Sleepy Hollow Poem/Legend–Raven Rock

Raven Rock, on the Hawthorne, NY, side of Buttermilk Hill.

Raven Rock, on the Hawthorne, NY, side of Buttermilk Hill.

“Some mention was also made of the woman in white who haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having  perished there in the snow.” (Irving, Washington.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” or The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.)

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I grew up on Beverly Road, in Hawthorne, New York.  It was a blessed and idyllic childhood.  The kids in our neighborhood were able to explore Buttermilk Hill–home of the famous Rockefeller estate–Kykuit.  There were midnight swims in the lakes and reservoirs at the top of  Buttermilk, in Pocantico Hills.  There was the Dominican Convent in our backyard which contained acres and acres of golden grasses, crabapple orchards, and tasty raspberries.  Most of all, we were steeped in the tales and legends of Washington Irving.  I first heard of  Raven Rock from my teachers when I was very young and a student at Hawthorne Elementary School back in 1973.  With such inculcation, by the time kids on my block were fifteen, many of us could tell the local tales–and tell them with aplomb.

Noted WPA artist, George Alexander Picken had two paintings displayed in the lobby of our school (since taken down), and we saw them every day as we entered school.  One painting’s subject was of the “dark glen at Raven Rock”, while the other was of the Headless Horsemen of the Hollow.  How fascinating that a place all the kids in our neighborhood liked to hike to and “hang out at” back in the late 60’s and early 70’s (Raven Rock), actually played a small role in Washington Irving’s famous tale!  I listened intently as my third grade teacher lined us up in front of the murals one day and told us the legend within the legend that was the tale of Raven Rock.  “Hawthornites” have their own takes on the legends that have been passed down to us from our school teachers, coaches, and parents (I will tell more about these in upcoming posts).  For now, I hope you enjoy my poem, “The Dark Glen at Raven Rock.”  I want to tell you the story of this enchanted area so that you, too, can love and cherish it!

Kerri 🙂

“The Dark Glen at Raven Rock”

A Colorful George Picken Mural Which Hung in My Elementary School

(c) Kerri McCaffrey

…a haunting woman in white

chasing a raven in the snow

windswept wisps of clouds

in the blue night.

In such cold chaos

bird became beacon,

alighting on a branch

which grew up from the abyss

under it lay a cauldron of snow,

a trap door to a free fall,

and precipitousness.

And so she reached,

her body a shapely vase

a wild-eyed gardener

choosing a black flower.

She didn’t realize

that this was her last step

her final hour,

for below the snow’s soft silence

lay shale and granite

a rock-hard bottom.

We all knew

how Washington Irving

had it end

but that is where Picken’s brush

differed from author’s pen:

in the mural

she never died

never had the vertigo,

the butterflies she would have felt

as the forest floor

orphaned her feet

her dark hair like feathers

her scream bright orange

a flaming oriole

to a synesthete.

Each morning

we were greeted

by this mural–

a quick pause in the lobby

a sigh

as we foresaw her next step–

such dramatic irony.

And years later

I still imagine

but differently;

perhaps she didn’t die

perhaps she was like me,

on the precipice

in switching winds

when, from taffeta dress,

came wings.

Looking up from where the woman would have fallen.  Can you say vertigo?

Looking up from where the woman would have fallen to. Can you say, “vertigo”?

A small trail on the grounds which used to comprise the Kyquit property.  Kids from Beverly Road would sometimes hang out near here...such memories!

A small trail on the grounds which used to comprise the Kykuit property. Kids from Beverly Road/Tuxedo Place would sometimes hang out near here…such memories!

Everyone was a storyteller in Hawthorne, NY.

Everyone was a storyteller in Hawthorne, NY.

Me, giving a performance of, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (sort of), to 5th graders where I teach.

Me, acting out legends from the area of Sleepy Hollow (to 5th graders where I teach).

The beauty of Pocantico Hills is on display as I complete a hike to Raven Rock--as I have done since I was little.

The beauty of Pocantico Hills is on display as I complete a hike to Raven Rock–as I have done since I was little.

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This entry was posted in Hawthorne NY History, Pocantico Hills NY, Poetry of Sleepy Hollow, Raven Rock Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow's Spirits and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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