Sunday Morning: horses, birds, poetry and history

Instead of sleeping in this Sunday, I found myself awake at 3 and out of bed before 5. Had this been a normal work day, I’d be up and showered, having my morning coffee, dog fed and planning our morning walk. But it is Sunday. Son is up and having breakfast. Daughter, who was still awake when I went to bed, is still sleeping. Debating about whether to wake her to go feed the horse.

Ruby greeting me…hoping that I have treats for her.

I went to feed the horse by myself and let daughter sleep in. She always comes to the fence to greet me, expecting me to reach into my coat pocket for some cookies. I do and she is happy.

Hay for the morning, and some beet pulp, grain and supplements. Twice a day.

The snow from earlier this week has been melting, and what it leaves behind is a muddy paddock and by the end of the day, an equally muddy horse. She loves to roll on the ground.

The mountains above Los Alamos are covered in snow, as is most of the Jemez and Sangre De Cristo Mountains this time of year.

The mountains vary from 11,000 to over 14,000 feet, depending on which mountain range tour are interested in. The peaks over 14,000 are part of the fourteeners that lie along the Sangre De Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. According to wikipedia, Colorado has over 50 mountains over fourteen thousand feet. Wheeler Peak, northeast of Taos and north of Los Alamos, is the tallest peak in New Mexico and lies along the Sangre De Cristo Mountains at 13,167 feet. Depending on where you are at the stables, you can see it on a clear day.

As it was a nice but lazy day with the kids, and snow on most of the trails, a hike was out of the question. None of us ski, so that was out as well. This day turned out to be just like any other day. Son played video games; daughter spent the day doing drawing and other things in her room. As for me, a restful afternoon of eating, reading and a movie or two.

While at the stables feeding Ruby, I heard many birds. The loudest were the black birds that can be seen and heard throughout most of the area. I spied these two in a tree along the canyon top behind the stables.

A pair of black birds sitting in a tree.

I call them blackbirds, ravens, or crows without really knowing much about the different species of birds. Fortunately I was able to search the internet. The Parajito Environmental Educational Center at the Los Alamos Nature Center (reproduced from https://peecnature.org/bird-of-the-week-the-american-crow/) was able to tell me that the American Crow is easily found all year in Los Alamos County. Because they are closely related to their larger cousin the Common Raven, it can be hard to distinguish Crows from Ravens with only a casual look at one. Crows fly with a steadier wingbeat, while Ravens spend more flying time gliding. If you get a good look at the bird’s beak, you’ll see the Crow’s beak is smaller in relation to its head. If the bird is flying, look at the shape of its tail feathers – Crows’ tails are squarer and Ravens’ are more wedge-shaped. As the pair in the tree did not fly while I was watching them, I could not distinguish the wing shape.

Of course, thinking that they are ravens’ I immediately began to think of the poem by Edgar Allan Poe, of which I can only remember the first line…(reproduced from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48860/the-raven)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as “Nevermore.”

    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

As a kid, the family would go camping at Poe Valley and Poe Paddy State Parks beck in central Pennsylvania. The parks are named for Big Poe Creek, which runs through the area. There one would also hear the sounds of blackbirds, crows or ravens. Growing up, we were told that Edgar Allen Poe wrote the poem “The Raven” while visiting the area. This is not true by most literary accounts, but nonetheless, makes for an interesting tie between my early life in Pennsylvania to my present life in New Mexico. All of this, based on a bird, Indian tribes, history, and nature…

This folklore is associated with an old inn called the Eutaw House, located in Potters Mills at the intersection of Route 322 and Route 144. The Eutaw House has been in existence for over two centuries. General James Potter, who was notably an aide to George Washington during the American Revolution, originally owned the ground where the building sits today. After Gen. Potter’s death, his children built a log cabin on his property. Later the log cabin would become the Eutaw House and go through a few more renovations. During its early years, the house served as a major inn for early pioneers and travelers. The house was named after the local Eutaw Indian tribe.

As anyone could imagine with the Eutaw House being around for a few centuries, it has gathered some ghost stories through the years. Ghostly shapes have been seen in mirrors throughout the building. In the kitchen and restaurant, trays and plates have been known to flip over or fall off tables. Patrons and employees have seen apparitions and shadows move in the hallways and rooms. One story tells of a prisoner being shot or hung in the attic during the 1800s and a different story says that it was a tree at the corner of the property. During one of the early Indian raids on the Eutaw house, one Indian is said to have been hung on the large old tree. Hearing a rope “thud” or creaking noise has been reported near the tree to this day.

Even with all the ghostly happenings at the Eutaw House, its most interesting story is the speculation that Edgar Allen Poe had once stayed the night at the Inn. Some early folklorists have written that Edgar Allen Poe had once visited the Centre County area and was even inspired to write a few stories such as the Raven during his travels through Central Pennsylvania. The only evidence that leads some credibility is the initial “EAP” that are carved into one of the oldest tables in the Eutaw House. Historians today doubt the legend of Poe’s journey to Centre County, but it makes for a good story nonetheless. ( reproduced from http://discoverypa.blogspot.com/2015/10/edgar-allen-poes-visit-to-central.html)

Well that is enough for today. Hope you enjoy the stories and how a simple thought can span decades, through nature, and have ties into history.

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