The squirrels are on to something, and they’re working overtime

Head north from Baltimore on I-83 and take the last exit before you hit the Pennsylvania border.  Then travel east for a spell, over a grassy hill and down a dale. Turn north, then east again, and after the topography turns from meadow to woodland, you’ll come to a short beam bridge.

Just after you cross it, and just before the pavement ends, you’ll see a dirt road to your right.  It will lead you up an incline to the handcrafted cabin overlooking nine wooded acres, with that same creek winding through the back.

More or less these were the directions we were given after answering a Harford County, Maryland property-rental ad.  We’d recently transferred to the area and, after years of living in various cities, thought it time to try a little something different.

Oh, it was rustic, but in a contemporary way. There were two bedrooms, the Master being a suite atop a set of spiral stairs, featuring floor to ceiling windows (still…no need for shades or curtains here). There were two full bathrooms, a living room with a stone fireplace and an up-to-date country kitchen. Better still there was a screened-in deck and then a second deck overlooking the stream (with its own swimming hole).

I envisioned a big office bash at some point and asked, “I don’t suppose we’d be disturbing any neighbors if we had a party?”

The owner, who had moved to a bigger house nearby, laughed and responded,  “You can yell as loud as you want, nobody’ll hear you.”

That’s all I wanted to know, although Linda standing next to me with our five-month-old son, hadn’t quite found that to be one of the stronger selling points. We lived in that cabin, just a mile south of the Mason-Dixon Line (“Southerners by a mile”), for a little over a year.  But the day I signed that lease was precisely the start of a successful northbound lobbying campaign for my stay-at-home “New England mom” and our Canadian-born New England son …who had yet to lay eyes on our storied region.

Every weekday at 07:30 I would blithely navigate the hinterland to the Interstate, and turn south through an equestrian-centric countryside that became especially stunning in the cool Maryland fall.  But while I was on a blazingly eventful career path, the same can’t be said for my uber-accomplished wife, who would spend her days baby-on-hip, strolling ‘round the nearest grocery store (in York, PA), with a stop at the library, followed perhaps by coffee at a popular local establishment universally known for its (Pennsylvania Dutch) scrapple.

By 08:00 I’d reach my Baltimore County destination of Hunt Valley, where my “Executive Plaza” office building was just off the highway at the corner of McCormick Street, named for one Willoughby M. McCormick of Baltimore, who in 1889 at the age of 25 began a door-to-door business selling root beer, fruit syrup and flavoring extracts.

In time he managed to add spices to his wares, a decision so successful that by the early 1970s McCormick & Company (long-since run by Willoughby’s nephew, Charles) was impelled to re-establish itself in Hunt Valley with a 35,000 sq. ft. headquarters, manufacturing and warehousing facility, later to include the Old Bay Seasoning used in every crab house up and down the Chesapeake.

To this day I can’t tell you how they process their spices. But I can say that certain days feature the processing of cinnamon and from the near side of Sparks, to the north, to the far sides of Cockeysville, Lutherville and Timonium to the south, everyone knows that it’s…a…cinnamon day.

Timonium is the birthplace to another “hard-core New Englander” (in 1951), Cheryl Wheeler, who first performed in Baltimore and Washington, DC area clubs before making the move to Rhode Island in 1976.  That’s where she was discovered by Jonathan Edwards, who soon asked her to tour with him, and she has been based in New England ever since.

Although Wheeler has released several albums she is especially known for her live performances that include topical (serious/comic) monologues.  It is said that at least half of the songs she performs in concert are never recorded and eventually fade from her list.  Fortunately there are others such as this one, serving as keen inspiration for New Englanders who even from afar, can relish the very thought of this very special time…


…When Fall Comes to New England

When fall comes to New England

The sun slants in so fine

And the air’s so clear

You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine

The nights are sharp with starlight

And the days are cool and clean

And in the blue sky overhead

The northern geese fly south instead

And leaves are Irish Setter red

When fall comes to New England

When Fall comes to New England

And the wind blows off the sea

Swallows fly in a perfect sky

And the world was meant to be

When the acorns line the walkways

Then winter can’t be far

From yellow leaves a blue jay calls

Grandmothers walk out in their shawls

And chipmunks run the old stonewalls

When fall comes to New England

The frost is on the pumpkin

The squash is off the vine

And winter warnings race across the sky

The squirrels are on to something

And they’re working overtime

The foxes blink and stare and so do I

‘Cause when fall comes to New England

Oh I can’t turn away

From fading light on flying wings

And late good-byes a robin sings

And then another thousand things

When fall comes to New England

When fall comes to New England


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