondered, would Martha be expected to relinquish the household items to her son, the pewter dishes, pots and kettles, the feather beds and their dressings would be handed down or would she be entitled to keep them for her use as a single woman now responsible I’m assuming for the land’s planting and arduous daily chores and upkeep of that time? I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of a triangle Kyle and I have seemed to unexpectedly move into the center of but somehow we both feel so connected to its story. It is from within this  triangle of the legend of Witchtrot Road, Mount Misery (Nathan Lord’s Homestead) and the Parson Capen house just outside of Salem from which our home was built as a reproduction that I will nestle and build my first historical novel, Mount Misery.

     



  • Simply Space – A New Farm

    photo by Jennifer Ellen Parker

    photo by Jennifer Ellen Parker

    Winter has become steadfast on the farm serving up bitter wind chills and a heavy blanket of snow on the pastures and everywhere else in between.  The goats, chicken and rooster have been cooped up in their stalls with little space to roam and do their thing as we’ve waited for the winds to die down and the air to warm up above zero.  Libby and I caught a break this past week to bundle up in snow pants, extra socks, hats, and mittens, to venture out into the pastures to create some tracks in the deep white powder for the goats to get some exercise.

    We quickly gave up the shovel as a means to an end and decided to use our feet, knees, and backsides to make dents in the snow and widen the path so that Comet, Jingle, Dasher, and Rudolph would be more inclined to venture out into the snow and get some fresh air. Libby ran to the barn to grab the garden sheers knowing that some freshly snipped pine boughs would lure them out and about and deeper into the maze we had begun to create. The snow was so deep that it caught me off guard and pulled me down on my back. As I laid entrenched in the powder I felt a sudden peace wash over me and as I began to notice my breathing an awareness of the space around me and in me filled my senses with joy.  I could hear Lib’s chatter from across the field as she spoke to her furry friends but it was soft and light as it was carried to me on the wind’s back.

    I laid there for what seemed a while until I felt a slight tugging on my jacket. I reached my hand down and lifted my head from the ground. I came face to face with our youngest blonde goat, Rudolph. Rudolph 2015His sweet little eyes were filled with volumes that seemed to beckon me to sit and listen awhile.  It had been too long since we had come out and played with the goats, spending time getting to know them and I sensed that somehow he was feeling the same way.  But in that moment it didn’t seem to matter, in that moment we had found an incredible sense of peace and joy.  It reminded me of the feeling I used to experience as a child when my mom would bundle me up and send me out to play while she worked on my dad’s business. I remember the quiet the most and the space that it filled so gracefully. I remember the only sounds that I heard being the crunching under my moon boots and my own breathing as the air went in crisp and came out steamy and wet from beneath my hand knitted scarf.

    It’s simply the space that we happen upon in the most unexpected places that urges us to slow down, be still, and wonder. It’s in the simple spaces in life that I seem to be able to find the most peace and joy.  We had set out that afternoon on a job to create an exercise track through the deep snow for our goats but somehow Libby and I both became lost in their space and were privileged to something much bigger than we ever imagined.  In that simple space we were treated to a glimpse of living in the present moment without a care or a worry of what might be coming just around the bend.



  • It’s only a cover – Medillia’s Lament

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    This project started a little over two years ago when a stranger out of the blue contacted me via email and asked if he could talk to me about my writing. He was looking for someone to convert his screenplay into a novel. I submitted pieces of my writing and read his play. We struck up a deal and then watched as the unknown connections between us began to emerge. When Jody told his wife that he had found an author she said ” I know her, I’m reading her book in our book group.” When I began dating Kyle after I had started the project we quickly discovered that he had gone to school with Jody. I’m excited for all of you to have the opportunity to pick our book and wonder if it is going to be something you will read and want to share with your friends. This is only a stab at our cover and looking for ideas and suggestions.

    After decades of choosing a book by it’s cover as a reader,  I’m now faced with the tedious and overwhelming task of creating a book cover that will compel readers to fish it from a sea of countless others.  I spent hours at my laptop during our last snowstorm playing with color combinations, layouts, and text trying to design a cover for Medillia’s Lament that would give the insight and attention the novel deserves. Once I had the basic layout it came to the arduous task of finding just the right words to not only fit on the backside of the cover but to also reveal a glimpse of what we have created inside.  I’m still working on both, tweaking them and trying to get them to a place that both Jody and I say, yes, this is the cover for Medillia’s Lament.

    For the first time our book is  being  read by eyes other than our own. Jody’s wife was the first to read it, then Kyle began, and my good friend who happens to be an amazing editor just finished it this week. During the holidays it came up in conversation that Kyle’s brother went to school for editing.  Hairs raised on my arms as I wondered if I would have the courage to ask him to take a look at our book and offer suggestions. I hesitated not sure if it was the sort of story he might be interested in but after hitting send all we can do is wait and see. Reviews are starting to come back but we still wonder if they are so positive because they are coming from family and friends.  There’s something different about this project, breathing life into someone’s else creation.  Jody handed me the story in 110 pages of dialogue and asked me to fill in the scenes, character descriptions, feelings, settings, imagery, and emotion.  At times it felt as though I was responding to a writing prompt in college, asked to do my best to expand on the idea the professor had placed in front of me and then at other times it felt a little bit like magic.  Words seemed to stream from me onto the keyboard as I was swept away in the conversations of Jody’s play and merely painting around them as they spoke with filling in each scene and adding additional layers for the readers to rest upon as they worked through the many twist and turns of the plot.

