Monday, March 1, 2010

Take Me to the River

From D. Brigham:

The picture above shows a staircase running from the back of a house on Farwell Street in Waltham, Mass., down to the Charles River. Most likely it used to connect to a boat dock. It's made of concrete or stone, rather than wood, like most dock stairways are. As a result, it looks more like an ancient ruin than a recently abandoned walkway that once led to a pleasure craft filled with some cold Bud Light. Curiously, this part of the Charles isn't conducive to boats bigger than kayaks or canoes, as it is very shallow and less than a mile from the Watertown Dam, so I'm not sure what purpose a dock would have served (photo by Dave Brigham).

I decided to post this photo as the inaugural picture here not because it's an especially great shot, but because it reflects the method by which I discovered the backside of America. When I was about 12, I went on my first canoe ride with my dad, putting the old green boat into the Farmington River at the Route 185 bridge in Simsbury, Conn., hard by the renowned Pinchot Sycamore, the largest tree in the Nutmeg State. While I enjoyed the sights along the banks of the river -- trees, birds, frolicking fish, garbage snagged on rocks -- what really caught my eye was the rear of various residential and commercial properties at or close to the water's edge.

I'd grown up in Simsbury, and was familiar with all of the houses along Hopmeadow Street, the town's main drag, as well as the wide array of businesses, from Mitchell Pontiac and the Weatogue Barber Shop, to the Ensign-Bickford munitions factory and Fitgerald's grocery store. But I'd never been on the river, and so had no idea how the town looked from the water.

It sounds obvious to say, but I saw the town from a whole new angle. Nothing was familiar, and nothing was as attractive from the back as it was from the front. Today I am lucky to live very close to the Charles River in Newton, Mass. There is a walking path next to the river that my family and I use for runs, bike rides and leisurely strolls. I took the above photo by straying from that path into the woods next to the river. While the trees and wildlife along the river are beautiful and fun to watch, and the path offers a quick route to grocery shopping, I am more interested in the old railroad trestle in Waltham, the lot where linemen for the local electric company practice climbing utility poles, and other places hidden from the street.

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