My friend Tom and I go out to breakfast a few times a week. We discuss what we are writing and working on and share ideas. There are several local spots we frequent but my favorite is Coll’s Farm in Jaffrey, NH. Today I chose Coll’s because I needed some local honey and theirs is self-serve and the the best price. As we walked into the warm little cafe-area of store, I was disappointed to note a couple sitting up on the tall stools that face an expansive window. This is my preferred seat as the window frames the farm land across Route 202, dotted with barns and homes with the occasional glimpse of the cows who roam the hillside.
We ordered our breakfast, blueberry pancakes with a side of bacon, got our coffees and went back to the seating area. The gentleman at the window seat, Archie, greeted us. “I have to introduce you to my wife. Helen, this is the guy who is always trying to fix me up with the ladies!” he joked. Tom introduced me and casually mentioned we were working on a book. “Helen wrote a book. She’s working on another one too.”
Archie and Helen Coll, the owners of the farm for the past 50 years were just settling down to their breakfast of pancakes while looking out over their kingdom.
I asked Helen who had published her book and a wonderful conversation about writing ensued. Archie retrieved a copy of Helen’s book from the other side of the store. She began to tell me the impetus for the book – to chronicle her life and that of her family as farmers, while gently imparting awareness of the value of agriculture, both locally in New Hampshire and in American life. Her message is strong; at times funny, poignant and so real it transcends time and place. She went back to school, realizing her dream of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in writing, and graduated just shy of her 60th birthday from Lesley University. Coincidentally, I had taken courses in business at Lesley. She told me she had interviewed the author Ronald Jager for her studies. I knew of Jager from his books about Washington, NH where my family has a summer cottage. When I mentioned this, Helen smiled and said she also had owned a cottage there.
Our pancakes arrived so the conversation waned as Tom and I dug in to the buttery, sweet feast of real Maple Syrup and summery local blueberries. Later, Helen stopped by our table to say Good Bye. I asked her to sign my copy of her book. Her eyes twinkled as her face smoothed into a beautiful smile. “Good Luck and let me know what happens,” she said. Then I watched her carefully navigate the icy patches in the parking lot to her farm house where I envisioned her sitting down to write.