1692, The Year of the Witch – Mount Misery, The Novel

Rebecca Nurse's Homestead“The cries from the gallows reached out across the lands and fell on ears far and wide. Martha heard them from hundreds of miles away as she crouched down over the hearth sifting for embers to start the morning fire. Ashes lifted up and kissed her cheeks as the cries made their way to her heart. She wondered how they could continue without anyone strong enough of courage and sensibility to make them stop. A little seed of glow emerged from beneath a chard piece of wood and begged for Martha to reach down and breathe life into it.” Mount Misery, The Novel

Linda suggested I pick up the book, A Storm of Witchcraft by Emerson Baker, at our library in South Berwick. I brought it home and placed it on my nightstand and waited for the house to quiet, wanting to be able be able to open it’s cover and find myself submerged in the time period and climate of the days of Mount Misery.  I should have been surprised or even astonished to discover how large a role Reverend George Burroughs played in the hysteria of the trials and their cataclysmic outcome, but I wasn’t.  In every direction I turn lately there seems to be another sign pointing me deeper into the connections between South Berwick and Salem in the year 1692. This book, which found me, just happened to be one which laid out all the details complete with an index. I had begun putting the pieces together for writing Mount Misery when I came upon another writing project unexpectedly. It was one which promised to carry parallel themes throughout. The notion of writing the story of a local medium and psychic seemed incredibly intriguing, yet a little bit risky.

What some people in our time might consider to be a little bit like witchcraft, is also being embraced by a growing number of souls wanting to reconnect with loved ones who have passed. People are also wanting to make sense of lives they live which seem nothing more than chaotic and uncertain.  At first, I believed that I would somehow be able to keep these two writing projects separate, compartmentalized neatly in different areas of my mind. I’ve never been so wrong. The same fear which invoked and fueled the seismic events and experiences of 1692 is the same energy that seems to entwine itself in and among the belief of some when it comes to the world of psychics and mediums.  Throw in the fact that we recently purchased a 1600’s reproduction farm in South Berwick feet away from the Lord’s Homestead of that day where Martha and Nathan Lord resided and you could say I have landed in the center of a perfect storm.

A door to our past - Hamilton HouseI’ve opened a door to a new adventure in my life which both fascinates and scares me. I will be immersed in a time period and world which is still considered taboo by some even in our modern times.  The two projects have already intersected in many ways and it will be interesting to discover how they will do so in the following years as I complete them.  When Anne Donnell came out to our farm to do a clearing I had just begun putting together initial thoughts for the novel, Mount Misery. It was only our third meeting and she had never been to our home, yet almost immediately she begun receiving images and messages that connected my writing to the 17th  century. She spoke about my writing with such clarity, citing places I write and objects and things around me that I stepped back for a moment.  While she made her way through the rooms of our home she encountered the spirit of Sarah Jayne, a young girl who has taken to watching over our family. She is somehow connected to me and the land on which our farm sits from hundreds of years ago. I’ve embraced Sarah Jayne and written her into Mount Misery as a neighbor to Martha and Nathan Lord who acts as a conduit in the story. Maybe she has come to our home to help me tie all the pieces together, maybe I’ve just simply lost my mind. Whichever it is I’ve never been more determined to breathe life into a project as I am with Mount Misery, the Novel and The Psychic, The Healer, & Me.

I’ve written the story of Mount Misery in my head in its entirety, the theme I have chosen for this piece of historical fiction set in the late seventeenth century is one in which is very much alive today. Hopefully it is a theme that  will be embraced and enjoyed by anyone who comes across it and decides to open its cover and stay awhile. I’m still wrestling with the format that The Psychic, The Healer, & Me will take and even what to title the book that will share the story of Anne Donnell. There’s a certain amount of faith and courage needed to be a writer. On good days I am charged and ready to push forward at lighting speed with both of these projects, on others fear always seems to creep in questioning the validity of each and never hesitates to ask me what other people may think about my decision to move forward in two worlds of taboo. I guess I’ll just have to find out.

 

 



  • Gone Numb – Mount Misery, The Novel

    Bloodroot“Martha watched the edge of the wood closely. Her hands had long since grown numb from weeding the gardens earlier in the morning and her chest ached from a daunting cough that had set its roots deep down inside of her. She had asked Sarah, the neighbors little girl, to go out into the wood and bring back Molly. Nathaniel had warned Martha to keep her distance from the old Abenaki woman, feeling her ways of healing with plants picked from the ground, would do nothing but bring their homestead under unnecessary suspicion and harm.  Martha nodded in agreement to the master of her home and her life but knew that Molly was the gentlest, most caring, and wise soul she had ever made peace with.”

    Mount Misery, The Novel, has begun to plant its own roots within my psyche and being. I’ve only just begun developing this project, my first historical novel, but somehow it seems as though it has sat with me for a while.  As the story begins to unravel in my mind, and the characters and conflict are building, I’m wondering how much of it will include historical facts and what pieces of it will only allude to personalities and happenings from this area in Southern Maine in the late 1600’s. It is a time of great unrest fraught with conflict with the Indians and dreadful whispers of the trials overtaking a distant neighboring town in Salem. The bloodshed from both must have spilled over into the daily lives of the newly settled families here on the same earth that my family and I walk and live as we make our way through our own days in the 21st century.

    My goal and reason for tackling this project is to hopefully show that familiar themes that still challenge each of us today were very much at the heart of struggle and strife in the 1600’s and that unless certain cycles are broken, history has no other choice than to continuously repeat itself. Fear seems to be at the heart of matter in all conflict and what better place to dive deep into what causes it than a time when people were accused, tried, and murdered for witchcraft and an entire race of people being touted as nothing more than savages who should be eradicated in order to make room for a new proper civilization of people. It’s not to say that reason didn’t exist and that its voice had no affect during the dark days in the late 17th century. There were seeds planted to hopefully break the cycles that fear so often creates and empowers to survive.  The character of Martha Lord in the historical novel of Mount Misery will hopefully become one of those seeds for change and might represent the courage and strength needed when darkest of times fall upon a people.

     

     



  • 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.