Thursday, December 11, 2008

A letter to Marion Stoddard

Dear Ms. Stoddard,

This is an "open letter" that I posted on my blog and intend to send to you. I hope you don't mind my making my personal letter to you public, but I hope after you read through it, you'll understand and excuse me.
You don't know me, but I used to live in Groton on Hayden Road about 20 years ago. I joined the NRWA after attending a lecture on the life of indigenous turtles. I was drawn to the lecture because I had observed Box Turtles and Painted Turtles crossing my yard to get to the swamp across the street.
I believe I bought a couple of books on turtles after the lecture and also joined NRWA.
There was construction going on at the end of Hayden Road and the construction crews killed many of the turtles in the road. Someone in the neighborhood put up Turtle X-ing signs, but I don't think it helped much.
When I actually caught a turtle in the process of crossing the road, I would stop my car and guard its passage.
This ridiculous behavior gave me plenty of time to think. Mostly what I would think about was that, based on their size, some of these turtles were probably about the same age as I was at the time. I'd also wonder if the turtle survived crossing in one direction, would it make it going the other way?
These turtles had been crossing that same ground for as many years as I'd been on the Earth. They had survived the change from a few cottages and farmland to the first couple of housing developments. Now, they were being decimated because they couldn't change their paths or their habits.
I wonder if any of the turtles I saw cross the road are still alive?
After joining the NRWA, I learned about what you did to bring the Nashua River back to life. The legend at the time was that in mid-life, you looked for a cause, a purpose to your life, and decided that you would bring the Nashua River back to life. What an inspiration!
I have often thought of that lesson. I'm still looking for my legacy cause and hope I will find the strength and passion to serve it well. I've had causes, but not the legacy one yet.
I still consider myself mid-life, though I'm 59 years old. To be completely honest, I feel bewildered by the expectation of people in my industry that I'm close to retirement. I started a graduate program in computer science at Fitchburg State when I was 53. I did it to maintain relevance in my field. It hasn't helped my career very much but I really enjoyed it. Now, if I could just finish my thesis...
I'm struggling with who I am now. Am I more or less? Am I like the turtle who just HAS to keep crossing the road; threatened with being mowed down by forces never encountered before?
I have always written as a form of therapy, but it has usually been informal with no particular topic as the focus. When I moved to Rindge, NH in 1999, I joined the Monadnock Writers Group. I confess that I am mostly a "writer groupie," but lately I've been doing a lot of writing. Probably a reflection of how disturbed I am with my situation.
I started blogging partly as a way of exploring writing and partly to prove to myself that I can still be "relevant." So far, I think only my daughter actually reads my posts, but I'm enjoying the process thoroughly.
In the process of writing and feeling a bit discouraged by a futile search for a better job, I thought of you. Or should I say, I thought of you as the legend I'd heard about.
I decided that I would research and write about women who took up a cause or realized a major accomplishment beginning later in life. I figure I might learn something that will make me feel more hopeful and just going through the exercise will be inspiring. I plan to write about you and Doris Haddock to start.
When I actually started doing online research, I realized that you were far from being middle-aged when you started. I estimate that you could only be 35 years old. So, it's not exactly the story I expected; an empty nest, a search for a cause and fulfillment.
But, as I thought about it, the story seemed even more wonderful. It seems, from what I read, that the cause found you. The time wasn't convenient; you had young children. You and your family made sacrifices for the Nashua River.
Then, I had all these questions. Did you THINK you were middle-aged at 35? Is that how the legend started? Who was Marion Stoddard before she moved to Groton? Were you interested in the environment as a young person growing up?
I hope it's not an imposition to ask these questions? You may reply either by email or by calling me. If you prefer, you can post a comment to my blog at:
Thank you so much in advance for any consideration you may give my request.
Pat Martin

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