A Last Walk in the Conservation Land

For the last four years my husband has had a daily 50-mile commute. That will change this week as his company moves to a nearby Boston neighborhood and he gets to save many hours each week driving. But with this tremendous and exciting change comes a quiet loss.

In the spirit of taking a Tiny Adventure, for those four years my husband has sweetened his daily work round with frequent hikes at the town conservation land. Tucked away behind the company's parking lot, the entrance of the former dairy farm and orchard is hard to find unless you know it's there. But a few feet from the tarmac you enter a rising wood through which a deep leafy lane ascends. Old boundaries are overgrown. Fallen trees confuse the path, but eventually the lane opens on an upland of meadow, granite outcrops, and the rimming remains of old New England fieldstone walls. The other side of a short promontary the land drops to a marshy spot and up again to the orchard's remains. Evidence of quarrying lies in a side valley.

My husband, surruptiously wearing low hiking boots at his desk and thankful for a relaxed dress policy at work, took every opportunity he could to walk through the woods, ascend the hill and traverse the land, returning refreshed, with eyes bright, often with photographs of some small nature discovery, and his head brimming with words.

He wrote a long poem for our oldest son, who himself aspires to poetry, as a Christmas gift over the course of two winters; two gifts, the beginning and the end. After the first's reading, in the Christmas morning living room that winter, there was a pause at the fragment's conclusion and we all wondered at this quiet accountant who was full of such glories. My youngest broke the silence with, "What manner of man are you???" summing up the thoughts of us all, and also breaking the moment with laughter. The next year he concluded the long poem and tears came instead at the beautiful piece.

My husband was taught poetry writing by Professor Engels, himself a student of Robert Frost. Rich with the simplicity but profundity of Frost, my husband wrote about the conservation land. And this week he completed a new poem, a farewell. He will gather with the coworkers who have joined him on these walks in a sort of informal outing club, go down to the small bridge that crosses the marshy dip of the land, and say farewell to this lovely quiet spot, before removing to the hustle of Boston at the opening of next week's work. 

I have enjoyed many walks there, though not nearly enough. Our oldest son drove out to the conservation land this month on a day off from college and joined my husband there for the first time, before it was too late, seeing what he'd only seen in his mind's eye, those Christmas days filled with heartfelt poetry dedicated to him. 

Often my husband would take a moment to send me a text while on his walk. He once spotted a weasel running along the fieldstone wall and had to let me know. At other times he's sent over marvellous blue skies, brilliant leaves, a vista of the pond, or outcroppings of granite. Even a hummingbird that surprised him, hovering still above the summer flowers. But more often that not, some smaller sight or less spectacular noticing. I especially enjoyed learning about the common yet magical plant, milkweed, that grows in abundance in the meadow.

Last week at our neighborhood's Open Studio event, I spotted a lovely block print of milkweed entitled, Letting Go, by a favorite local artist, Anne Nydam, and we bought it. Favored by monarch butterflies and a surprising number of other orange insects that can stomach it's poisonous sap, the plant is interesting in all seasons. But the silky seeds are a wonder each fall as they separate, spread, and float off across the landscape. 

With one hand we let go of treasures and with the other reach out for the new. I wonder where my husband and his coworkers will find near their new much-anticipated space? There is always somewhere.

Block print, Anne E.G. Nydam, limited edition available here. The artist says, "I am an artist, a writer, a stay-at-home mother, and a negligent housekeeper. I am full of gratitude and wonder for all the beauty in this world and all the magic of the imagination. No wonder I have no time for housework."

All photographs in this post credited to my poetic husband ... with his cell phone. :-)

All photographs in this post credited to my poetic husband ... with his cell phone. :-)