The state of New Hampshire has a rather alarming motto: "Live Free or Die." Out of all the U.S. state mottos, it’s probably the most extreme – a blatant declaration of independence screaming out from every licence plate.
The first time I went to New Hampshire, I much preferred death to living free. I was doing a four-day hike of the White Mountain range, and was, having as much athletic prowess as a rolling pin, shockingly out of my depth. This time, I was looking forward to an entirely different kind of adventure.
In the late summer of 2012, Sarah, Helene, and I packed ourselves into a rented Ford Fusion and made our way to the Caroll County town of Madison, New Hampshire. There, we would meet three people: Heather, Mia, and Michelle.
In 2011, I met Heather for the first time. From Boston, she bravely rode a Greyhound bus through the night to meet us in Ottawa for the final Potter film. The best part about Heather is that she hugs you twice every time you see her. The first is in standard greeting; the second is what naturally happens when long-distance friends meet after extended absences. It’s like she doesn’t believe you’re a corporeal thing in front of her.
Mia and Michelle are twins, biologically fraternal, but you’d never know. When we met, I considered Mia an acquaintance, and I had barely spoken to Michelle. Do you want to know the secret to cementing a friendship that has sprouted in the invisible place where data is sent and received, the network of networks known as the Internet? Cheap wine and a competitive board game. Within hours of meeting, Michelle and I had teamed up and achieved harmony at a cerebral level. It is completely irrelevant that we lost by a significant margin. What matters is that by day three, I was unintentionally mirroring their slanted, southern accents and braiding their hair. It was like we had slipped effortlessly into one another. After the trip, I took to calling them the Sunshine Twins, long before I made the connection that they hailed from a state known for the same virtue.
We stayed at Heather’s lakehouse on Pea Porridge Pond. Besides having the distinction of being an alliterative delight, the pond comes in three sizes: little, middle, and big. Heather’s house, red and white and thirteen-sided, sits on the biggest of the lot. We spent the weekend comparing accents and chasing unrelenting spiders off the docks. We hiked a trail off the Kancamagus Highway in Conway, a town north of Madison full of covered bridges that look like long, stretched- out barns.
Minutes before we went our separate ways, Heather adamantly escorted us to one of the world’s largest glacial erratics, the Madison Boulder.
It was mossy and ghosted with graffiti, but something about the fact that an ice sheet laboriously carried this enormous boulder exactly here, from the place of its birth, seemed remarkably fitting.
Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now.