Day of service brings Lyme neighbors together

By RAY COUTURE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-07-2023 8:08 PM

LYME — A tattered American flag hanging on a dented metal pole, its frayed red and white stripes wiggling unevenly in the constant breeze, was the sign to Inger Imset and Amanda Bushor that they’d finally found the house they were looking for on Saturday on Bliss Lane.

The two friends had volunteered for a day of service, an annual community-building event organized by the nonprofit CommunityCare of Lyme. Volunteers are sent out to help neighbors complete a variety of projects, chores and cleanups.

The morning started with a breakfast in the cafeteria in the Lyme School; people wearing lime-green T-shirts with “Volunteer” stamped across the back washed dishes in the kitchen while recently-arrived volunteers chowed down then rushed out to their respective assigments.

While some volunteers were tasked with raking leaves in an elderly neighbor’s yard or cleaning up around the outside of the Converse Free Library in the heart of town, Imset and Bushor’s mission sent them farther out. Their assignment, to help a homeowner on Bliss Lane replace their American Flag and potentially do some yardwork, too, was an adventure just getting there.

They drove six miles south from the Lyme School and up the narrow and dirt-cladded Goose Pond Road where they stopped and asked a jogger, then a motorist driving past, for directions on how to find Bliss Lane (no one had much of any cell service), then down the narrower and muddier Pico Road, before finally arriving to a single-story home with an American flag loosely hanging on the black, dented-metal pole in the front yard and a big, gray barn in the back.

“We signed up for more than we thought,” Bushor joked when it seemed any potential turns into Bliss Lane had eluded them.

Imset moved to Lyme in 2020 to be closer to friends and because she said she appreciated the “atmosphere” the town’s community exudes, exemplified in events like the day of service. Bushor took the praise a step further.

“For me, it’s what the Upper Valley is all about,” said Bushor, who lives in Wilder. “Friendly community functions and events.”

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The neighbor they were coming to help was already outside and working by the time they arrived. Geri Burgess, a longtime Lyme resident who graduated from its last one-room schoolhouse, the Chesley School, in 1955, had tugged a small wagon loaded with rope and a new American flag over to the flagpole in preparation for their arrival.

Imshet nor Bushor had any previous experience raising, lowering, or installing a flag on a flagpole, but luckily Burgess did. Though her father and husband put in the flagpole years and years ago, once they’d both passed away the duty had fallen to her.

With Burgess’s directions and despite a few tricky knots tied into the rope that held the original flag, the two volunteers had the new flag raised and waving in the wind in the span of ten or so minutes. Boating experience enabled Bushor to ably tie new knots.

“It can be any kind of knot (you want) as long as it holds,” Burgess told her.

Once the flag business was settled, Bushor asked Burgess if that was the only work she needed to get done.

“Oh heavens no, I could work you all day if you wanted to,” Burgess laughingly said.

The two volunteers helped her place a tarp along a fence line to help kill the weeds that had sprouted up around the wooden posts near Burgess’s garden. The conversation then turned to gardening, rhubarb and violet bushes, and to the natural beauty of the landscape surrounding Burgess’s home, whose view from her front door is dominated by the peak of Moose Mountain to the south.

The most beautiful things either Bushor or Imset saw on Saturday wasn’t the luscious outcropping of sugar maple trees that cover Moose Mountain, however. They were behind the house, in a flat field with an electrified fence next to the barn.

There was Apache, a miniature horse who’s in the process of shedding his winter coat, and meanwhile has thick locks of white hair spilling over his eyes and face, and Maggie, a mare who popped her head out from around the barn when she saw the volunteers and Burgess shuffling over to the fence.

While Bushor and Imset pet the horses, Burgess went inside and got a plastic bag filled with carrots. Soon after, Maggie and Apache were munching loudly and pleasantly, much to the delight of the three women.

When it was time for the two volunteers to head out, they both promised Burgess that they’d see her next year at the next day of service to help her put up her new flag. Burgess told them they didn’t need to wait that long, they could come by and see her whenever they wanted to.

Ray Couture can be reached with story questions at 1994rbc@gmail.com.

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