June 1, 2021

Rocks? What about sticks?


Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

-Desmond Tutu


All the trees, even the oaks, have become green with leaves.  The taller oaks have only a tinge of light green in their upper branches, but early tiny leaves are there.  The undergrowth, the Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, alder buckthorn, autumn olive, eastern hayscented fern, American hophornbeam and cinnamon fern are growing tall and filling space with plant-life searching for sunlight.  Even so, my view is not completely obscured by foliage just yet.  As spring progresses and leaves broaden, the ground a few yards from the trail will be hidden by chlorophyll-laden life, but, for now, I can still see dun-colored earth a ways into the woods.  The blades of grass alongside the trail have grown long and make it hard to pick up dog-poop from their midst without smearing the softer bits of it irretrievably into the lawn.  Full-on foliation is not far away.

The high temperatures have been in the low sixties for the past week or so.  That’s warm enough for the early-flowering plants to show off their many-colored resplendence and for me to be snug in shirtsleeves.  Waldo is comfortable in his sable birthday suit, but a broad, flat, lolling, dripping tongue does flop around between his opened jaws before we finish our six miles, making it obvious he needs a drink.  As he walks along, he leaves his used-water here and there, spraying a message that says, “Waldo was here!”

There are other messages alongside the trail.  One is from the State Government which reads, “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax.”  Why it’s necessary for a government to run an advertising campaign to encourage people to get a working vaccine in the middle of a deadly pandemic, I can’t fathom.  The number of people who are refusing to get the vaccine is downright discouraging.  My feelings are not politically based.  While I am not an epidemiologist, I do understand that the longer the virus is around in large numbers of infected people, the more opportunity it has to mutate into something not covered by the vaccines and even more virulent and deadly.  If you refuse to get vaccinated, you are putting everyone’s health at risk, not just your own.  Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who either don’t understand this or simply don’t care.

On a higher note, there are other signs we pass as we walk on the trail.  Near the beginning, there’s a sign that Marlborough City put up late last summer.  It reads, “Marlborough Rocks, A Community Rock Garden, Take one, Leave One, Share one.”  It sits in the middle of a pile of smooth, flat stones a few inches in diameter.  Though there are none there today, in the past, I’ve seen some painted rocks with messages.  Apparently, they were left, then taken or shared.  It’s warming to see that the community in which I live provides an opportunity for people to reach out to each other in an all-inclusive, generous and friendly way.  Symbolic, maybe, but the effort is there, in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic.  People make an effort to touch other people.

There’s another sign a little more than a half-mile from the beginning of the trail.  It’s hand-painted and reads, “COVID 2020, GARDEN, SPREAD LOVE, PLANT A SEED.”  Around it are rock-lined flowerbeds, a bench and some solar-powered lights.  Not long ago, someone shaped and painted a bit of tree stump to look like a red cardinal and sat it on an old folding chair.  The sign first appeared about this time last year, when things were locked down tight and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  Waldo and I passed the guy who started it while he was planting the first flower.  He said he wanted to create a little community space that would shine a little love and beauty through the gray clouds of doom that hung over us all.  It has morphed with the seasons and is still there today, still being cared for by those who appreciate it as they walk by.

Throughout the year of Covid, in many places where we’ve walked, including our trek across Massachusetts and our exploration of the trails around us, we’ve found similar gestures of friendliness, warmth and kindness.  We’ve encountered botanical descriptions of nearby plants chalked into the tarmac, small “villages” of wooden spoons dressed to look like people and other artful expressions of humanity.

Despite all the noise and furor, the doom and gloom, there are those among us who give us reason to hope for a better future.


Needs more sticks!

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