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Slice of Life.

I have been pairing quotes about poetry with images to celebrate poetry for the month of April. #NPM2018. Today’s quote is “Poetry is what we do to break bread with the dead.”

When I read Seamus Heaney‘s words, I immediately thought of this photograph that I took on a chilly October morning in the Old Common Cemetery in Lancaster, Massachusetts, while Carl and I were on a personal pilgrimage to find the resting places of thirteen of his ancestors who lived in the 1600s and 1700s. We were, in a way, on a journey to break bread with them.

“Poetry is… No. 24 ” for #NPM2018

In the photograph, Carl is reading the headstone of a grave–the large stone marker with biographical information. Growing out of the grave is a tree, and by its size, I would say the tree has been growing there for a number of years. Then if you look carefully, opposite the headstone, nestled between the roots of the tree, you’ll see a much smaller stone. Look carefully because it is a side view and the same color as the roots. It stands erect like the headstone, only much smaller. This stone marks the foot of the grave and is appropriately called the footstone. Only the name of deceased is engraved upon it.

Finding Captain Jeremiah Stiles.

We began our journey on an October morning.
Liquid gold filled the sky below us as we departed Portland.


Departure PDX. Sunrise.


We flew 3,300 air miles,
and landed in Boston beneath a sky of more liquid gold.


Arrival BOS. Sunset.


On the first day, we drove to Keene, NH.


Center of Town Square, Keene, NH


In Keene, we found the Washington Cemetery dated 1795.
The skies were heavy with rain and an early winter chill was in the air.
Leaves like golden nuggets covered the ground.


1795 – Washington Cemetery – Prison Street Yard


Entering the Washington Cemetery in Keene, NH. This is where Captain Jeremiah Stiles and his wife are buried.


Captain Jeremiah Stiles and wife, Mary Sanger Stiles. The American flag marks his grave as a Revolutionary War veteran. Captain Stiles fought at Bunker Hill.


After visiting the cemetery, we went to the local library to find old history books and more information about Captain Stiles. We were also looking for more information about Aquila Ramsdell, another ancestor who served in the Revolutionary War and also had lived in this area. (I will write more about finding Aquila Ramsdell in my next slice.)


Staircase in Keene Library, a beautiful old building. We spent about an hour pouring over some old history books, histories of the families that settled Keene and Swanzey, NH.


Page from  History of Keene , a book we found in the library in Keene, NH.


Captain Jeremiah Stiles is the father of Jeremiah Stiles, Jr.
Jeremiah Stiles, Jr. is the grandfather of Lydia Stiles Taft, daughter of Charles Stiles.
Lydia Stiles Taft is the mother of Frank Stiles Taft, my husband’s maternal grandfather.
There are seven generations from Captain Stiles to my husband, from the Revolutionary War to today.

Lydia Foster Stiles Taft, born in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1839, homesteaded in the 1880s with her family in No Man’s Land — the land we know today as the Oklahoma Panhandle. She died in 1915 and is buried in Madison Cemetery, a small cemetery at the edge of a field that my husband plowed when he was a teenager, a peaceful place with unbroken horizons where five generations of my husband’s kinfolk rest.


Windmill at Sunset. Oklahoma Panhandle. Another sky of liquid gold.