Monday 25 August 2014

River bank

Back in  the 1980s when we lived in Boston we did a lot of things that we don't do now and not all has changed for the better.  I'm sure that the good days in that distant past have been magnified by our rose-coloured spectacles. Weekends, we went tooling about in an off-white Ford Galaxy looking for notices on lamp-posts pointing at yard sales in the Western suburbs of Boston.  The Galaxy was a six seater (3 front, 3 back) saloon car about the size of a table-tennis table that was just the thing for buying other people's discards for very little money.  Too many hard-back books for 25c and paper-backs for 10c became the foundation of the library that I am now attempting to down-size.  But the memory of those Saturday mornings is a happy one; especially if breakfast at a diner was part of the trip.

As last Saturday approached, I did make some enquiries about how yard-sales, moving-sales, garage-sales and estate-sales were publicised nowadays.  But the Galaxy has long since gone to where dead cars go and I was determined to have one car-free day in the United States of Automobile.  The Beloved was off for much of the day doing mindful things mindfully, so I put out the idea that I would walk along the Charles River until I reached, say, Harvard or maybe further along towards the sea if my knees weren't destroyed. I also suggested that P, who don't walk too good, might like to kayak along and we could keep on chatting as she got her elbows wet, but that sadly wasn't possible. A little research suggested that it was possible to walk on or close to the river bank for 20km or a bit more.  Not knowing what to expect, I set off for the nearest access to the Charles River.  It's possible to compare the [sub]urban Charles River with the deeply rural Barrow which we walked in June.

Well it was just gorgeous!  There is a path on at least one side of the river which starts off almost completely uninhabited by people and with the traffic but a distant hum.  The trees come down to the water's edge and in places have come down in the water.  The path was broad enough for the occasional jogger or cyclist to over-take a slow-coach contemplative like me and two young joggers apologised for startling me by their near silent soft-shoe approach.  The river was placid with lily-pads and geese, the trees were still green with acorns under foot and I was at peace with the world.  As I approached the Watertown line, I found a dollar bill on the path and 20 minutes later I made a detour to a yard-sale (Oh Joy) and spent it on an orange pot-holder and a DVD of Little Miss Sunshine.  Now you can't better yard-sale value than that!

My walk got  noisier and busier as I slouched into town, but just after the Eliot Bridge where the river loops North, I saw a small but perfectly formed tree with a horizontal bough at eye-level.  I noticed it because it had two pieces of laminated paper nailed thereto.  I had discovered the Poetry Tree on The Charles project which enjoins us to "Enjoy the poetry, the River, and our glorious world.".  That's kind of sweet and added a cherry to the icing on the cake of my day.  What poem?  A Tuft of Flowers by Robert Frost:
I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun. 

etc etc etc
Yes, Frost wrote about other stuff than those two roads diverging in a yellow wood.  Frost's is not tum ti tum ti tum poetry and needs to be read with a gravelly New England accent.

I tease The Boy about hot-housing his daughter for Harvard. Three hours after leaving home I had completed my mini-pilgrimage to that daunting seat of learning.  The Shonk has done his bit, it's up to the parents - and G'dau! - now: they have 15-16 years.

I met P in Harvard Square for a beer and a bite and we talked on-and-on until the waitron plunked a bill firmly on the table and then we talked some more on a convenient park bench.  P suggested that such a 12-15 km walk could be banked against the oppression of the 7 hour flight which we're due to take on Tuesday night.  But I don't believe in a River Bank. A mystic, wonderful walk is not something that can be stored against the future; it can only be lived in the now.  We talked so long that I missed the last bus from Watertown and had to walk an additional 3 km to get home. But I borrowed a pair of winged reeboks from Hermes [see what poetry does!] , and it was a stroll.

Not perhaps a perfect day, but certainly a pretty good day.

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