“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
I grew up on the outskirts of Mill Hollow, about a mile east of where the mills were, known locally as “the 4 Corners” in East Alstead. The 4 Corners isn’t really a place anymore, but it was then. A tiny village green, home to the 2nd Congregational Church, and a wooden rail of assorted mailboxes – an impossible number of mailboxes for the population – would otherwise be nothing to write about. Except during the early 80s, our small community would gather at the 4 Corners on Summer weekends. Morris Dancers arrived, appearing magically out of the morning, bell clad ribbons tied around their shins and forearms. Their awkward little leaps stirred up scents of trampled dandelions and fresh grass to mix with charcoal smoke, thick around large racks of barbequing chicken. Our community came together to sell off winter’s projects, the first of the season’s produce; batik’d clothing, wooden bowls, pottery, bread, and Mother’s berry pints, all laid out on folding tables parallel to our house only 100 yards away. For the summer, the 4 Corners became a confluence of art, craft, music and community. The inspiration imprinted me for a lifetime. The bricks for our Mill Hollow Works was laid there and then, back on those Summer days. It provided the Mission and Vision of what we could, and should, be.
A very, very, very fine house
Our yellow house, a constant work in progress, more shed animal fur and tracked mud than finished Colonial, featured 4-12 cats, 1-2 dogs, 4 ducks, 4 geese, a dozen chickens, 6 children plus friends, and at least 1 of 2 parents – most often my mother. I spent Saturday mornings picking berries; pints of blueberries, black and red raspberries, placed in green cardboard containers to be sold by the side of the road. My arms and legs scratched raw and stained red by prickers, hands always sticky, fingertips capped with raspberry hats, I’d eat more than I picked. Mother only complained about that occasionally. Mother was a hard worker. Usually a fair-skinned blond, she became a bright red beacon of flushed skin among the blueberries, gray eyes darting from bush to bush, trailing a cloud of blackflies, sunshine and wild hair. She fastened a plastic milk gallon to her waist, held on by a belt threaded through the handle. The spout cut off offered a wide opening to receive the berries she picked with both hands. Magic marker lines drawn on the outside of the jug, one pint, one quart, two quarts, you held the jug up to the light, match the purple berry line to black dash; my berries always fell short of the lines, no matter how much I picked.
A good amount of berry pints would fit nice and snug into Mother’s best lasagna pan. It was a deep and ugly thing with a big wide rim, a perfect vehicle for the delicate berries when not carrying supper. Saturdays she’d march us and the berries down to the 4 Corners, Dad following behind juggling a blanket, a chair, a small table, and the hands of the 2 youngest. Blanket on the ground for us kids, the table and chair for Mother’s display. She always took her crochet to work on between customers. Her completed handmade toys would find their way to the back of the table, “A Leslee Holloway Original”, guarding the berries while I toured the green.
thought, Pooh, “I wish I were there to be doing it too“
Chattering neighbors harmonized against acoustic guitars and fiddles, rife and buzzing, Saturdays transformed into a celebration. I walked the row of tables hosting precious items, handmade scarves, handbags, wooden bowls, toys. Impossibly small teacups and saucers lined the inside of a rough hewn dollhouse. I reached past the “Please don’t touch”, sign to pinch the spout on a miniature teapot, my fingers finding the indents of the potter’s. I know these people, seen them sitting round our too-big kitchen table drinking coffee from chipped mugs. A friend calls my name, offering an invitation to a game or other adventure – “we’re riding bikes to the lake”. Mother’s still focused on her crochet, her latest creation taking shape, pints of berries starting to sweat in the sun.
The memory of the 4 Corners lives in my bones, literally resonating like the tongs of a tuning fork, ringing true, setting the frequency for how life should be. “Yes…Belonging…Connection…Inclusion…Joy…Wonder”, this is what I remember of the song the world sung to me then. Despite being a kid, I knew the world existed at the 4 Corners, and I was a part of it. There was place for me in the music, in the crafts, in the art, I was there nestled, snug and safe with Mother’s berry pints.
We’re incorporating the 4 Corners into our foundation of Mill Hollow Works – Sense of Self, Sense of Place, Sense of Community and Sense of Connection. I hope you come to visit and leave resonating with connection, buzz with the beauty of what your hands are capable of, vibrate with inspiration. May Mill Hollow Works be your place, your constant work in progress, your home on the hill that inspires and encourages you to live your best life.
Hope to see you at the 4 Corners soon.