The Pine Grove

Thrice happy he, who by some shady grove,
Far from the clamorous world, doth live his own;
Though solitary, who is not alone,
But doth converse with that eternal love.

– William Drummond, Urania

Next to the big barn attached to the big house on the big hill in South Paris, Maine was my favorite place: the pine grove.

It was a quiet place. The pine trees reached up to the sky, so tall that I wondered whether their tops could touch the blue sky and the white clouds I would watch floating over them through the filtered light of the trees, lying on the pine needles of the pine grove floor.

Sometimes Annie went with me to the pine grove. She lived just behind Grandpa’s and Grandma’s big house on the hill.

Annie liked my grandmother’s sugar cookies almost as much as I did…and the gingerbread cookies and the toll-house cookies, but mostly the big white sugar cookies my grandmother made every day because she knew we liked them best. We would settle on the granite steps outside the pantry with big glasses of fresh milk from real returnable glass milk bottles brought that morning by the milk man, and eat the cookies and drink our milk. Then a cookie or two would go with us into the pine grove.

We would lie there and look up…without talking…smelling the aroma of the pines. It was a sacred place of solitude and quiet – God’s greatest gift – where I could forget that my father was somewhere far away on the other side of some great big ocean in a great big war against a great big monster. I would retreat to the pine grove to get away from the radio broadcasts we listened to that might tell us whether my father was alive or dead.

There was no war in the pine grove. There were no people there. Just the great big pine trees that didn’t seem to care about the war. They just kept reaching up to the sky.

After we moved far away to Pennsylvania following my father’s return from the war, we returned to South Paris annually for vacation. Every year those pine trees were there waiting for my return.

During the 10 hour drive to South Paris, I looked forward to lying on the floor of the pine grove with a fresh-baked sugar cookie. As we drove up the road from Gray and rounded the bend by the Fair Grounds, the anticipation grew. I could almost smell the scent of the pines of the pine grove.

Until the year I looked up to see a franchise submarine sandwich shop standing where the pine grove had stood. The pine grove was gone. Clear cut. All the trees. All the pine needles. And the hill had been leveled to street level.

Someone had declared war on the pine grove, and the trees couldn’t fight back. Trees don’t fight. I sobbed like a baby.

4 thoughts on “The Pine Grove

  1. Gordon the Pine Grove you describe was one of my favorite places too. It was like an enchanted forest often described in German fairy tales. You probably don’t recall, but when you came up to Maine on vacation we used to play “cowboys and Indians” in that Grove. We used to dress up as cowboys and challenge the Simpsons, who lived on the other side of the Grove, to play the Indians. Unfortunately, much of the mature pines were felled by a hurricane that hit Maine in the mid 50s. It was clear cut after that to provide land for a sub shop and a plumbing supply business. Much of that became the land a Dunkin Donut franchise was built on by the Lebays who owned the plumbing supply. A McDonalds franchise was built across the street from it later.. It is known by the locals as “fast food alley” now. Progress often takes the pristine beauty of nature and makes it into an ugly concrete and steel jungle. Sad but true. Cousin Dennis.


    • Dennis, because we lived in Pennsylvania and only came to South Paris once a year in the summers, I was unfamiliar with the background of the story, i.e. the hurricane. Annie Simpson was very dear to me, a great companion with a sweet spirit. Her older brother, Johnny, was also very quiet. The loss of the pine grove speaks volumes about what happened all over America in the mid-50s and since. Fast food alley destroyed the charm of South Paris, turning a small town into just another franchise operation.


  2. I loved this. I thought about the creek in the redwood forest in Woodacre Ca. where there was a special stone that fit my head, circa 1968. The temperature would be 100 and it was dry. There I was dreaming as the water cooled me just right. And what was the sound? The young deer’s breath. Fortunately the place is protected by a brilliant local government.


  3. My haven of peace was an Ash grove where one treehad three boughs alligned just right for my small body. The grove was removed to gain another 1/4 an acre for corn. Such a sacrifice. Gordon thanks for igniting great memories.


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