Fire ghost of Christmas past

The Burning of the Greens with a full moon rising, somewhere in the wilds of the New Hampshire Seacoast, last night. Fifty Christmas trees gave up the ghost.


Not to be confused with campfire.

A bonfire is a controlled outdoor fire used for informal disposal of burnable waste or as part of a celebration.


1. a large fire built in the open air, for warmth, entertainment, or celebration, to burn leaves, garbage, etc., or as a signal.
2. any fire built in the open.

1375–1425; late ME bone fire, i.e., a fire with bones for fuel

Lace up your ice skates

January 2010

Last chance to grab a copy off the newsstands in NH and wherever (regionally) fine glossies are sold: Ice Capades, by me, in the January edition of New Hampshire magazine.

It is one of the most distinctive sounds of wintertime: the smooth scrape of metal blades on ice.

For anyone who has skated, that sound recalls the movement of flexing, leaning, digging first one blade edge into the ice to push and glide, then the other.

The scuff of blades on rink ice or a frozen pond brings to mind the gift of almost unnatural speed, the flick of a puck, the clash of competition. It recalls turns, spins and curlicues etched on ice. It revisits places reachable only in the coldest months of the year.

Ice skating is so basic to winter it’s prehistoric. The first skates were leg bones of deer or ox, bored with holes for leather straps. These bone skates allowed hunters and travelers to conserve energy by gliding rather than walking across frozen lakes.

Scroll down for the sidebars: Great places to skate in NH; How to do a one-foot spin; Safety on frozen ponds and lakes; How to build your own backyard skating rink; and How to play pond hockey

The sunsets are amazing and the beer stays cold. Nothing beats a pick-up game of pond hockey at the end of a winter day or just passing a puck back and forth on the ice with a friend.

“It’s a big stress reliever,” says Kevin Keaveney. “It takes your mind off everything.”

The 42-year-old is energetic in his pursuit of relaxation. Keaveney scouts conditions at local ponds near his home in Exeter. He keeps his skills sharp playing indoors a couple evenings a week. He and his friends skated on a water hazard at a country club golf course until they were discovered and asked to leave. He has been known to knock on doors when he spots a decent man-made rink in someone’s yard.

His policy: “Never be afraid to grab a big shovel and help a group cleaning off a pond. Usually they’re more than happy to share, and you meet new friends.”

When he closes his eyes, he can picture the perfect black ice, several inches thick. It comes after a hard freeze and lasts only until snow falls and winter weathers the ice.

“It’s like skating on glass,” he reminisces.

Take a guy like Keaveney who grew up skating on ponds and never lost his love for it. Multiply him by a whole lot of other guys who did the same thing, or wish they did. Bring them together on 20 rinks on a very big lake in New Brunswick, Canada, for three days of intense competition and camaraderie. Call it the World Pond Hockey Championships.

This February, 120 teams from around the world with names like the Goaldiggers, Cold Fusion, Boston Long Shots, Maritime Mafia, Puckweisers and the Raggedy Ass River Boys will vie for the title.

Keaveney and his team, the Hard Chargers, will be there, too. It will be the sixth time they have competed — winning some games but not all, and loving almost every minute of it.

“The first year, the wind chill was minus 35,” he says.   (read the rest)

It’s a sweet little town in winter

Look at this pretty building in our town.

Break off a sugarcane icicle and taste it. The pillars and bouldery walls are rock candy. Savor the milk chocolate beams and chew on some nougat stucco. Inside, register your cars and pets and pay your property taxes.

Oh and if you want to run for school board, I will be there from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in my pointy school clerk hat in case there are last-minute sign-up stragglers at the end of the filing period. Come, my pretty, serve your town and be civic!

Winterfest set for this weekend in N. Hampton

Power to the people

North Hampton School District warrant moves to voters

North Hampton School deliberative session is Tuesday, Feb 2 at 7 p.m. at the school.  Winnacunnet on Wednesday. Final vote on March 9. North Hampton town vote moved to May so don’t worry about that one yet. Lotsa good stuff on Channel 22, check it out.

Deliberative session is your chance to be heard

According to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California, turnout at local elections is half that of national elections and over time trends suggest voter turnout at local elections will continue to decline rapidly.
This is an anomaly, because those we elect to local boards, for example, and how we educate our children and pay for infrastructure improvements certainly have more of a direct impact on us and our families.

Ogden Nash recites A Word About Winter

Is this what my dog is dreaming about when his paws twitch?

We are in the red maple swamp. We can’t go here in summer.

We are following deer tracks, knocking at the doors of fox dens, climbing roofs of beaver lodges, chasing small birds while a great bird spirals above us into the sun. Fish and painted turtles sleep under our feet.

We eat and drink the snow. The cold in the air, we breathe it in and turn it warm.

Winter is just another sort of dream.

Swan in winter

Why do swans seem aware of their own beauty?

Photo taken at a brackish pond in Rye today. A culvert under the road connects pond with ocean. The tidal flow creates a small area of open water in the ice. Birds take advantage of this, mainly seagulls and swans.

When we have a really hard freeze that lasts, I sometimes see a couple of over-wintering swans swimming on the ocean, rising and falling with the swells.


Respectfully submitted

Prevailing winds at Old Town Hall. Inside the cupola is a Revere bell.

If a Tree falls in the Forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Here at last is the definitive answer: No. You need an Official Forest Hearer.

Our town Budget Committee meets tonight. I take the minutes.

Recently the committee was trying to figure out why they had voted to support a particular school warrant article a few years ago. What was the discussion? What was the general understanding of the purpose of the fund they were recommending be established?

They did not want to rely on individual memory, because there was some contention. A Budget Committee vote to recommend or not recommend a (money) warrant article carries weight with the voters, so it is important to give the thumbs up or thumbs down based on good information (in copious amount). They go through the budgets with a fine-tooth comb so residents don’t have to, unless we want to.

In our town’s quaint old New England form of (self) government, almost everything is funded locally through our property taxes, and voters make the final decisions to pass or fail operating budgets, appropriate expenditures, and establish and fund various trust funds for designated purposes… such as school building maintenance… but does that include architectural plans for a possible expansion?

One committee member suggested checking the official minutes of that meeting. But another said: “That won’t do us any good because Amy wasn’t taking the minutes then.”

Ah, any humble scribe would get a little thrill (as I did) knowing that her scribing is accurate, concise and complete, useful and appreciated.

In the end, the School Board simply proposed a new fund with a different name. But if somebody wants to know how that came about in a few years, I got ya covered.