You can learn more about Virginia Wood and other areas of the Middlesex Fells Reservation here.

he moves in darkness …

“He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

not of woods only and the shade of trees.”

— excerpt from Robert Frost’s Mending Wall

Yesterday, I watched a former politician speaking with great authority, as his wife looked upon him adoringly, as he spouted hatred and nurtured fears in a subtle way.  I had to turn off the television before I put my shoe through it.  I sat for a bit trying to remember that Booker T. Washington quote, about allowing no man to belittle his soul by making him hate him.

Not long afterwards I found myself reading about current politicians and wannabe politicians, echoing the sentiments of that former politician.  They spoke with great gravity about the need for bordering walls. Southern walls.  Northern walls.  Who knows,maybe even walls within cities. Nothing new, I suppose. Throughout human history, there have been such calls. It’s the public response to those calls that I wonder most about.

In Frost’s poem, Mending Walls, as two men rebuild the wall separating their farms, one says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” The poem’s narrator replies…

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

“Why do they make good neighbors? …

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down! …”

The last of a delicious gift of homegrown tomatoes.

The surface of the river along the Charles River Esplanade .  It was a sunny afternoon, the waters churned by gusts of wind and the wake of many canoes and kayaks.

… and then there was a photo not taken.

I’d walked a long ways, from downtown Boston, across the Charles River and into Central Square.  It had seemed a good idea in the beginning.  Walk. Take pictures. But by the time I hobbled into Central Square and parked myself on a bench, I was done.  I took one last look over my shoulder into the bushes behind me.  A sea of pink blooms and a single stalk of white. This is it, I decided, and then tucked my camera away.

After determining that despite aches and pains I could complete my journey home by foot, I rose and began to meander down Mass Ave.  Ahead of me was a man clearly seeing impaired based on the white cane he swept before him.  I was planning how to slip past him at the next street light when, all of a sudden, his cane knocked over a homeless man’s Dunkin Donuts cup full of change.

Now, this homeless fellow has been a regular in Central Square, an elderly gentleman curled up in a wheelchair.  As far as I knew, he’d never wheeled himself about by hand.  I’d only ever seen him move himself by one foot, very, very slowly.  I suspected he had a compatriot who occasionally whisked him from one side of the Square to the other, else it would take him all day to move one block.

In any case, the homeless man was twisting in his chair trying to reach for the overturned cup and speaking unintelligibly all the while.  The blind man was reaching out but not having much success.  I was close enough to gently take the blind man’s hand and say, “It’s okay, sir, I’ll help him.”  He nodded and moved on, cane once more sweeping out.  Then I knelt and scooped up the coins.  As I wrapped the homeless man’s hands around the clear cup, I better understood why he did not wheel himself.  His hands were gnarled, the fingers twisted.  I felt like I was holding carved oak.

“Here you go,” I said.

He garbled, “Do you have any change?”

That was when I looked into his face in a way I’d not done in all the times I’d seen him before.

Like his hands, his face was like oak.  Dark golden brown and deeply lined.  While I thought him elderly from afar, up close I could see that most likely he was not.  It was the elements, and other life events, that had chiseled his face, browned his skin and grizzled his unkempt hair and beard.  His eyes were blue and shone with such intensity that if we had not been in shade I would have thought they were lit by the sun.  An unforgettable sight.

That was the photo not taken.

“No, sir,” I said.  “I do not have any change.”

I patted his hands and made my way home.

a different sunset

a recent summer sunset


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