Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tom & Atticus Move to Jackson, New Hampshire

A baby snake; a small mouse; the gutted remains of a bird – these are the gifts left for me over the past few days here in the house in North Conway. Mineu and Stella, skilled hunters both, take pride in depositing their bounty in the house. Finding creatures, both alive and vivisected, in hiding spots around here makes me wonder just what I haven’t found.

For his part, Atticus does well with the two cats and he and Dawa, the dog we are watching while house sitting, get along just fine. (They get along even better on the trails when we bring Dawa for a hike. That doesn’t always happen, however, as Dawa is 11 years old and gets worn down from time to time.)

Yesterday morning, while hiking Peaked Mountain, it was just Atticus and me and we both appreciated it. That’s the way it will be starting on Thursday night when we move into the house we are renting in Jackson. Once there we will get acquainted to the place, make it into our home, set up a writing place and begin discovering the nooks and crannies of Jackson as we have here in North Conway.

Jackson is only a ten minute ride up Route 16 so it is close enough to all the amenities I’ve grown to appreciate in North Conway after a year in Lincoln and seven months in Tamworth. But at the same time, even though we’ll be living right on Rt. 16, we’ll be off the more beaten path.

The Jackson place is great: three bedrooms, two fireplaces, a combination kitchen and living room space. It is furnished so the only thing we’ll need to bring is my writing and hiking possessions and groceries. The place already has wireless Internet and I’ll take over one of the bedrooms and turn it into my writing room.

As for those of you who just read that and said, “Ooh, a guest bedroom,” think again. I am, as my Newburyport brethren will attest to, a bit of a recluse when in my home. I am social, to an extent, and always at my own terms and love to get to know the people in a community, but I like my privacy. My goal in Jackson will be to write more than I ever have and friends understand that and appreciate it. As for my siblings? I don’t have to worry about them as they are mostly agoraphobic and as distant from each other and me as though we were strangers who once grew up together.

I take some comfort in knowing that Jackson is not convenient to most people I know and it is fitting that the trailhead for the Rocky Branch Trail is only five minutes from the house. Fitting, because it leads to Mount Isolation, one of my favorite 4,000-footers, and I long for the pleasures of being isolated again.

The house sits just ten minutes south of the heart of Pinkham Notch and 25 minutes from Crawford Notch in the opposite direction. With Bear Notch Road open now, access to the Kancamagus Highway is quick and easy, too.

There’s a television at the house but no reception (it’s used for DVD’s). That’s not problem since other than the year I lived in Lincoln I haven’t watched television for about a decade. I won’t be missing much there. So long as I can follow the Red Sox on the Internet and the radio I’ll be fine.

I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to settling into a place and having a home again where we can stretch out and feel comfortable. It will be great for Atticus, I’m sure, as he was not ready to live with Geneva (our friend’s Christine dog) for as long as we did in Tamworth, or with the cats and Dawa here for the past month. For him it will be back to business as usual – just the two of us for a while. Having our own place will allow much more focus to the most important things in our lives right now: hiking and writing.

Over the next couple of days I’ll be dropping a few things over at the house and getting ready to move in. I’m just hoping the Mineu and Stella don’t chip in a get me a surprise housewarming gift. I really have no need for baby snakes or rodents – dead or alive.

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