Season’s Apples


Probably the main reason I love living here is that it is such a sensuous place. Given the season’s abundance of tasty pears and apples right in her very own back yard, dog undoubtedly agrees.

Certainly our community experiences fear, disappointment, illness, and death, same as humans and animals anywhere. However, the soft curves of the hills in which we dwell, limitless starry nights, clean water, vegetables, fruits and berries, eatable right off the tree or vine, makes the description “paradise” to be not much of an exaggeration.

Situated at such a latitude and elevation, near extremes of what this planet offers weather-wise, from blizzards to hurricanes, visit here. Over the past half-century, I’ve stood on the same hill and felt temperatures from over 100 to below minus 20 degrees.

Tropical islands show much less variation. In December, the average temperature may be 86, in July 88. In deserts, the monotony of monochromatic, arid weather is punctuated by blossoms of powerful colors, though the interval between the rainfalls that provoke their appearance may be years, decades, or centuries.

I imagine people living near the equator tune to the narrow contrasts there, and experience the subtleties of that climate every bit as distinctly and pleasurably as do I those here on the hill. Wherever anyone is on this planet, day darkens to night and night yields to dawn. Yet even this common occurrence, dependent on where you are, ranges in length from hours to months.

There can come a beneficial insight from the process of imagining what it would feel like to live in a different body, or in a faraway place, or to appreciate current circumstances from the perspective of longer than one human lifetime.


CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA — Since the initial discovery of the Mud Pond Dugout Canoe in 1976 and its eventual acquisition nearly three decades later by the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS), this particular canoe has led to some welcomed recognition for the township and its small group of resident-historians. Most significantly, the canoe itself has been primarily responsible for the development of the Museum of Local History in Clifford, which, in effect, has helped put the 41-sq.-mile rural township of nearly 2,500 residents more prominently on the map.

Add to this the fact that the canoe now talks, well, that is certainly a map maker!

With thanks to collective grants from the Bradford County Regional Arts Council, PA Partners in the Arts, Lackawanna Heritage Valley, and support from Adams Cable, funds were recently provided to essentially give a voice to the historic canoe display. “The overall display has developed into something not only very beautiful, but it’s informative and educational,” said Sandy Wilmot, CTHS President. “It authentically tells the story of the Native Americans who once lived in our area, what their lives were like, and how their being here helped lead to the development of Clifford Township.”
As Wilmot explained, “To create the effect we wanted to complete the canoe display, we needed more than signs that visitors could read. We wanted the canoe and the overall display to literally come alive. We obviously have the visual … we needed audio. The display needed sound, music, and an actual vocal presentation of what’s in the display itself. We joked that the canoe needed to ‘talk.’ Unfortunately, none of our small group has the capability to create something like this from our ideas alone.”
At her son’s suggestion, Wilmot reached out to Magdon Music in Olyphant. “These folks were wonderful!” Wilmot exclaimed. “In barely three hours, Joe Loftus and his brother, Bob, literally gave a voice to our canoe display.”

“Sandy came to us with all of her ideas. But, admittedly, creating exactly what she wanted was a bit new to us,” said Loftus, a professional musician and owner of JL Studios, located on the lower level of Magdon’s shop. “It was a trial and error learning curve for us that required a bit of research. We have the equipment, but making things work exactly to fit Sandy’s ideas required pushing the right buttons. It’s an art form, much like putting a puzzle together. Once everyone’s input was there, it all came together fairly easily.

“Sandy wanted to include Nature’s background sounds with chirping birds, a crackling fire, swooshing water, and flute music was an absolute must for her,” Loftus said with a laugh. “Added to these, she needed clear vocals to include the descriptive information. That’s where my brother came in with the voice-over. He’s a former DJ who added to a great team effort. We developed the audio tracks, edited things as Sandy listened, offering her give and take, and she left here very happy with the end results.”

