Our kicker bailer bustled in the fields as my father bailed alfalfa. In the back yard, my mother picked tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden. Meanwhile, my brother, sister and I were hard at work weeding flowerbeds near our lily pond. Taking a break, I saw my grandmother’s car coast along the roadway near our house. She honked the horn once but never pulled in our driveway.
About 15 minutes passed and as I looked up from my work to check on my siblings, there stood my grandmother. “I thought you drove on by?” I questioned as I stood up from the flowerbed. “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 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. “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 man inhabited the earth, a massive glacier enveloped the entire Hudson Valley region. It was said that this glacier had carved out the great valley over thousands of years. As time wore on, this 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. As the Lenape people inhabited 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 warrior of the Lenape people and he believed that the water had ancient energy. He hoped that these waters would extend his life and so the great warrior traveled for many years battling the elements, forever searching until one day he came upon an area which seemed untouched by either man or animal.
The warrior searched the newly found forest and as he did, a thick darkness wrapped around the glen where he stood. Everywhere he looked, light barely reached the surface and soon he saw seven great oaks encircling each other. The warrior walked 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 trees, was a black pool; it was the last remaining waters of the glacier.
The warrior squeezed between the trees to reach the waters. The 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 but it was impossible. The man then bent down and decided to touch the 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. 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. “Hello, Jules,” my mother said as she walked towards the house from the garden with a basket full. “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 to tell my mother 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 similar to the warrior my grandmother described in her tale. Stepping closer, I saw that the man had vanished, but more troubling was that I could not find my own reflection in the dark waters.
Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 poundground turkey
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoonsea salt
1/2 teaspoonground black pepper
6 largebell peppers
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, combine onion and garlic with olive oil and brown. Add the ground turkey to the skillet and cook until brown. Next, add in tomato paste, cooked rice and diced tomatoes. Finally, add oregano, salt and pepper and let simmer for 5 minutes, then set aside. Next, cut off the tops of washed and dried 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. Next, spoon the turkey-cheese mixture into each pepper. Place the tops back on each pepper, cover with foil and place the entire dish into the oven for about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven when done, let stand and serve.