From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac     Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

September 17, 2018

Real Peace

It seems I took a short sabbatical from writing, as my peace and quiet were upended too, like the cat’s. But it was for a good reason; living for myself would be pretty pointless anyway and isn’t real peace at all.

Things settled down. Yesterday I was reading about Tasha Tudor, and wishing I could live more like her, until I looked up her biography on Wikipedia, and found her life had its own share of brokenness. I’ve got plenty of that myself; don’t need to borrow hers. I’ll be satisfied to live as simply as possible in a little house by a brook, and not be upset that I can’t weave my own clothes. At least here I can cook on a woodstove sometimes, and have dogs and a cat.

She had wonderful gardens. Mine are wild, the perrenials are halting, the vegetable garden needs work, and even she said patience was the key. And she worked from home!

One by one, my literary heroines and heroes have been shown to have had such difficult lives, so very human. Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of “The Secret Garden,” was divorced. Lucy Maud Montgomery, of “Anne of Green Gables” fame, who recorded such beauty in her writings, revealed in her journal how miserable her marriage was, her depression so terrible, that she took her own life. Louisa May Alcott, who wrote of such close family life, had a pretty tough one herself, wanted to get away from writing “childish pap” (but it paid the bills), and died young after being ill for years. Henry David Thoreau died young too, depressed and bitter because his books weren’t selling and no one was listening.

It isn’t the circumstances that make you happy. (Although it helps.) Probably because these people could create transcendent worlds or simply be aware of the wonderful living world around them, they could escape themselves sometimes, live as well as they did, and give us what they saw. But their sadness or trouble, mostly that some couldn’t overcome it in the end, saddens me. I think they gave us the best that was in their hearts, and that we cherish.

It’s better to have a little, have it real, have a heart full of living joy that really does transcend the circumstances–because of knowing Who loves us. That’s real. You can live on it, and give it away too.. That as my friend Mike would say, ‘is the most fun you can have.”


From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac

Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

September 5, 2019


There was more company this week, three friends, one of whose birthday is today. They arrived late on Labor Day afternoon, and I squinted to see who they were. (I didn’t have my glasses on.)

They trooped in, and found seats, as I offered them a drink, and fretted about the dog sand on the rugs and the black spot on the white curtain where Micah comes in the window. But they seemed perfectly content.

“It’s peaceful here,” said the occupant of the armchair. I wondered how she could say that with Ready standing by her, wagging her hairy doggy self in excitement, and Abel doing the same by me. He knows better than to pounce on the guests and lick their faces off, but he wants to do it really bad.

But it was true, it was peaceful. No electronic noise filled the air. Grasshoppers and crickets through the open windows did, and cross breezes, and late afternoon September sunlight.

.The youngest one said she’d be able to stand this for a couple of days, and then she’d be bored. But she’s used to three kids. My birthday friend just looked glad to be sitting down with no dog in her face. She was elegantly cool in a summer dress, enjoying the quiet, maybe.

It just feels removed here, although it isn’t really. I live ten minutes from town, and have neighbors. And if I’m judging my plops right, a moose stopped by the house while I was out. See, we’re on the main drag! We are surrounded by untamed nature, and I guess that’s part of the peace, though nature can be wild and destructive. I’ve seen it here. But the peace stays, and I think it’s more Who lives here, and everything else is from Him.

So, on baking hot late summer afternoons, I’m happy to share some peace, in spite of the very hairy excited dogs.

The cat took off. Apparently, her afternoon peace and quiet was wrecked.

From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac     Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

August 29, 2018


A friend asked me yesterday how I could have quiet peace inside me when I could see the chaos in the world. She had none herself; acutely sensing pain, disorder, injustice, upheaval, although knowing  Who holds it all together, she cannot feel His peace.

I’ve been thinking about it. You’ve got to have something that holds you fast to the core, to a home base. You’ve got to have a personal sense of a personal love that keeps you enfolded, even as you move through life, because move through it we must. There’s got to be a place of stability where you shore up, balance when you are moving, a steady wheel, a fixed goal, and a way to get there, a path, a map, or a guiding light, and a trust in that light when you can’t see it.

The light can be defined as God Is Good. This is a constant, not to be discarded in the face of all the horrors that say the opposite. Those horrors will disappear like fog at His coming, and even be used to show His complete goodness. That’s the major mooring–let that go and all else is open to question. It follows that His Word is Truth, even and most especially when we can’t figure it out. The error is in us, not in the Word He gave us. They say we only use ten percent of our brains, and our hearts are a little off, too. Maybe we should hold still and ask to understand?

The other is that He came to live with us in one of the bodies He created, let us hate and kill Him, and came back alive still loving us, with power to make us like Him and live with Him, if we choose. He’s coming back, even though He left a long time ago by our reckoning, what’s 2000 years?

So we are not isolated or insignificant in a cosmic plot of destruction. We are precious and He wants us Do we want Him?–is the question that decides whether we will have moorings or be awash in fears.

He will hang on to you if you ask Him.

From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac     Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

August 20, 2018


The New Hampshire summer is ripening everything, and colors are changing even already. The rich green leaves have mellowed into a shade imbued with a touch of gold. Here and there, a single branch will spark out red and yellow, maple leaves on fire, just a hint of later blazes All around the island, the warm tips of orange-gold jewelweed and goldenrod stand tall and full. On the island, there are mushrooms I’ve only seen photos of: one an orange horn-shaped goblet, filled with rainwater. And the bright red blackberries are at last turning a shiny black, and sweet.

The air is sweet, with an August cotton candy smell I can never find the source of, but something has reached its full flower. It’s a mixed joy to revel in all this; we know the full gold glory will blaze up, grow brown, and cold will come. But nothing will be lost It all just goes to sleep.

This happens in people, too. I know someone who feels the signs of autumn fallen upon her,  but maybe is aware not so much of her life’s larder stored to overflowing, even now with more coming. She sees the crinkling of the skin and the frailty of her bones; I see the glow of the flame in her soul which lights up all that, like fire on quartz. It gets brighter.

She moves gently now, this woman who could ski downhill or support a dozen causes on the fingers of one hand. There’s a difference; the vigor has diminished, but the loving heart is stronger. Words may not come as fast, but they come with care, they build up and never cut. She has a humor about herself and a kindness to other’s faults, knowing grace from on high that is hers, she gives it freely where she sees pain or need. Having had loss, she doesn’t grasp what’s left, she raises her open hands to give thanks.

She’s a lamp on a table, illuminating the fullness of her harvest and home, aglow in the shortening summer’s twilight.


From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac     Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

August 13, 2018

Humidity and Reading

Totally, I had good intentions. But it was dark this morning, the first hint of shorter days, so I slept till 7:00. There were chores to do, and a day of laundry, cleaning house planned, determined, set in granite. But it was humid, overcast, woods dripping drizzle; the air heavy; my flesh sluggish.

Chores got done. Chicken went into the crockpot, nicely seasoned, and all the little (?) animals got fed, bed made, dishes rinsed and ready to wash. I would eat a late breakfast and then turn into a human dynamo.

But I picked up a book. It was Edward Grinnan’s  (the editor of Guideposts) “Always By My Side”, about his dogs, and particularly about his golden retriever Millie, and the many ways those dogs saved his life. That book has been sitting here a year, because grief has a way of not going away. The story reminded me of Jewel, and Baron, and as much as I think of them always, I was afraid reading it would hurt.

But I couldn’t put it down, and it hurt, but also comforted and reassured. He said his dogs saved his life–we’re talking soul life as well as flesh here–and it’s true, because Jewel saved my life, and we saved Baron’s and he protected us. When they died, it was bone sucking pain and emptiness. They died a year apart from each other, and Jewel was never the same again after Baron was gone. They were like a ballet of life and love in motion, gorgeous, joyous. There was no question ever, that God had sent them to me. We just knew. And Edward Grinnan knows, so what his book did was reinforce what was already in my gut And when they leave us, we bleed inside, even though we know they are free, home and painless.

God made the animals first, then us, and led Adam to the animals to see what he would name them. He made this loving connection for us; He’s still doing it We got to keep the dogs close in particular. If we keep our hearts open, He’ll send us another to love.

So only the dishes got done, and supper. Ready and Abel are waiting for theirs. They are panting in this humidity, very much alive. If I can get this rolltop desk to roll up in this sticky, cricket-singing evening, we’ll set this tale to print.

From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac     Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

August 7, 2019

Healing In The Waters Of Home

The world is a bad place and I see too much of it. My work takes me into homes where people struggle to reclaim their lives after calamity, horrible dysfunction, sickness and loss. I battle against these things with kindness, joy, humor, physical helps, and hopefully, hope. Sometimes these things find a crack and break through. Sometimes they don’t; you can lose someone in a moment.

I come home to a place where, no matter how much is not finished, it is still a sanctuary. The brook waters fill the air, my ears; we can walk down the path just past the island and see them flow over rocks and fallen trees. There is a seat not made by human hands, but probably by the water, as a gift from the Father of Lights. It has three places to sit: the highest stone is against a hemlock tree, so there’s a backrest and a footstool below. Or I can sit on the footstool, or the very lowest stone, which means stripping off shoes and soaking my feet right in the brook.

Yesterday we did that very thing, along with a pint of Ben&Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.(There has to be some indulgence in life, after all.) In went the feet, and the spoon in the ice cream, in the cool cool shade away from the hot hot sun. It was like losing a load of bricks off my body, sadness out of the marrow, feeling the touch of love there in the woods, away from a world bleeding, bruised and crazed.

You have to let the pain wash away, away down the brook, or wherever you have a quiet place to go. There’s no functioning otherwise, no health. The Spirit of God still moves over the waters; is the very essence of the waters in Himself. I sat there till the wounds were clean, washed out.

I could smile again. The dogs were wading in the deep parts, tongues hanging, body temperatures returning to normal. I rinsed out the ice cream carton and poured water all over my head, getting drenched, then did it to them. They looked surprised, but they loved it. Micah skipped from rocks to fallen trees and up standing ones. We were happy together. We were light.

And the Cherry Garcia was really good.

From An Island In New Hampshire

By Banah Isaac    Wright’s Hollow, New Hampshire

July 30, 2018

Summer Full Grown

All the life so new in spring has grown up now, and if you plunked me down in the middle of this hollow with my eyes shut and then told me to open them, I’d know it was the end of July, the peak of summer growing time.

Out here on the island, after a week of rain, mushrooms are varied and all around. It’s a pretty safe bet I shouldn’t eat any of them, even if some do look like Chantrelles; I’m never sure. Full and wavy, or round-capped brown, they only flourish at full growing season here. There’s one orangy-red one I know not even to consider: the Death Angel. But this year there’s a new one, just between the woodpile and the stone hearth. It’s got ghostly pale stalks and each curves over into a belled flower, also ghostly white. It’s like bluebells from the netherworld, so finely made, so very still. I can’t stop looking at them.

The brook waters are full again, all the earth is damp with relief after the thirsty strain of dryness. Oddly, the mosquitoes seem to have been dampened as well; there is no enthusiastic humming round my head out here. Maybe they drowned?

One thing I know is grown, giving a special understanding to the term “empty nest syndrome.” The goslings are fully feathered out now, but they stay close to both parents, and may never break away. But, on the very same wooded path at road’s edge where I saw the tiny turkey chicks with their frantic mother, yesterday were walking two female turkeys. I stopped the truck; looked and looked. No little ones, no small replicas following behind, just two rather unhurried turkey ladies poking along, not even disturbed by my voice. Of course, the little ones would be feathered out now, and told to go get a life. They’ll all reconvene in big flocks when summer ends, but these two made me want to cheer them up. They dragged their feet; they missed their kids. How clearly different from an ostrich, who never knows or cares what hatches or lives.

Half green acorns, all formed, drop to the ground. I saw a squirrel paused by the road, chomping on one much as we would a half ripe Mac. Have you ever tasted an acorn? They’re so bitter the native people would run them through a soak five times. I shuddered at what that squirrel was relishing; first fruits.

The purple flowering raspberries and elderberry bushes are covered in ripening fruit, all around the house, and more rose-like blossoms still coming. Some for me, some for the birds, some for the squirrels, some for Abel. Ready won’t touch berries You should see the look she gives me. The blackberries are hard and green, but soon…..,blackberry pie again, and this year, jam. It’s about time.

Other people’s gardens, planted in a decorously timely manner, are overflowing with cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini. It is the time to lock car doors, or you will find baseball bat zucchini on your back seat.

The skies are heavy again, ready to pour, but still there are no mosquitoes. Could they really have drowned?

We can hope.