I believe I have watched Alone in the Wilderness about a billion times. It's the story of naturalist Richard Proenneke who spent the 1967-1968 summers constructing his own log cabin in Twin Lakes Alaska. He felled, peeled and split the wood from the area, used and repaired his own hand tools and lived there for thirty years without running water or electricity. Incredibly, he filmed the entire construction process of his cabin and the months proceeding into the next spring. His cabin and outbuildings are registered as national landmarks. If you get a chance I highly recommend watching this gem of a documentary. It's Grizzly Adams meets Norm Abram meets Thoreau. I am impressed by his survival skills. He definitely was an experienced hunter and trapper. I'm floored by his ingenuity. His cabin and outbuildings have some very clever after thoughts. Most of all I'm in awe of such a person who decides to leave the comforts and familiarity of modern society, follow his own path and carve out a life on his own terms. So when my best friend mentioned Cantebury Shaker Village, in a passing conversation, later suggesting I go and photograph, something resonated in me. The parallels between the two were so similar and yet so different but definitely worth a days investigation
I really wish that there was at least a couple of members of the Shakers left for me to talk to at the Cantebury Shaker Village in Cantebury New Hampshire. Unfortunately Ethel Hudson, the last sister, passed away in 1992. Sabathday Lake, in Glouscester Maine, is the last active community with only three members. There were nineteen communities across the United States during their peak. Shakers were a product of the Protestant Revolution that swept Europe in the sixteenth century. They were influenced by the French Calvinists The Crimisards (whose last surviving members fled to England) and the Quakers. Both Groups embraced the spirit of God and It was common for them to shake and quake during religious practice, hence the reference to the Quakers as shaking Quakers. Eventually the shaking part of the Quakers branched off, settled in America to avoid religious persecution and became the most successful communal society in United States History. The Shakers are quite different from their Quaker cousins. Shakers do not believe in procreation and take a vow of celibacy. Any person can join who believes in the way of life, renounce their family and are free of debt. Orphans, at one time, were taken in and by the age of eighteen given a choice to stay or leave. Shakers became societies rebels embracing gender equality, pacifism and anti-slavery. They wore simple dress, spoke plainly and worked hard. They were successful entrepreneurs and reinvested profits back into the society. They invented over one hundred labor saving devices which include the clothes pin and the circular saw, all without patents. Lastly, they simply believed that God's light was within everyone so no need for priest, bible or church. A beautiful and simple concept which seems to be reflected in the beauty of the village in which they lived.
I started mid afternoon on the Friday before Bike weekend. The traffic on 93 N wasn't that bad as I drove through Concord. I took exit 15E to 393E off on exit 3 and a left onto route 106. As I took the left on Shaker Road I was trying to get an idea of what I might want to photograph. When I got to the sign welcoming me, Grandma Moses came to mind. Rich Green hills, vegetable gardens, trees and mountains in the distance. A heavenly sight, as the village started to take shape. I followed the signs to the parking area, there were cows in the pasture down below. I entered the admissions area and was greeted by a wonderful woman who enthusiastically gave me a brief history, a village map and pointed out highlights for me to see. The Village does offer guided tours or you can self tour, I chose the later. You can also use your receipt for admission the next day.
It was sunny, it was breezy and there were three other people in the whole village. Perfect! I passed the Dwelling house (living quarters for the men), the Bee house and the Carpenters house. The Dry house, which is connected to the laundry room, had a steam drying system which allowed clothes to be dried efficiently on racks indoors. The Garden barn had some interesting items and was used to dry herbs and flowers. I continued walking the path down by the Turning Mill Pond then up past the East house( the dwelling house for girls). I toured the Ministry shop where the village elders lived. I marveled at the simple comforts and serene views from every window. Next door was the Meeting House, a place to worship. In between, in a field, a small structure (possibly a shed) stood alone between two trees. It's the image I photographed above. I felt this captured the true essence of the Shakers and their love of simplistic beauty, which surrounding me at every step. One Last note. if you get a chance head on over to You Tube. The University of Utah Singers have an amazing rendition of the Shaker Hymn Not One Sparrow is Forgotten. It is now permanently in my favorites on my already archaic iPod.