    I’m incredibly proud of this two year journey that I’ve taken with Jody and believe in what we created together.  Now if I can only get this cover to reflect what lays beneath waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by all of you. perfect



  • Mount Misery – Knee deep in the history of South Berwick, Me

    otb-last“I fell back upon my pillow and awakened as the skies darkened and the earth became still and quiet. My mind too tired from its daily tolls and commiserations simply laid down the reins and allowed me to breath as if I was taking my first breath of the day. My lids closed slowly and I became aware of my body as I felt for the first time each of its parts speak to me and ask to be pardoned. The arduous events of the day had exhausted the parts of my whole and the blisters and bruises claimed the places that had met them head on. I listened as Nathan’s breathing deepened and his slumber became my sanctuary. My chains had been lifted if only for the night, tomorrow they would reclaim me as I awakened again to my life here on Mount Misery.”  Jennifer Ellen Parker,  Mount Misery – The Novel

    Kyle and I had decided to start the new year off right and one blistery Saturday morning we adorned layers of clothing and headed up our steep driveway on Witchtrot Road in South Berwick, Maine.  We joked about the folklore and legends of the place we now called home as we left our 1600’s Massachusetts reproduction home behind.  We started off in a slow jog and quickened our pace slightly as we made our way down witches hollow and then began to walk our way out of it.  It was in our walk that we first noticed the plaque for Mount Misery on a neighbor’s property.  It was adorned to a large rock and it piqued our curiosity, just not enough to take a break from our “run.” We finally made it to the end of our road. Kyle said that we should step on Route 91 and then turn and make our way home running as much as possible.  We felt warm beneath our layers and as fatigue settled into our bones, our bodies began to overheat and our noses run.

    We slowed down and talked about everything under the moon and stars. We occasionally moved to the side as cars passed and waved to friends and neighbors a little bit embarrassed by our attire.  As we approached Mount Misery, Kyle grabbed my arm and excitedly ushered me to the side of the road and into the woods a bit to get a closer look at the plaque.  I’ve forgotten what it said exactly but was surprised to see that it was Nathan Lord’s homestead built in the 1600’s, which burned down at a certain point.  Hairs raised on my arms for more than one reason.  I turned to Kyle and said that I’m going to write my next book and it’s going to be called Mount Misery. It’s going to be historical fiction and somehow tie in the legend of Witchtrot Road, Nathan and Martha Lord, and our home being a 1600’s replica of the one in Topsfield, MA.  He smiled at me and kissed me on the forehead.  He nodded and pulled me in his arms and squeezed me tight.  We made our way back to the road in silence but my mind had already begun screaming at me, wanting my undivided attention.

    Years ago when I was still a single mom, and it was just me and Aaron, I had worried that life wouldn’t turn out in a way that I could be proud of to call my own.  I let my mind spin on the choices I had made and turn them into a story filled with loneliness, despair, and regret. It was somewhere in that spinning that life brought my second husband literally to my doorstep.  Aaron and I moved into a beach apartment and he happened to live above us, I just didn’t know it at the time.  We begun dating and then were engaged. I still questioned my future but began to find some hope and was encouraged to move forward into a new life.  He found a home in South Berwick and told me I would love it.  He purchased it and before I knew it we were living on Lord’s Lane in South Berwick, Maine in a town I knew hardly anything about.

    Aaron and I took walks everyday, sometimes more than once.  We went down to the frog pond at the corner of Old Fields and poked sticks in the soft mud for what seemed like hours and then would simply head back home and forget to turn into our driveway.  It was on one of those days that we found ourselves just before the opening of Route 236, stopped at a small cleared patch of grass with a stone centered in the middle.  I remember reading the name Lord out loud and trying to piece the limited amount of information together about the family which our new road had been named after.  Aaron tugged on my hand, he was  bored and wanted to move on.  I simply tucked the discovery of the Lord family into my mind to save for a rainy day.

    Today just happens to be that rainy day, except it’s not raining it’s expected to be snowing in a few hours and I have since moved to another place in South Berwick connected to the Lord Family, maybe even the original member. I don’t know, I have a lot of research ahead of me but somehow I feel like I’m starting a project that has chosen me. A colleague at work brought two older books to me that seemed to have been self published about the history of Witchtrot Road and the area which was once called Slut’s corner. I have also just begun to dig into Sarah Orne Jewett’s work finding a treasure trove of descriptions and hidden gems from our past.  When Kyle and I visited the house in Topsfield, MA that served as a model for our own home on Witchtrot Road I picked up a small history pamphlet which believe it or not included ties to our road during the 1600’s.  It’s somewhere in the midst of all these delectable bits of synchronicity that I will find the bones and breath for my next novel, Mount Misery.  As I wrote the opening paragraph this morning and shared it with you above, it felt as though the novel has already been written and is just waiting for vessel to share it.