As Wilmot added, “Frank Little Bear is a Native American and a friend of CTHS who has often helped us with our historical presentations. He’s also part of this audio tape, as he literally takes visitors on a journey through the display. He talks about the canoe, how it was made and used. He also talks about the clay used in local pottery, the Lenni-Lenape who gathered wood and stones for their villages, the animals who were considered sacred.

“It was absolutely amazing to me when we were all done,” Wilmot said. “We left Joe’s studio with a great sound tape, and Mike Magdon ordered and installed the equipment necessary to synchronize everything, including some special lighting effects. These fellas literally created our ‘talking canoe.’ Now visitors can push a button and listen to 20 minutes of local history that’s presented much like museums in large cities. Everyone in our society holds themselves to a set of standards for excellence in everything that we do. This tape is a very professional addition to the museum, something which Clifford can be proud to have in its town.”

When the canoe was first displayed during the 2008 Chautauqua, it held mild interest. It was an exciting find for the society itself, as well as the township’s supervisors who have helped support and sustain the CTHS and its ongoing works to develop the museum and its ever-growing collections, events, and activities that bring visitors to Clifford. But at the time, despite the especially handsome find that it is, the canoe merely sat in a room devoid of much else. When early visitors stopped by, local historians and docents talked about its surprising discovery and the history of the Native Americans that once lived in the area. To further tell its story, a beautiful mural was painted in 2011 by local artist Michelle McLain, depicting scenery that authentically reflects the canoe’s 1692 lineage. Today, the canoe now has a voice to further share its own story and the related history of Clifford and its surrounding area.

Through years of fundraising and grants whose well-written verbiage has been thoroughly researched, the society has continually added to its museum, which is located in the Community Center on Cemetery Street in Clifford. The museum (open monthly on the third Sunday from 1:00pm-4:00pm) includes memorabilia, historical artifacts, art works, and more that are all part of Clifford and its people. Additionally, the CTHS continually benefits from dedicated volunteers and citizens who share their time, many and various talents and skills, as well as their own ancestral memorabilia to help further its works and the community. “And to think … it all started with a dugout canoe that has been the key to helping open the doors to sharing Clifford’s history with others,” said Wilmot.
The CTHS was born during the planning of the township’s bi-centennial celebration in 2006. But as the CTHS has grown and earned non-profit status, the little society that does big things keeps getting bigger. For additional information about the CTHS or to share and participate in their various activities, contact them at 570-679-2723, via, or at

Written by Union Dale freelance feature writer Karen Bernhardt Toolan for the Clifford Township Historical Society, with thanks to the Susquehanna County Room Tax Grant Fund through the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.


#1 Brothers Joe and Bob Luftus at work in JL Studios, Olyphant, helped create the new audio tape for the Clifford Township Historical Society’s canoe display.

#2 The Mud Pond Dugout Canoe display in the Museum of Local History in Clifford is now complete with an audio tape that presents some of the local history of Clifford and the region.

Raw November


After weeks of hills bursting in vibrant autumnal colors under gentle skys, and specatacular star laden nights, it is raw November.

Coincident with man decreed daylight savings time, the progression of season conspires, deprives light.

Forty more dawns come later and later, forty more sunsets earlier and earlier, forty more nights longer and longer.

Apple tree, laden in Summer, wears a handful of apples stubbornly clinging to rain soaked branches.

It’s butternut neighbor, nourishing fewer and fewer branches the past few years, succumbs to feeding fungus; a harbinger that, as some of their companions already have, limbs will wither until wind or heavy snow dashes them to the ground.

Be this our only image of the year, one’s mood could jeopardize. Mindfullness of all seasons evidences that fungus, branches and apples process to soil, flowers, and trees.

When light without diminishes, spirit within augments, makes us conscious that just as dark implies light, freezing drops crystallize to flakes, somber clouds clarify to limitless blue skies.

For some, each dawn, one day closer to cherished Winter, for others, one day closer to glorious Spring.

