Drum is a Scottish term meaning a “narrow hill” or “long ridge.” A drumlin, derived from the Irish Gaelic druim, is a low, elongate oval hill of glacial drift, composed mainly of boulder clay or glacial sands and gravels. Drumlins are sometimes described as having the shape of inverted spoons, and though their genesis is debated, they are believed to have been formed when glacial ice, moving over the land, compressed the earth into specific patterns. The long axis of a drumlin is parallel to the direction of former ice movement, while the steep end faces the direction from which the glacier advanced. Drumlins often appear in groups called fields, pods, or swarms; three thousand drumlins lie in southern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts, and close to eleven thousand drumlins lie in New York between Rochester and Syracuse, north of the Finger Lakes. Some of the drumlins in this area rise to sharp, sloping ridges and are called razorbacks, as they look like razorback hogs sleeping on the open land. “Watching the shifting light above the drumlins . . . I felt a darkening within myself,” writes Ben Howard in his poem “Midcentury.”

Pattiann Rogers