Volume II, No. 3, Spring 1975

Natural Union

by Patti Jones Photography by Nelle Franklin (unless otherwise labeled)

A cold pink color filled my cheeks as I faced the wind by tall lonely water mills grown old by time and weather. The somber color of the paint-peeled boards and worn wood reminded me of smoke with gray blending into a tawny brown and fizzling into a single color of no description.

A fresh smell of spring dew scented the air as I felt the softness of the growth beneath my feet. Insects sounded in the back of my mind, while the sound I held in the forefront was that of lonely whistling in the bare branches of the trees by the mill.

Small flowers with blue and violet petals were sprinkled over the ground to the edge of the stream of rushing water. The sound of the water slipping over stones at the foot of the building harmonized with the sounds of the insects and wind. The power of the stream slowly turned a water wheel, mingling the noise of the machinery inside the mill with the outside sounds in a natural union.

Water splashing against the edges of the mills was like the song inside a seashell, hushing and constant. Gurgling water rushed to the water wheel and flowed evenly as the huge wooden wheel circled round to furnish power once necessary for man's needs. Some mills are still functioning, yet a sadness filled me in knowing they are no longer a part of people's lives. I looked into the water and a silence returned with the noise of the grist mill becoming a whisper behind my quiet thoughts. The constant sound of the machinery grinding grain into flour beat a definite rhythm as that of a clock measuring time. Comparing this rhythm to that of the whistling in the trees, I heard the same lonely song running through the mill.

The early light left dark shadows upon the doorway and sides of the buildings no longer needed, causing a momentary emptiness and chill to run through me. I crossed the water to look back at the tall mill, bathed in spring sunshine and realized it belonged there as naturally as the trees and river. Man's industry does not always destroy. Then the brightening sky knew a certain stillness and all was blue.

Every mill I visited has a personality of its own. Some are surrounded by large families of trees almost hiding the dirt paths along the water's edge. Some are built on solid concrete foundations clinging to river banks. Others are supported high above the water by stone and wooden pillars. Some still have picturesque remnants of the businesses and special attractions that flourished by the mills--general stores, post offices and barbershops. I found a place to park wagons and a log bridge across the spring branch leading to a place to relax while waiting for the corn to be ground into meal. A few of these mills are somewhat renovated for tourists now and once again hear the sounds of people, but most still stand naturally by the out-of-the-way waterways, peacefully listening to the music of the surrounding scene they have enhanced by their presence.

As spring turned into summer, I walked along the streams by the mills and saw new angles and perspectives as I viewed the happy harmony of man's ingenuity and nature's power in a time now gone.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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