Madame Sherri’s Forest

Madame Sherri's Forest
It was a beautiful, absolutely temperate, day so I took Lil to Madame Sherri’s Forest in Chesterfield, NH. I’ve been in love with this place ever since my friend Nick took me there back in high school. It’s a burned out shell of a building, overgrown with all the flora that New England has to offer, and embellished with beer bottles and empty packs of cigarettes. But, there is something inherently romantic there. Perhaps it is the legend of the Madame herself which lends the air of mystery to the ruins. A costume designer for the Zigfield Follies, she brought class and glamour to the back woods of New Hampshire, a feat worth mentioning.

Madame Sherri's ForestAlthough Madame Sherri is a fascinating character, it is not her presence that brings me back again and again. It is as if I’m eight years old, and the wonder with which I saw “castles” as a child comes back to me instantly the second I see the first stone of the tower peeking through the trees. Having spent time living in England and having seen REAL castles, I assure you that Madame Sherri’s construction, although impressive, is certainly no royal abode. Still, when I sit on the steps there, I feel like one of Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite beauties, entering a world of mysticism and magic. I know all of this sounds sappy, but if we can’t escape from reality now and again, what good is our imagination? I’ve always been a daydreamer, and it’s not at all difficult for me to lose myself in any given situation – to tune out the world. Oddly enough, I’m no good at meditation, but that’s because it requires an empty mind, and mine is always full, though not necessarily with the things it should be.

Madame Sherri's ForestI can’t tell if Lillia enjoyed our walk or not. I think she was a bit frightened of the castle, not so much because of its state of disrepair, but because the entrances and exits were not clearly defined. I think she felt trapped, despite the lack of walls or ceilings to hold her. However, unlike myself, she seemed perfectly content to climb the side staircase, and would have gone to the top had I not stopped her. There was no way I was going to the top, and I couldn’t let her go that high by herself. I don’t remember being afraid of heights as a child but, then again, I was hardly aware of my own mortality at that age (now the knowledge is acute). Perhaps life is the same no matter what your age: a mixture of wonder and fear at every turn.

See more photos from Madame Sherri’s here.

Ye Olde Cheshire Fair

Cheshire Fair, 2007
Last weekend Damian and I took Lillia to the Cheshire Fair. Having lived in this area for most of our lives, we appreciate both the wonders and horrors of a day at the fair. We’ve seen the fair evolve over the years; not only has the fair changed but our perception of it, over the course of our lives, has changed. It is an experience unlike any other, which I write with a touch of nostalgia, and a touch of disgust.

Cheshire Fair, 2007I have to assume the “county fair”, as an idea, was designed primarily as an agricultural event. My mother grew up on a farm in northern NH, so she spent a lot of time at county fairs with her siblings, showing cows and horses. I have a lot of respect for that way of life.

Still, I feel like an awkward alien as I stroll down the rows of heifers, acutely aware that being only one generation removed from the scene does not make me a part of it. As a child I thrilled at the idea of a day in the barn, oohing and aahing over baby pigs, or puppies, or whatever happened to have been born recently. But, I was never quite comfortable on the farm. And, even though my mother spent the first eighteen years of her life living there, I find very little of the farm in her today. My daughter, on the other hand, who is even further removed from an agricultural upbringing, is never more content than when she is wallowing next to a cow, or a pig, or a sheep (don’t even get me started on horses). But, she’s a 12th Generation New Hampshire-ite. There’s no one more genetically predestined to enjoy farm life than Lillia.

Cheshire Fair, 2007If you can see through a certain degree of filth, you will find the sparkle underneath at the fair. This is especially true if you are a three year old who is finally tall enough to go on rides by yourself – hooray for being 42 inches tall! Where else can you view local livestock, get sick on The Scrambler, clog your arteries with fried dough, and get a third degree sunburn, all in the course of a few hours? In all seriousness, going to the fair is not only a summer tradition, it is an integral part of life in New Hampshire.

You can see all of the pictures from our day here.