Today’s post is about yesterday. We live in the land of yesterday … just not yet. But there is another yesterday, too. I post today about that day 25 years ago when the Town of Greenwood celebrated its 175 years of being the Town of Greenwood. These images are reminding us of yesterday, the yesterday we know today. Though they had been promised for this bicentennial, the bagpipes are missing. Shown is the fife and drum, instead.
We stood in burning sun, this gathering awaiting the parade. A sheriff’s car crested the hill above and began slow descent toward us, followed closely by walkers with flags. Now they stopped, poised, unmoving; and so we stood back, unmoving ourselves. Then came the unexpected, evocative: the remote skirling of pipes beyond the crest, out of sight—drawing us powerfully. In twos and threes we ventured onto the skirt of the roadway, straining toward the haunting sound. Faint at first, it was nonetheless an unmistakable call. Nothing save a bag with chanter and three pipes (flared and sounding with the breath of the piper) could make that distinctive wail and drone—though the pipers could not be seen.
We stand rooted to the sand shoulder, watching for them as they approach, still out of sight. Increasing in vibration, volume. The unseen sounding has a mesmeric quality derived from pulsing constancy of the base drone. This is overlaid by varying notes of other pipes. Measured staccato of the accompanying drums anchors the rhythm in our rapt souls. Now we see them—in colorful kilts, sporrans and glengarries—coming toward us: a little band playing with nimble fingers, tendons flexing in their forearms as they sway by.
Passing through the town-gathering, pipers came alongside us, excluding all distraction with this call. Passing … and our heads turning, our necks craning; they rounded the corner behind town hall, passing away…. Out of sound and sight. We knew then that the parade was gone. That anything to come, though charming, would be but anti-climactic.
Yet many fair floats came after because, this being the 175th anniversary celebration of our green town, the themes were necessarily historical. They pointed community life as it had been founded and lived. First came two settlers in horse-drawn cart, represented in the actual descendents of William and Martha Yates, a Scotsman and his wife who, first, hacked out a presumably God-fearing home on a rocky height in the green center of town. It’s a place now owned by a Paper Concern—overgrown and deserted except for deer, bear, moose and other wild creatures making their homes among mountainous slopes, honeycombed with settlers’ crumbling stone foundational walls. Highland pipers, calling from a height, seem a true choice to lead this particular parade downhill—solemnly toward us.
It was the fullest, richest parade I’d seen since coming to Maine. Floating exhibits included tableaux of logging, lumbering, milling, wood-turning, farming, domestic arts, resorts, sports and recreation; the one-room school lumbering along on a flatbed float, children in period-costume, seated at their old-time desks before the teacher, Colista Morgan,. (Mrs. Morgan, local writer, actually taught in the one-room school nearby.) All are typical Maine scenes, many dating to 175 years ago, whose descent is with us today, still largely comprising the content of our area’s economy. These heritage displays show forth our town’s creative gratitude.
(Above is the opening in the latest Maine Metaphor, forthcoming. Used with permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers)