It was the beginning of August on our small hobby farm. Purple rod was springing up in the marshlands. Off in the distance, the sound of the kicker bailer bustled in the fields as my father bailed a second cutting of alfalfa. At the back of our property, my mother was in the garden picking tomatoes and cucumbers to make a salad. Near our lily pond, which rested directly behind our house, my brother, sister and I were hard at work weeding the flower beds. As we worked, I would occasionally take pause to point out flowers over weeds to my siblings.
About an hour before noon, my grandmother’s car coasted along the roadway which was adjacent to our house. She honked the horn once and when I got up to see if she had pulled in our driveway, there was no one there. Going back to work, I noticed a garter snake lying near the wisteria bush at the center of the flowerbed. I darted back and my sister and brother just snickered at me. A moment later, I realized it was my brother’s rubber snake, a gift from my uncle.
“Real funny, Jasper,” I said. He looked up a moment and said nothing but kept a strange smile upon his face.
Bending back down to continue with my work, I looked up for just a second and there stood my grandmother. “I thought you drove on by?” I questioned as I stood up from my work. “I did go on by. I headed down the street to the garage sale to see what was there. Let me tell you, they had nothing,” she said as she walked over to the garden bench that bordered the lily pond. “I want you guys to know I brought you some of my stuffed peppers. You can have them for dinner if you like. Make sure your mom knows they’re in the fridge,” she said as she sat on the garden bench.
For a time, my grandmother watched us work and then she became fixated on the lily pond. “Grandmamma, are you all right?” I asked. In that moment, she looked up from the lily pond and then looked to the three of us. She began to speak. “You know this old lily pond with its dark water reminds me of an old lost pool I once heard about long ago,” she said, and she touched the pond waters which rippled about.
Long before the Lenape people lived in the great valley of Donbridge and long before prehistoric man inhabited the earth, a massive glacier enveloped the entire Hudson Valley region. It was said that this very glacier had carved out the great valley over thousands of years. As time wore on, the glacier receded, leaving lakes and streams which networked the entire landscape.
When the center of that glacier finally melted, it left a dark pool at the heart of the valley. Years passed and the pool became surrounded by oaks over the centuries. As the Lenape people inherited the land, the pool became forgotten by time, and all that remained was a legend of its existence. One man who heard of the pool embarked on a journey to find it. He was a great warrior of the Lenape people, and he believed that the water had ancient energy. He hoped that these waters would extend his life beyond his present years. The great warrior traveled for many years, climbing peaks and cliffs and battling the elements, forever searching until one day he came upon an area which seemed untouched by either man or animal.
The warrior, hopeful, searched the newly found forest and as he did a thick darkness wrapped around the glen he was in. Everywhere he looked, light barely reached the surface and soon he saw seven great oaks encircling each other. The warrior walked cautiously up to the oaks and as he did, a light breeze blew through the forest floor. Pausing for just a moment, he pressed on and there, hidden inside the encircled trees, was a black pool, the last remaining waters of the glacier from so long ago.
The warrior squeezed between the trees to reach the waters. The very moment he entered the enclosure, the spaces between the trees closed, leaving only him and the pool at its center. The warrior tried to escape and soon realized it was impossible. The man then bent down and decided to touch the pool waters and drink from it. The moment the dark waters touched his lips, the great oak trees which surrounded him crumbled to ash, leaving nothing but the pool and the warrior. The warrior, feeling freedom and a rush of joy, left the forest with a full heart.
Walking away from the pool, he felt thirsty and, seeing a brook, he decided to take a drink. As he placed his hand in the water, he noticed something peculiar. His reflection was missing from the stream. Finding this odd, he went to a puddle and, there again, he had no reflection. He found a small spring and, again, no reflection. The warrior panicked and quickly ran back toward the dark pool. When he arrived, he knelt down and looked into the dark waters and there, as though a picture had been painted in time, the warrior’s reflection was frozen in the still waters of the dark pool. Time passed and though he had thought the waters of the pool would keep him young, the warrior aged over the years. With each passing decade, he visited the reflection pool seeing the man that he had been until finally only his reflection was left in the pool and the warrior was no more.
As my grandmother finished her story, my brother, sister and I slowly backed away from the lily pool’s dark waters and my grandmother, who was now preoccupied by a sparrow, seemed to have a small smile as we moved back. “Hello Jules,” my mother said, walking towards the house from the garden with a bushel basket of tomatoes and cucumbers. “You kids stay clear of that lily pond. I wish your father would bury that thing already,” she said as she marched up the stairs to the house from the side porch. “I wouldn’t worry too much, Annie; I think the kids will stay clear of that old lily pond,” my grandmother said.
My grandmother then rose from the bench and trailed behind my mother to tell her about the stuffed peppers, and my brother and sister were not too far behind them. Curious to see the lily pond’s dark waters, I stepped over to the edge to look into the pond and there, for just a moment, I saw a man who seemed oddly familiar, much like the warrior my grandmother described in her tale. Stepping closer, I saw that the man vanished, and my reflection was now gone in the still waters.
Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablesoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 large. bell peppers
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet, combine onion and garlic with olive oil and brown. Next, add the ground turkey to the skillet and cook until brown. Add in tomato paste, cooked rice and diced tomatoes. Finally, add oregano, salt and pepper and let simmer for 5 minutes, then set aside. Cut off he tops of your washed peppers and hollow them out. Save the tops. Set peppers in a large baking dish and add a few drops of olive oil to each one. Add in mozzarella cheese to the skillet and mix turkey and cheese together. Spoon the turkey-cheese mixture into each pepper. Place the tops back on each pepper, cover with foil and place the entire tray into the oven for about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven when done, let stand and serve.