Autumn Squall


The squall in the neighborhood last weekend, though short lived, brought to mind winters past. I was enthused to see the first flakes as I wondered if the grass, still green from summer, felt cold as the snow pelted it or if it simply endured, indifferent to the change of season.

There is a plant in the livingroom that lives in a glass container filled with water. It survived my self imposed “Winter of Cold”, a few years ago. I had been inspired by a friend’s admission that the climate during the winter in his trailer home was not much different than “advanced winter camping”. With my remembered fondness of sleeping in a tent in the snow, along with my pursuit of economy, I kept the thermostats set at 52.

I mated two down filled sleeping bags and used them as a comforter on my bed. During the day, I rambled around the house in down filled outerwear. The olive oil in the kitchen cupboard clouded. My back spasmed frequently. The only other plant in the house died. The dog’s breath was always visible. The few visitors during that winter never took off their coats; even so, no one stayed very long.

Now, having found that keeping the house that cold was a false economy, the thermostats are set more reasonably. Back spasms much less frequently, and, not seeing the dog’s breath makes things feel much more comfortable.

“Is it real? The roots in the water look natural, but the leaves look so perfect, artificial.” said a visitor about the livingroom plant. “That plant looks so happy – it has found it’s window!” said another recently.

I don’t feel that the plant and I have an extraordinarily close relationship. I simply maintain water above it’s roots, and rotate it in front of the window when its’ yearning toward the light postures it asymetrically. Yet, I am grateful it did not die in the “Winter of Cold”, and, given its’ steadfast companionship through dark times, I have developed somewhat of an affection for it.

They say plants like it, benefit, when you talk to them. I can’t really remember ever talking to the plant. I have, however thought at it with gratitude for it’s loyalty, and admiration for it’s capacity and resolve to survive.

Makes me wonder if plants think, or do they respond more to feeling. Some kind of process or intelligence must occur: the plant senses more bright than dark, and somehow adjusts it’s growth, turning it’s leaves, favoring facing the light.

No language, no philosophy, no hidden agenda corrupts this behaviour.

Regardless of other prevailing conditions, plants sense brighter or darker and so grow only toward or away.

A simple way to live; a sure way to thrive.

Autumn Ridge



As they have each and every year, beautiful as they are to look at, when these leaves finally wither and fall, they’ll unobscure my view of Elk Mountain.

All winter, and for some of the Spring and Autumn, the mountain’s profile, sometimes illuminated with lights turned on for night skiing and snow making, is clearly visible beyond this ridge, ready for my viewing pleasure at any given moment.

The rest of the time? My gaze casts left toward sister hill South Knob, always visible throughout the year.

Always thought it kind of coincidental that the ski trails become prominent just around the time of year where my thoughts turn seriously toward skiing.

Of course, dog and I both know that The Hill is always there, and does not disappear just because we can’t see it. We have faith, which, to some, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).




A couple of weeks ago, the day after the Summer Solstice, as if someone, somewhere, threw a switch, the weather changed.  That evening, the windows had to be closed against the cold for the first time since late Spring.

It has been a spectacularly beautiful Autumn. Relatively free from rain, and above normal temperatures.  The skies, noticeably brilliant all Summer, continue to draw our attention to how uncommonly beautiful they have been.

An early morning report from a friend travelling southward optimistically declared that though grey here on the hill, the sun was shining not far south, and was sure to burn off the morning fog, which eventually, it did.

Today a bit of rain is passing through the neigbhorhood. As someone once noted, sometimes, the colors of Autumn appear even more brilliant cast against a soft grey, rather than brilliant blue, sky.

Little to no rain is forecasted for the holiday weekend. The leaves are simply spectacular. Come find yourself on The Hill this weekend: Elk Mountain’s Fall Fest is a great opportunity to view the neighborhood and beyond from a chairlift. The Artists’ tour will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of the county. And just plain being outside with an open mind is sure to provoke delight.

It’s been a long Summer, it will be a long Winter. Enjoy this inbetween time now!

How much different can heaven be?