Thursday, November 17, 2011

Walking Westford, with paint

I started my project to walk around Westford, but haven’t got out of Nabnasset. But, that’s OK for now. I’ve learned how to go from one end of Edwards Street to the other, met several dogs (hi Tory and Jeremy), and increased my stamina. My Doodle and I will continue walking Nabnasset this fall. And, when the ice makes it too nerve-racking, I’ll hit the treadmill. By March, I’ll have the strength and stamina to walk from one end of town to the other.
            But, last Friday night, I walked through Alabama at the Parish Center for the Arts in Westford. I brought my daughters to see a show of landscapes by our neighbor Ron Hubbard. While my youngest daughter preferred to play with Ron’s kids, my oldest was enraptured by the artwork. She was especially drawn to a small canvas full of texture and dark color showing a stormy sea. It was great to see her inspired.  
            I went to the show for a few reasons. I like Ron, I like talking to him at the bus stop while our daughters head off to school. I also like to find opportunities to expose my girls to various art and culture. But also, here is a way to walk through Westford differently. Participating in community events teaches me about the people in the community. While I don’t get the added benefit of exercise, I do come closer to knowing my town.
            My project to walk the town has not been going as I had hoped. What ever does? Still, I’m learning. It’s important to keep myself open to these twists and side-roads. I’ll become a Westfordite yet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On not walking. (9-14-11)

Monday, I picked the dog up from my in-laws, snapped on her bright pink harness, and took her on a 2 mile walk in the neighborhood. We went down Lake Shore Drive North to Byrn Rd by the dam. We looped our way over to Edward’s Beach where I deposited the bag of poop in the trash can, then returned to Edwards Rd and walked up to Elm. All the way up Elm, across on Plain, and back down Williams, the dog panted, looking back accusingly at me for getting her into this fix. It was a hot day. Halfway through the walk I had to agree with her displeasure, but the only thing to do was to walk toward home. We made it back down Byrn, past the dam, and through the back gate. Lila went straight to the cellar in search of some cool. I grabbed a glass of water and settled down to work.
            It’s Wednesday night, and that Monday walk was the last I took this week. Yesterday, there was no time and today I opted to stay home and work rather than walk. Well, I can’t say that I’ve walked or worked. I have checked email, read a few chapters in the novel I’m reading, looked up some Human Resources information on the university website (does that count as work?), picked up Anya from the nurse’s office, and welcomed Thea home from school. Now, my notebook is open beside me, my glass is filled with an iced mocha, and I am set to finish writing my syllabus. Yet, I’m just wishing that I had gone for a walk.
            Walking started out as a way for me to get to know my town better. Then, I began to feel the health benefits and challenged myself to walk at least a little bit every day. Walking is my time to decompress after run-ins with pre-teen stubbornness, to reflect on a difficult conversation with my sister, to make a plan to teach the pitfalls of the passive voice to college freshmen. When I don’t walk, I feel as if I’ve let everyone down. I haven’t just missed my cardio-vascular workout for the day, I’ve missed an opportunity to make myself better. Sounds dramatic, I know. But if you are a walker or runner, if you do yoga or spin classes, if you meditate or pray, you know that when you skip these rituals, you are less.
            Walking is a choice, but not-walking is happenstance, that’s what I used to tell myself. I would have walked today, but there was a ton of laundry, I needed to bring my Mom on errands, I had phone calls and emails to return, life got in the way. I’m a mom (wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, writer, etc). I can rattle off dozens of reasons to put something off, just ask. But, I remind myself that my day is my choice. How I spend it, the order and priority put to the various activities, what gets checked off the to-do list and what get copied on to tomorrow’s, those are all my choices. Sometimes, I choose not to walk. On those days, I’m OK with my decision. But sometimes, I just don’t walk. I ride waves of panic about deadlines and responsibilities instead. I get into trouble when I forget that it is always my choice. Because, when I blame soccer practice or suppertime or a call from a friend, and reject my choice-making role, I walk past fatalism and into depression.
            So, I have not walked for two days. I have chosen to engage in different activities. No one denied me my choice. Tomorrow, I plan to walk, but I also plan to be aware of every moment and circumstances might change my mind. I’m open to the change. I’m open to the gift of choice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A bit off path - The Concord River Greenway

Day two into recording my Walking in Westford adventures, and I decided to walk in Lowell. Perhaps this is against the purpose. After all, part of my motivation for this project is to embrace my new town and recognize that I no longer live in Lowell. Still, I am from Lowell and my heart will always be there.

