It may not have been the “church in the wildwood” like the song that I learned as a child, but the Sanford church was very important to me as I grew up.

The church sat at the foot of the hill a quarter of a mile from the corner of NY41 and the North Sanford road. It was built in 1859 on land donated by Pinny family, the owner of the farm at the top of the hill with the proviso that it would revert to the farm if the church stopped using it. The church’s white clapboard siding had not seen a coat of paint for many years, but with its tall steeple is was a landmark for many people. A short bluestone walk led from the road to the six-foot square, six-inch thick piece of bluestone that served as a porch.

Stepping inside through the door was a small foyer with a narrow storeroom on either side. In the left room were coal and wood, a shovel, broom, dustpan, and mop. In the right closet were boxes of dilapidated costumes for the annual Christmas pageant: old bathrobes for shepherds, lopsided crowns for kings, and assorted cloths for draping various characters. A special box held a Santa suit.

Inside the sanctuary, the windows were opened by the first arrivals during the summer. The door was propped open for air circulation. After being closed up all week, the air was stultifying and muggy.

When winter came, the double doors were closed to prevent any heat from escaping. The original black cast iron potbelly stoves, one in the right front and one in the left of the sanctuary were replaced by newly installed modern ones that provided more heat, but everyone still sat close to them on a cold day. A church member went down to the church early Sunday morning to start the fires. He had to milk cows, so early could be somewhat delayed.

I loved sitting in the painted brown and white pews. The congregation was always small. I never remember more than twenty or twenty-five people in attendance except for special events like the annual Christmas program. As I sat beside my mother I studied the six stained-glass windows, each dedicated to a long-deceased member. The sun’s rays on them let colors bounce off the windows like a kaleidoscope onto the tan Homasote walls. The white tin ceiling entertained me as I counted the decorated blocks and tried to multiply the numbers in my head.

Mrs. Mallory was our organist-pianist. To keep ones’ feet pumping the organ while reading the music to play required a lot of energy. It was not easy. When a mouse or some rodent chewed one of the pedal straps, the organ became useless except to entertain us kids after church. Mrs. Mallory moved to the piano.

When Miss Ruth Underwood was our pastor, we had a small orchestra that played for the service for special occasions. Joan, her grandfather, and I were the violinists. All together there were seven or eight members of the orchestra. The drummer was Alvin. I think Mr. Mallory was also a member, but I don’t remember what he played. Mrs. Mallory led us on the piano. I cannot swear to the quality of the music, but we thought we sounded good.

By the time Joan and I were in high school, we’d become somewhat accomplished pianists to play for services and give Mrs. Mallory a break. We prepared a prelude and offertory, but we almost never knew what hymns the minister had chosen until time for the service. This could create complications.

While I was playing the prelude, Rev. Dodd came down the aisle and lay a small scrap of paper with three numbers on the piano. When he announced the first hymn, I opened my hymnal at the same time as everyone else. It was the custom for the pianist to play the hymn once before the congregation sang. If it was a hymn I knew, I breathed a sign of relief. Occasionally, the hymn was one that I didn’t know. Depending on its difficulty, I got enough practice after introductory time through to play it properly. But sometimes I required more practice and it would be the third or fourth verse before I reached proficiency. Occasionally, I forgot to check the key and might start playing in the key of D, when should have been D-flat or vice versa. Changing the key didn’t always go smoothly.

Rev. Dodd loved the gospel hymns and sang in a loud voice, a little off key and a little out of rhythm. It was a major challenge to play against his rhythm. I could get a jump on the other hymns by studying them during scriptures and prayers. I could imagine what my fingers would do. During the sermon, I would practice the final hymn by fingering it on my lap.

Our church was a three-church charge. North Sanford and Sanford churches took turns for the times for service. The McClure church, largest of the three, refused to change its service from eleven-thirty. We, in Sanford could have service at nine o’clock or ten-fifteen; other times, especially in the summer one church might choose an evening service at seven-thirty or eight o’clock.

Regardless of the time of service, my family rarely missed church. If Dad, a farmer couldn’t make it, he would drive Mom and me to church and pick us up afterward. For me, the Sanford church was a special place.


It has been two or three years since I last wrote in “lake afton.” I became busy with writing and studying. Then came COVID to disrupt all the things I considered necessary. I moved into a new residence which I share with my daughter and her wife, so I have fewer responsibilities, which one would think would inspire me to write more, but instead I’ve slowed to a near standstill. There are projects at my elbow that I don’t do.

