The Indian summer began like any other when I was twelve years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had already been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents. The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air.
It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents. Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve.
To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses. I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.
Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are still sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan.
My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. It is a truly tragic story. Beautiful Young Minnie Brogan who lived in early colonial times near the old settlement of Salmon Brook, adjacent to Spirit Pond, was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors. It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft.
Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime when Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut, bound by her hands and feet, and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters.
I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it). So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did.
I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.
Jenna Sweet was taking a walk back in time. It was now mid-afternoon, sunny and warm. A slight breeze rustled through the trees. A dog barked in the distance. She walked along the side walk, not really aware of where she was headed. Jenna guessed it was by instinct alone, a path she could not forgot. A narrow bridge was ahead of her and Jenna knew it was the bridge that crossed over Stone Brook. It was a place where she swam and frolicked as a kid. It was where her mother and her aunt Beatrice would bring lunch for Jenna and her cousins. Her mom, Dorothy, and Aunt Beatrice would sit around the picnic table talking, laughing, and smoking cigarettes. Both of them have been gone for a very long time now. It was a terrible accident. It changed all of their lives forever.
Jenna stood looking over the bridge, looking down into the rippling water feeling pensive and sad. She listened to the flow of the brook over the rocks and stones as the afternoon sunlight glittered on the water like sparklers on the fourth of July. She breathed in the sweet smell of the glacier-fed brook and the musky scent of wet moss along its banks. A long kept memory of a young stranger came flooding back into her consciousness from the past.
Jenna was once again walking through the forest and it was cool and shadowy. She remembered how the sunlight coming through the tree tops dappled the forest floor with shades of light and dark. The forest, thought Jenna, was a masterpiece of infinite color: shimmering emerald leaves, azure sky above, and red earth below. The pungent memory scent of evergreens enveloped Jenna’s senses. She remembered the feel of the waxy substance of the fallen leaves beneath her bare feet as she padded through the dense forest and listened for the sound of water against rock. She would follow the sound to discover the hidden part of the Brook that few had ever ventured to see.
Beneath the forest canopy she heard a slight rustle and then she saw the boy. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace like a white-tailed deer through the brambles and bushes. He leaped dancer-like over decaying logs and skipped stone by stone over mossy growths—wet with dew.
The tall boy stopped now and again to smell the air as he made his way through the forest. Jenna, Indian-like, followed the dark-haired boy through the brambles and bushes. Jenna was almost close enough now to see his nostrils flare. In the distance, Jenna heard the flow of water over pebbles and stones as she followed the stranger who followed the sound of the brook.
Ahead of them were large granite boulders and the sound of rippling waters. She watched the boy as he skillfully scampered over the huge glacier boulders and disappeared from view. Jenna followed suit and climbed over the boulders to reach the rocky banks of the brook, but when she looked around, the boy was nowhere to be seen. She sat down for a moment and sighed as she wondered who he was and why she had never seen him before. After all, reasoned Jenna, this was a small farming community with only one middle school.
Jenna dangled her feet above the crystal clear water as she looked at her reflection that was gazing back at her. Her long golden brown braids framed a face that was tanned from the summer sun, hazel eyes now as deeply green as the moss beneath her feet.
She then slipped her slender pubescent body into the cool waters of the brook and was suddenly struck by an incredible sense of freedom within her being that was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. She was growing up and her life and all of life was before her.
Jenna looked down and saw that the wet cloth of her blouse had fallen away, revealing small child-like breasts just beginning to blossom. Suddenly, she was aware of someone looking at her from above. It was the tall dark-haired boy. He was looking down at her. She was sure he had been watching her and then he smiled. Jenna blushed crimson. The boy’s broad shoulders and long muscular legs glistened in the sunlight as he stood high on the rocky over-hang above her.
Without acknowledging it, both Jenna and the boy were awakening to their bodies as they grew and changed. Soon, thought Jenna, they would no longer be the androgynous children who swam with abandon and ran like deer through the ancient forest. Jenna turned away from the boy, but secretly smiled at this innocence flirtation as the sunlight sparkled like diamonds on the rocks, the trees, and the water’s surface.
The boy, not unlike an Indian brave stalking his prey, suddenly appeared near Jenna, having silently slipped into the water. His indigo blue eyes were dark and penetrating. The boy smiled knowingly at Jenna—as if he could read her thoughts.
“Listen, he whispered to Jenna as he placed his hand near to his ear. “The water is whispering – do you know what it is saying?”
Jenna leaned into the water to hear the voice of the brook. The brook murmured as it gently flowed over the rocks. Puzzled, Jenna could only shrug her shoulders.
The boy leaned closer to Jenna—his face just inches from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now glittering in the sunlight, looked into Jenna’s willing her to somehow absorb the mystical knowledge of the brook that he so easily understood.
“You must hear it for yourself” he replied gently, in a voice that was softly mesmerizing.
Jenna felt spellbound by his presence and she opened her mouth to speak, but she could only shake her head. Suddenly, a flock of Canadian Geese flew over their heads and broke the spell. Both of them, remembered Jenna, had looked up together to see the geese majestically cross the sky. So close to them, she thought, that she could feel the air move around them. A single feather swirled downward to the water’s edge and the boy gently cupped it in his hands. He then placed the feather in her hand. She brought it to her lips to touch and smell the still warm and fragrant odor of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow. The white quill was downy soft and still warm. She would always keep it.
When Jenna turned to thank the boy, he had already climbed back up to the rocky ledge and was staring at her.
“Wait”, she cried out. “Who are you?”
“Someday you will know, Jenna.” And then he was gone.
Jenna stood on the bridge over-looking the brook remembering those moments long ago. She was now twenty five years old and her life had taken many twists and turns since that day that seemed a lifetime ago. It surprised her how constant the memory of the boy stayed with her. How many years, she thought, have I returned to this town, to stand on this bridge, wondering whatever happened to the boy. Jenna held the white quill in her hand and brought it to her lips. It still held the scent of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow.
Slowly, Jenna became aware that someone was watching her. She then turned to see a tall, dark-haired young man. He was staring at her. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace as he walked toward her. She was stunned. There was something about him, she thought. Her mind raced with speculation.
The young man came to stand in front of her. He leaned in, closer to Jenna—his face just inches away from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now resplendent in the afternoon sunlight, looked into Jenna’s, willing her to remember. “The water is whispering, he said with a grin. “Do you know what it is saying?”
Jenna understood now. She nodded to the tall, dark-haired young man with the indigo blue eyes and smiled. “We are like the brook–a constant thing, she told him. “Nothing is ever truly lost.”
The young man with the indigo blue eyes smiled and nodded.