August 20, 2014 - North Reading, MA to Framingham, MA
I awakened before sunrise and went to a Starbucks down the street, getting there a little after 6 a.m. Most open at 5, which is nice for me, with clean bathrooms and happy workers. It's interesting to note the changing demographics. Many of the men wear dark suits and the women dresses / skirts and heels. Some look like characters in movies, like the Italian guy with sunglasses at 7 a.m. The men have grey or black hair; the women are brisk and smart, come in alone or with a male business partner and have serious work-related discussions. A barista this morning was a short bald gentleman in his 60s or 70s. There are many East Indians / Pakistanis, invariably courteous, soft-spoken and polite. Last night, I was in a Walmart and did not hear English. A beautiful, dark-haired, dark-eyed little boy was rolling a ball around, saw me watching and began earnestly telling me something in a language totally incomprehensible to me.
How many days of perfect weather will I get? It was warm today, but still not humid or uncomfortable. I have been meandering between I495 and I95, both of which run circumferentially around Boston, in mostly an urban/suburban milieu but with huge mature trees everywhere. The roads are never straight, and I seldom go over 40 mph, which is fine as I get to see neighborhoods and town centres although have to be hyper-vigilant of traffic. There are no shoulders; no margin for error and a constant flow of cars moving efficiently and as fast as the law allows. There are often signs for "Blind Driveway" or "Dangerous Curve." But the highway routes are well marked....usually.
Great Meadow NWR has two units, Sudbury and Concord. The first reminded me of Reeds Lake, in that is was accessed via a relatively affluent neighborhood street in Concord. The road into the refuge was narrow, directly between two homes, but once there, the land opened to a mix of hardwoods, riparian habitat (along the Concord River) and two large impoundments / pools, now covered with American Lotus.
|Great Meadows NWR, Concord Unit - MA|
|American Lotus - Great Meadows NWR - MA|
I like that I see more people. Today an elderly, frail gentleman and a middle-aged woman moved very slowly to the first marsh overlook, he with the help of a cane on one side and companion (daughter?) on the other. A young guy was moving back and forth on the river bank looking for the perfect fishing spot. Two young women passed me, talking quietly...about other people, exercise, diet, kids, jobs, social plans; a retired couple passed me on the old RR part of the trail; a family with little kids were climbing the observation tower at the parking lot; a gentleman with a scope was looking over the marsh and a woman pointed out a bird..."That's a Great Blue Heron.."
On the way to the Sudbury unit, I passed both Louisa Alcott's Orchard Hill home and Walden Pond with a gaggle of tourists milling about. I stopped and bought a book about two late middle-aged brothers who build a cabin in western Maine. The cover shows a cabin in the woods in winter, late in the day, with lights from the windows gleaming yellow and deep snow on the ground. I occasionally wonder if I should have bought the cabin on Townsend Lake. There was a lot I liked about the setting, if not the actual cabin itself.
While I know Thoreau was an important thinker with a nimble inquiring mind and a man who has a cult following for his philosophy of simplying, I have an ill-defined sniffy attitude about him. The best I can offer is that he had / chose the freedom to be constantly introspective and observant. Why didn't he marry or have children? And if he had, as most humans do, how would that have challenged his idealism? He never seems like fully human to me, but rather a powerfully seductive idea appealing to a socioeconomic class with the intellect and leisure to question the meaning of their lives. And he didn't live all that long on Walden Pond; 2 years, 2 months and 2 days. But apart from the Walden Pond phase, I do respect his interest in Native Americans, East Indian spiritual practices, his support of abolition, his love of nature, his refusal to pay taxes as a protest against slavery and the Mexican-American War. In his flute-playing, rice-eating, yoga phase, he certainly anticipated the 1960s.
The Sudbury Unit of Great Meadows had a large Visitor Center which was closed because of "sequestrations." I come on this situation now and then, but most are open, some even on the weekend. So who makes these decisions?
This Unit was again a mix of hardwood forest and open land. I only had had a bagel for breakfast which meant I was lacking in energy and crabby. So I sat in a shaded pullout for 30 minutes before deciding to go to Assabet NWR, since it wasn't far. I almost didn't go, but after sitting quietly in the lovely, dry hardwoods, with the windows open and a cooling breeze, I was restored. I watched debris continually drop from the trees to the forest floor...bits of leaves, bark, twigs, flower parts, acorns, pine needles, some nearly weightless drifting slowly downward, while the heavier acorns and nuts plunked straight down. The shafts of sunlight always had something.
Assabet was about as perfect a NWR as one can be. The Visitor Center was just closing, but I drove on refuge roads and had maps of the trails. I ended in a cul-de-sac and again sat for 30 minutes, watching familiar things like robins, Chipping Sparrows, BC Chickadees and Eastern White Pines. These are gigantic trees; the older specimens have dead horizontal branches of varying lengths on the lower trunks and full irregular crowns of soft light green needles. They are usually the tallest trees, the patriarchs, and are all over the northeastern US. The sun was in the west, still warming the air and, again, no insects. The refuge has small lakes and ponds and more than a dozen paved and gravel trails.
Leaving Assabet, I drove 30 minutes through traffic to Framingham arriving at Natick Mall passing a Barnes and Noble, an Olive Garden, a Starbuck's and another Walmart with limited groceries but with clothing, a pharmacy, a garden center, home furnishings and mostly non-Caucasians. I stocked up on juices and water, Frappacinos, Ghirardellis dark chocolate pieces with raspberry filling and ice.
|Cardinal flowers along the Concord River - Great Meadows NWR - MA|