Since last summer, Beth and I have gone to the same place in Concord to walk and take pictures. The wish would be daily, the actuality more like 2-3 times a week. The place offers extensive and varied acreage but we usually take the same route, a mile loop around an old millpond. Despite such a limited area, we have found something new and engaging every time. The flow of seasons and weather present continual change.
Neither Beth or I consider ourselves photographers, at least in the sense of trying to make “art”. We just take pictures of things that catch our eye. We don’t fuss with the pictures either. Especially we don’t amplify the colours, which is a sort of common romanticism focused on idealism. There is no “truth” in these pictures, just interest.
We share the camera. I take the most pictures because I like to click away. Beth puts more thought into her camera work. We point and talk and ask questions.
Yesterday, we entered the woods by a different route. Years ago, I skied in from this path, but I remembered nothing of it. One drives down a country road with grand estates on both sides. This was all farm land, in Concord’s working heyday. The estates show it, with barns and horses, fences and rock walls. Some owners sly the taxes by growing hay and calling the place a working farm. It all was probably very good farm land, the land of Concord seems blest, but it all now just represents American extent. Food comes from someplace else now (tho some farms remain in town). In fact life comes from someplace else, because even Concord isn’t good enough to satisfy the wants. What’s here in this town is muchly all documentation of what is “Mine.” I don’t really begrudge it, don’t envy the owners, not in a come the revolution sense. I am, however, wary of hedge fund success and the a-holes who hire it.
The grandest estate has numerous buildings. The main house is old, with several chimneys (chimneys in the middle of the house rather than the side, as this house showed, indicates older houses). The barn is large and trig. There’s a ridiculously lovely old beech tree, a cluster of apple trees (in bloom!). A small house on the estate has a pretty kitchen garden of herbs. The lawn close to the main house has been mowed to golf course trim, but much of the open area has been allowed to engage its natural grassy habit. When I say natural, I mean the grass grows tall and other plants are allowed to grow. The cycle burgeoning toward reforestation of course will be stymied in the fall.
We left all this comfortably unnatural wonder and followed the path into the woods. The paths are somewhat tortuous. I got lost once on my bike, with my attention tuned to avoiding rocks and roots. I ended up eating my bike but got out alive.
We met a family on the path who, oddly, walked in single file, dad first, the kids, and mom. It didn’t look like they were there to engage but of course I don’t know that. I could imagine the allure of television and vid games hanging heavy with the crew.
Sunlight glimmering on leaves. A few tiny violets still in bloom. Lily of the valley. I thought I saw the flick of a deer’s white tail but it was a sidelong sight, perhaps a bird instead. There were deer tracks at the place. Deer stay scarce during the day because many who walk these woods bring dogs. I consider dogs part of the habitat. Love to see the happy wet coming up to greet us.
We wound down hill till we came to a small, rather dismal pond and a fenced in field. Sitting above it was the house at the top of the hill near the other entrance to the woods. We actually drove up the long driveway once. The house itself is no big deal, no mansion, but it’s a glorious chunk of land. Our view from the shady path revealed the hillside as just about a cliff. Clouds at the moment showed a cumulous heft but didn’t block the sun. Spring in this world of poor mutts.
We found trillium next to the path, and geranium. I’ve seen lady’s slippers in the woods here, and we were hopeful. Honeysuckle and lily of the valley were everywhere and in bloom, gorgeous scents. There was an exotic tree that I’ve never seen before, very large leaves and beefy flowers somewhat like roses or peonies. We got the idea that this was a formerly tended area left to make its own way.
The path led to a sign on a tree indicating private property. We turned around. A cyclist soon came bounding down the path from the verboten area, unmindful of such restrictions. We took another direction. The whole hillside was covered with lily of the valley. Like with honeysuckle, the flower is small and undramatic, but the scent is intoxicating.
We looped back to our entry path. We greeted a family marching in, alerting them to the hillside of lily of the valley. There were 15-20 cars parked along the road in, but we saw the contents of perhaps 4.
Much of this is town land. I know a little school called Harvard owns some of the land. I don’t know if our steps ever landed on Harvard land, whether Harvard allows access. On our way home, we stopped at the organic farm near where we usually enter the woods. It’s a beautiful looking farm, nestled at the bottom of the hill with the Concord River on its far side. Happily, this land is held in trust, a farm “forever”.
Beth’s uncle built a place on the Jersey shore just after WWII. Nothing was there at the time but things changed dramatically over the years. It was a small place, even after it was enlarged, about 50 yards from the water. It sat on a street that ran perpendicular to the water. The houses along the shore road kept getting bigger, so that when I first visited, ocean view was blocked. One entered the beach thru an alley between two McMansions.
The depredations of Hurricane Sandy destroyed or greatly irked most of the houses in the area (Beth’s aunt had moved some years before). One shouldn’t and cannot make that some kind of justice against these magnates of exclusivity. One can, surely, see—if blinders are removed—that this “land” is a spit of shifting sand, however. The monuments were not bound to last, even by the measly standards of human lifetime.
As beautiful as the estates in Concord are, someone’s going to realize it’s just a tax bill. And the throng grows of those who want a piece. Of course it is all Maya. Daniel Boone lighting out for further expanse simply has little chance nowadays. Expanse is now dictated to us in little notes and messages. Might as well see what these messages say.