Today, I looked at Word Press and thought perhaps it will help me find inspiration. The world is now in an uproar. Most of the people I know, have no concept what a World War would be like. I had been five when the Nazis invaded Poland, but that was far away and didn’t affect us in the United States. Then came Pearl Harbor. Even at age seven it upended our country and the way we saw the world. A close friend said she stood in the window of the living room all day waiting for the Japanese to come marching up road to their farm.

A young man from our neighborhood went to war. As a belly gunner, his plane was shot down and he didn’t come home. My cousin, who always teased me and who I adored, spent months in the South Pacific. We celebrated his return to the family.

World War II was visible only in the theaters as filmed short clips which were weeks if not months old when we saw them on the screen. Gas prices weren’t the major concern, instead people worried if they would have enough government issued coupons to buy gas to get to work. My aunt, my cousin’s mother, worked in a munitions factory and got there with a group from her village.

The price of groceries was not the major concern. It was would the store have the basics needed and would you have the coupons to get them. Everything was rationed: sugar, butter, meat, along with shoes, fabric, and clothing.

These are some of the thoughts that float through my mind as I watch the Putin trying to subdue the Ukrainians. We have nothing to complain about as long as the bombs don’t strike our homes.

The Virus and Forsythia

How life has changed in the year since abandoned Word Press. It is past time for me to revive “lake afton.” With some new material.

Undoubtedly you too are working at home or just staying home as the coronavirus-19 is devastating the world. It knows no boundaries, geographical or generational. I’m sure you’ve known someone or of someone who has been affected, particularly if they live in an area where the virus has attacked like it has in New York City. Since I live just an hour north of the city, people here are very watchful.

Probably people living in geographical areas that have not been hit are wondering what the fuss is all about even as they read the statistics of cases and deaths. I know one young woman who says, “I’m not sick. I’m going to do what I want.” She may escape it or not.

There are good things happening at the same time. Parents are spending much more time with their school age children who are not in school. For me, I have been spending hours on Zoom each day helping my ten-year-old grandson with his schoolwork. We meet each morning for two to three hours. We read the assignments and the questions together. He gets to ask the meaning of words he may not know. Although he has rich vocabulary, he may not recognize the words in print until we pronounce them together.

The forsythia has been a bonus here this spring. It began to blossom about a month ago. Every sprig on every bush is full of yellow blooms. The weather has remained rather cool and the forsythia is only now beginning to drop the blossoms and sprout leaves. When driving around the area, yellow hedges and random bushes glow. I even saw where someone apparently had thrown unwanted bushes in the woods and they had taken root. Forsythia has been a joy to see in the gloom of the virus.
Praise God for sending beauty, which we might have missed in “normal” times. All we have to do is look for it.


This is a memory of a day in mid-summer when my cousin and I were in our teens. I grew up on a dairy farm. Every year my dad put about a hundred tons of hay in the barn. Getting it while it was dry was essential.
“Those clouds look like rain,” Daddy said. “Wish I could the last load of hay in the barn, but I’ve got to get the cows.” He sat drinking the coffee Mama had sent to him.

My cousin, Norma and I stood by the wagon. Chum, our dog, stood on the wagon waiting.
“Can Norma and I go get the cows?”

Daddy looked across our small valley. “They’re over in the woods. I don’t want you lost.”

“We could take Chum,” I said.

“True. Chum will keep track of you.”

“Can we, Uncle Miles?

“Yeah. Go tell your mother. Don’t get lost!”

“We won’t,” I yelled as we ran to give Mama the news.

“That would be a big help to Daddy. Take Chum and don’t get lost,” she said.

Norma and I ran through the barn, past the big red and white bull in his stanchion, past my pony in her stall, past the calves in their pens, and out the back door. Chum knew his job. He was beside us when we stopped at the top of the knoll and looked over to the opposite hill. No cows were in sight. They’d stayed out of the heat in the shelter of the woods.

Hand in hand, we walked down the hill to the bridge across the creek. Chum ran through the creek and stopped midway across it to lap up a drink. Now he trotted across the flat pasture to the other hill.

We stopped to lean over the bridge railing. No fish in sight. “Too hot,” Norma said.

