Saturday, October 29, 2011

Give a little, Take a little


January 20, 2011: snow and a weedy elm tree growing out of the masonry above the dam.

October 4, 2011: ten months later, a view of the cracks in the sidewalk and weeds.

October 24, 2011: the swiftly flowing river and no elm tree, just stumps. Will it sprout in the Spring?

I informally chart the depth of the economic recession by the state of repair of the public parks. The nearest park to me is this one by the South Natick Dam where I spend some time. Natick is a nicely varied town. It has it's districts of annoyingly plump affluence and it's worn-at-the-heels sections too. I see houses here and there, strangely vacant. Or some slowly decomposing home with an unattended "For Sale" sign on a post out front. A single light burns in the den at night indicating that a death watch is in progress. But the parks: have the trees been pruned? Did the volunteers in the garden club come by to freshen up the flower beds? After the hurricane, were a few new saplings planted?

There's an arbitrary quality to the upkeep nowadays. The crews get to it when they get to it. We tighten the belt one little notch. But then there can be a dramatic change where previously there was only gradual march of Nature taking back what was its all along. In this case, some ratty elm that had sprouted and thrived for a while from the  stone wall about the dam. From a certain angle it created a screen that instantly complicated my view of the solid and precise four-arched bridge downriver.

Between the tree and the warped metal railing, was a small jungle of weeds and poison ivy. This was all here before economic disaster of 2008. The park was like an old sweater with its moth holes and weeds in the pavement. It was comfortable and "real". However, that changed last week when I spotted yellow « CAUTION » tape all around the railing. Had someone had an accident? Was the poison ivy getting out of control? Were they going to replace the old railing? No, none of these.

The sprouted elm (which was mostly dead) was to be removed –which is apparent in the bottom drawing once you figure out what you're looking at. I'm not lamenting the loss of the tree really. It was surely damaging the stonework. I do miss the branches and the challenge of drawing them. One time, drawing them actually helped me see past some personal problems I was having (last January; the blue drawing on top). So, I guess I will miss that. That little reminder of a place where I left a small emotional piece of myself and took something from the park.


There's some economy at work here: It's the small personal investments of presence which, one hopes, are as meaningful as planting a tree or pulling the weeds.

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