After dropping the girls off at the Wonders of Water camp at the Tsongas Industrial History Center, the Doodle and I headed to the little parking lot on Lawrence Street, by the entrance to the Lowell Cemetery. Every time I drive by this little lot I vow to walk the path but never have the time or the right shoes. Today, with the dog in her reflective pink harness and my iPhone's pedometer set, I parked the car, pocketed a plastic bag (just in case) and started walking.

The paved path follows the high voltage power lines, but still, things quiet down fairly quickly. The Concord runs swift here. When he lived by the Old North Bridge, Nathaniel Hawthorne said he watched that river for over a week before finally figuring out in which direction it flowed - that's how quiet this river is for much of it's length. Here there is no question and even a city boy like Hawthorne would have had no trouble. There are some good views to the river and to the backs of some old brick buildings. And, along the path, there is a delight of wildflowers - purple thistle, Black-Eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace, Goldenrod. The path's edges need weeding as the wild tries to take back the spot, but I was happy with how clean and basically maintained the area was.

Doodle was bouncing from one side of the path to the other, trying not to miss any smells. My eyes darted on all sides, trying not to miss any color. And, pretty quick, I saw ahead a truck for Bradford Industries behind a tall chain-link fence. I thought the path must loop around the fence, to the river, but the pavement stopped there, about a quarter of a mile in. I looked around and saw some tamped down weeds leading down to the river, but didn't feel equipped today to follow it (with bare ankles inviting tics). Besides, the dog is afraid of water and I did not want to fight with her. (Yes, my part labrador, part poodle is afraid of water.) We turned back toward the car.

At the parking lot, I checked my pedometer. 0.587 miles roundtrip. Not exactly the big walk I was hoping for today. I noticed a stack of granite blocks by the road, with some writing and found a nice quote from Paul Tsongas about the importance of being good stewards and of sharing our basic resources. A very simple monument, it fit nicely with the place. I looked up and down the road, but decided not to walk Doodle on Lawrence Street. I packed her back in the car and drove into the Cemetery to visit my Dad's and brother's graves. I also love walking in the Lowell Cemetery, but I don't like to walk the dog here - I'm a stickler for certain rules (besides, my Dad didn't really like dogs). We watered the flowers and headed home.

Checking out the Concord River Greenway on the laptop (which, perhaps I should have done before setting out) I see that they are still in the works and this little stretch is one of the first completed sections. They would eventually connect the path to the downtown area, where the Concord empties into the Merrimack. They even plan to connect it to the Bruce Freeman Train, which means I'd be able to walk or bike there from Westford. So. I'll keep searching our good places to walk around my new town, and to follow some of these paths right out of town. After all, New England is a small place. There is no edge of town out here; each town melds into the next with disregard for the whims of Selectmen or zoning regulations. For today, Doodle and I will walk through Nabnasset on our normal route by the lake. It doesn't smell as good, but there is great color in the gardens.

If you want to check out the Greenway, the link is below.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grounded near the pines

Human beings need to be grounded. We need to know our place as the pine trees know their place. I watched the big pine across the street in the wind a few nights ago. Sometimes I hear Greg’s voice telling his fears of the pine tree’s collapse, its shallow roots simply letting go under the pressure of the wind and I get that rush of fear up my stomach like when we’re driving fast to go over a dipsy-do. And I had that rush in my stomach yesterday as I calculated the likeliness of getting to Thea in the cellar and Anya down the hall. Would the roof hold? Is the cellar safe or would she be trapped and scared? I don’t know that tree well enough to know how it would fall. It’s roots are hemmed in on one side by the little house it shares the yard with, but on the other side the roots are packed under the road. So, what’s the weak side, then? Where will it want to tip? I try to figure out where the bulk of the trunk will land but I don’t remember how to calculate the height of a tree, nor do I know the distance in feet between the base of the tree and the kitchen. I don’t even know what kind of pine it is or its true likelihood to fall in the wind. It has weathered many storms, including a few northern hurricanes. But now it’s older and the elderly tip more easily. Still, despite the stomach rush, most days I do not want to take down the pine. Too many pines have come down from Nabnasset. We are changing this area faster than earth time and how can we know the consequences, because every action has consequences and some we won’t like.

Human beings need to be grounded. Even shallow roots hold our place. I have been toppled before. But that pine tree, never.

Walking Westford

I'm starting a project to get to know my adopted town better. My goal, over the next year is to walk through my entire town, following the trails of the Westford Conservation Trust, meandering through neighborhood streets, walking the dog through new smells.
My first real post will detail my walk through some muddy trails in the Nabnasset area.