I agreed. “They’re under the rocks. Chum’s going up the hill. We’d better hurry.” We stepped carefully across the swampy area trying not to get our feet wet. Then, we ran up the side of the hill. Out of breath we stopped halfway up the slope.

The first cows were already coming out of the lane. By the time we got to the opening in the woods, most of the cows were heading toward the barn. We plopped down on a large rock to rest.

“Where’s Chum?” Norma asked. “He always followed the last cow.”

We looked over the valley below us. “He’s probably checking a woodchuck hole,” I said.

Woof, woof, woof!

“Chum never barks unless something is wrong,” I said. “We have to find him. I hope he’s not hurt.”

We followed the sound into the woods. In a small green space between the trees, we saw the cow. She wouldn’t move for Chum. When he tried to nip her heels, she kicked at him and swung her head at him.

Norma poked my ribs. “She has a baby.”

There at the cow’s udder, a brand new calf stood on wobbly legs sucking down its first meal.

“What are we going to do?” Norma asked.

“Daddy says the mother will go anywhere the calf is. All we have to do is get the calf out of the woods and down the hill.”



Again Chum tried to bite the cow’s heels. The mama went after Chum, leaving the calf alone.

“Maybe we can carry the calf,” Norma said. I put my arms around the back of the baby. Norma wrapped hers behind the front legs. We tried to lift. I fell backwards.

“Let’s try pushing instead.”

Mama cow kept trying to get between us and the baby. But with Chum’s help we managed to shove the baby a few feet toward the lane and the open hillside. We let go to get our breath.


The newborn moved lightening. It was nearly back to where we started before we caught it. We’d learned a lesson. Don’t let go of the calf. It seemed to take forever to get the calf into the open lane. “Uncle Miles will think we’re lost.”

We laughed. “Chum knows where we are.” Maybe it would be easier to get the calf to move down the lane.

The three of us, Chum, Norma and I finally had the baby calf out in the open. Mama cow, too. Each time she turned toward the woods, Chum threatened to nip her heels. He wouldn’t let her go back to call her baby. We continued to push and shove.

Then we heard it—the doodlebug. We saw it with the wagon. Help was on the way.
“You found a surprise. I didn’t think she’d have her baby until next week.” Dad said when he stopped. We told him our story.

“I got back with the hay. The cows were all in the barnyard but there was no sign of you girls or Chum. Just as I started to come look for you, I spotted you pushing this baby out of the lane. I thought I’d help you out.”

“The calf is awful heavy,” I said.

“Stubborn too,” Norma said.

A dark cloud appeared over the hill. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Let’s go home,” Daddy picked up the baby calf and laid it on the wagon. Chum jumped onto it while Norma and I were happy to climb into our seat for a ride to the barn.
Mama cow trotted along behind. She was not leaving her baby.

This girl calf that my mother named Lady grew up to be one of the best milkers in the barn. My mother took her milk for our family’s use and to make butter. The milk we couldn’t use went with the rest of the day’s milk to the creamery.



My late husband, the Rev. Richard E, Lake, wrote this poem twelve years ago. The nation was not seeing what he was seeing.

Flags of our nation begin to sag,
Pride has diminished with the breeze;
Claims of our past now whimper and fade,
As news makes our chest simply squeeze.

To salute and pray as the banner sails by
Is empty and painful and sad
Remembering old claims we held as truth
Now makes our future look bad.

Hoping for truth yet discovering none,
We turn on others in anger,
Even allowing our ourselves to fool ourselves
and become part of the danger.

We seek a new way, a human way
To strive for peace with dignity,
And give to our kids a saner tomorrow
One with hope based on civility.

Richard E. Lake

Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007



On Mothers’ Day I think of all the practical things my mother taught me from baking a pie to sewing a dress, and practicing piano and violin after I chose to learn these instruments. She taught me to follow through whatever I started.

On Fathers’ Day I am thankful that my dad never said to me, “You can’t do that, you’re a girl.” He might say I don’t think you’re tall enough or strong enough, but he’d let me give it a try. I cannot count the number of cows I tried to milk by hand – we lived on a dairy farm. I was never truly successful. My hands weren’t strong enough. Over the years I got better, but after I quit, Dad would sit down and finish my job in three or four minutes. He seldom criticized anything I did, but once in a while, he said firmly, “Stop.” I did.

