by Stephanie Minteer
They were thick fingered, covered in wrinkled, brown skin,
ending in stubby nails often broken or dirty.
They were nut brown in summer, light tan in winter.
They worked in the garden—digging, hoeing, weeding.
They worked in the kitchen, turning fresh produce into simple
delicious food, kneading bread, stirring soup.
They picked blueberries, dandelion greens, plantain.
They knitted mittens and sewed baby clothes, darned socks.
They braided and brushed, combed, cut, and curled
the hair of a generation.
They birthed babies and comforted the sick.
They wrung the necks of chickens, then cleaned them for supper.
They loved husbands-turned-miners,
red dirt ground into their skin, payday beer on their breath.
They clasped themselves together daily in prayer.
They slapped the bottoms of unruly children.
They hung clothes on the line summer and winter,
then hauled them in sun-dried or frozen stiff.
They folded, ironed, patted, and smoothed.
They scrubbed linoleum until it gleamed, whitewashed walls,
They swept kitchens and front stoops,
swept and swept ’til all the dust and dirt was outside for a while.
They were utensils for eating.
They held a delicate wine glass once.
They used a butcher’s knife to hack salt pork off the side
that hung in the cold pantry.
They are 100 years old, arthritic, swollen, misshapen.
Painfully still useful.
Stephanie Minteer was born and raised in the frozen Northland of Minnesota. She was hired right out of university to teach in a New Hampshire “supervisory union” for a year and returned in the mid-seventies for good. She has been a ski racer, a paraoptometric assistant, a children’s librarian, and Spanish teacher. Winter sports, hiking, kayaking, travel and reading are her favorite pastimes.
Vivienne Strauss and her husband, Matte Stephens, ended up in Peterborough, New Hampshire in the spring of 2011 after years of looking for a permanent place to reside. Both work as self-employed artists and taking vacations is rarely an option, so it seemed best to reside in a place that feels like a vacation spot. Vivienne has lived in many parts of the United States but New Hampshire has been the peak location for direct interaction with wildlife. Feeding birds in the backyard brings many other visitors including deer, turkeys, bobcats, and coyotes. A self-taught painter, Vivienne works predominately in oils, watercolors and collage. Much of her work is inspired by and includes animals. You can view some of her work on Etsy.