Monday, July 27, 2009

Fun With Fungus.

Mushrooms are cool! They just popped out at us as we walked through the woods the other day with their glowing colors and unearthly shapes. O.K., the Indian Pipe to the right (click on it to enlarge) isn't a mushroom, but it does need a fungus in the soil to survive and it has an under-world, ghostly glow about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rabbits and Religion.

This weekend was one of pleasant surprises. Friday, just before twilight, families from the Congregation Shirat Hayam gathered at the park next to my son’s school. Part temple ritual, part picnic, the Kabbalat Shabbat resonates a calm certainty in the power of faith and family. From the park’s gazebo I could indulge in the cantor’s psalms and watch the silvery waves that stretch out between the sea wall and Nahant. Both echoed a promise and a prayer.
With so many churches focusing on bricks and mortar and the PA systems and decor that fill them, it was good to see people practicing their ideals with nothing more that a cloudy sky over-head and grass under their feet. It sort of reminds me of the Whos from Dr. Suess’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. They also needed nothing more than a hand to clasp to celebrate their community and their faith.
The rabbit staring out at you (click on the image to enlarge) was another pleasant surprise. We caught up with him(or her) Sunday outside of the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. The congestion of cars and people seem to bother me more than him. It made me reflect on the skills he had to learn to survive, like not getting run over and avoiding tickets for jay-walking. I guess rabbits and religions have something in common- both survive and thrive by focusing on the why and the how, not the where.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wild and Wet time at Willowdale!

Tired of the wet weather we’re having this summer? The occupants of Willowdale’s marshes certainly aren’t. Many are taking advantage of the surplus housing brought on by the rising waters. The marsh pops, splashes, and chirps with activity. The waters creep over the edges of the street, reclaiming territory that man stole years before. It’s fun to spy on the frogs as they bask among the water lilies and tag along as water snakes patrol the shallow reaches of the marsh stalking topaz-blue dragonflies. I’m rather fond of the dragonflies though. I like to think I can thank them for the lack of mosquitoes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One monster blackberry, some sunshine and a berry delicious July 4th holiday weekend!

To find fresh, delicious fruit, why not head to a pick-your-own farm? O.K., it wasn’t my idea, it was my son’s. He wanted to travel to Russell’s Orchard in Ipswich to party this past holiday weekend. Cheap, fun and scenic- it’s like a mini vacation, and what better way to spend time with family? We stopped in at the barn to fortify ourselves with an oatmeal cookie and a cider pop before hiking out to search for the perfect berry. Our berry hunt yielded a wonderful walk through the orchard plus fresh raspberries, strawberries and one monster stone blackberry. No, we couldn't keep the blackberry.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mending Walls - Mending Ourselves.

“Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,”

Robert Frost - Mending Wall

It’s easy to agree with Frost that fences made of stone are only for walling things in or walling them out. Whether it’s to segregate the lawn from the flower beds, or keeping the world out of our private life, walls today are all about dividing and separating. But the ancient walls of New England are different. Like rainbows, they seem to have no ends, marking the boundaries of elfin realms and the long-forgotten kingdoms of Yankee farmers. Sleepy with lichen and moss, they meander through forests and behind homes with the all the mystery of Mayan ruins and crop circles.

At a hundred years of age, the wall that separates my son’s school from the park is fairly young. It’s unfortunately, as Frost pointed out-

“Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.”

Yes, many stones had escaped the grip of their brethren and have tumbled onto the grass, but you can’t repair a wall of this age. You repair cars. You repair bad credit. Old walls, like broken hearts and home spun clothes, are mended. The stone masons pick carefully from the stones strewn out under the maple trees. They fit them together, bits of jagged edged puzzle pieces, held in place with cement. When they are done, the stones will once again be used as a bench, a spot to bounce a ball, a balance beam, a home for mice and moss.

This is the irony of old walls. They bring people together rather than separate them. We don’t mend them because we need to divide land. We do it because the wall is a connection to our pasts and to our community. Frost didn’t realize that his wall was making him a good neighbor. After all, if it weren’t for the wall, he and his neighbor wouldn’t have spent any time together working on a common goal.
The walls that sleep in our woods no longer mark property lines, but they are part of our common heritage and history. A legacy that we all can share.

Interested in stonewall preservation? Go to-

Also, checkout Matthew Wheelock’s Wall, an excellent illustrated children’s book by Frances Ward Weller and illustrated by Ted Lewin (the above picture is from it).