Dad taught me to drive a standard shift on an old cut down car we used like a tractor. I think I was just tall enough to see through the steering wheel and reach the pedals at the same time. I was probably 13 or 14 years old. When he thought I was capable I remember driving to a field to get a piece of equipment he needed for the next day. I remember the day, when I was 16 or 17, he let me take our big Buick to the church, about a mile down a county road. Mom didn’t approve, pointing out that I didn’t have a license. Dad said, “She’ll be fine.”

Now I watch my son as Dad to my two grandsons. I am proud of him. He, too, lets them, encourages them to try new things. He and their mother give the boys lots of leeway to do their thing, but when Dad says they need to stop, or change what they are doing, he uses a voice that doesn’t allow them to ignore him. The boys are growing to be thoughtful human beings that are a joy to have around.



I think my son learned a lot from my Dad and Mom about love and building character with firmness and gentleness.





IMAG0149The past two or three weeks I have been making a trip down memory lane. In the 1960s, ‘70s, and even ‘80s, I had taken hundreds of pictures of our family vacations and special days. All those pictures were on slides, but I had no slide projector on which to view them. My daughter loaned me her machine to digitalize them.

What did I find?—a few hundred lovely landscapes which I couldn’t identify. I tossed them in a paper bag to be thrown away.

There were slides of the first Christmas my husband and I spent together after we met. I had made us matching shirts as a gift. In the photos, I could see we were both in love, although I’d probably have denied it if asked at the time. There were pictures of our mobile home in Interlaken, New York, where we lived while he attended Cornell and I taught in the elementary school; Richard’s graduation from college while I was in maternity clothes; our home in New Brunswick, New Jersey where he studied to become a minister and another graduation. Throughout those years were many pictures of our young son’s birthdays, our first church with him as the pastor, and our daughter who came on the scene as a toddler, and more pictures with her adoring brother.

Now the slides are digital and available. I must say that it is hard to believe I actually looked like those slides. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That is true for my memory!


I wrote about homeless and refugees a few months ago. Their plight reminds me daily how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and family who care for me.

Verses from the Gospel of Matthew (25:35+) continue to haunt me: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ He will answer: “When you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

We must not leave it to our government to care for the individuals in our country, or those in other countries with which we should share. As the gospel indicates, it is up to each of us to care for those we meet, see, friend or stranger. For a stranger perhaps the person needs nothing more than a smile and a kind hello—just recognition that he or she is an individual, a presence, and not an anonymous  unseen ghost.

Each one of us can do something to make another’s life a tiny bit more pleasant for the day. It never hurts to smile. The exercise relaxes your face! These daffodils smile and put a smile on my face too.1-IMG_3152b

Spring is on the way!

I’m feeling righteous because I spent an hour removing all the dead plants from my garden to reveal the daffodils, day lilies and I’m not exactly sure what else is growing..

I’m feeling righteous because I spent an hour removing all the dead plants from my garden to reveal the daffodils, day lilies and I’m not exactly sure what else is growing out there.

We have been waiting for weeks wishing for the snow to disappear. It is gone now, but the weather persons said we may get another dose of white later this week.

Actually, I think it was Tuesday was the perfect day to work outside. It was sunny and spring warm.  Today I was determined, so even though it was just 40 and the wind was blowing in spurts, I persevered.

God gives us Spring each year. I revel in the new green of all shades that magically appear from the earth.

Now a poem:




May this arc of the orb

bring passion, brightness,

stunning Aa ha as you

rediscover another star

in your orbit.


May your thermometer sprout

new hopes and wishes,

re-bloom your fantasies,

restore technicolor eyes,

as you absorb your world’s population.


Richard E. Lake

14 March 2012

We have been waiting for weeks wishing for the snow to disappear. It is gone now, but the weather persons said we may get another dose of white later this week.

Actually, I think it was Tuesday was the perfect day to work outside. It was sunny and spring warm.  Today I was determined, so even though it was just 40 and the wind was blowing in spurts, I persevered.

God gives us Spring each year. I revel in the new green of all shades that magically appear from the earth.

Now a poem:




May this arc of the orb

bring passion, brightness,

stunning Aa ha=s@ as you

rediscover another star

in your orbit.


May your thermometer sprout

new hopes and wishes,

re-bloom your fantasies,

restore technicolor eyes,

as you absorb your world=s population.


Richard E. Lake

14 March 2012