June 20, 2023

COVID Garden.


Walking is a man’s best medicine.



Things have been a little too cool at sunrise for a shirtsleeve walk and a little too warm two and a half hours later, for a jacket walk, when we finish.  So, Waldo and I have been waiting until eightish or ninish AM to start our daily sojourn into the woods.  The sun is well up by then, but the shadows are still long.  They lay across the tarmac and grass in blurry blotches, as if the projector, the sun, that produces them were out of focus (it sort of is, due to the fact that it isn’t a pinpoint source of light and that causes the fuzziness).   Soon, it will be hot enough that we have to start before dawn – but not yet.

The Japanese knotweed now stands some eight to ten feet high.  I can’t tell exactly because the taller stuff is a few feet away from the trail where I can’t see the ground due to all the foliage.  Orange jewelweed is still close to the ground and doesn’t yet have its orange blooms.  The trees of heaven are not at full height and their serrated pinnate leaves still have a reddish tinge.  There are new-growth Norway maples, with large green leaves drooping from stalks that aren’t yet big enough to be called trunks, and some young sassafras treelets, with their dinosaur-footprint shaped leaves, growing close by the trail.  These low-growing plants are all packed close to the trail where, due to the gap made by the tarmac, sunlight can still reach them without being blocked by the canopies of the larger old-growth black walnut, red oak and birch trees.  Thirty feet off-trail, there isn’t as much brush at all.

As soon as we hit the trail, Waldo is off doing his business, then he goes off on a search for the perfect stick.  He waters a few bushes and weeds along the way and is soon lost in his own Waldo-world, doing his Waldo-thing.  He’s eager and happy, quite entertained by everything around him.

Within the first quarter-mile, we pass the Marlborough COVID Rock Garden.  It’s a patch of gravel set in the grass next to the trail with a sign that reads, “Take one, Leave one, Share one.”  It first appeared during the lockdown of 2020.  Sometimes when we pass by here, there are brightly painted palm-sized stones, colored like easter eggs.  Sometimes I see beautiful skillfully painted rocks covered in intricate patterns that must have taken some time and effort to produce.  Today, however, there’s nothing but gravel.  All the good stuff must already be taken or shared.

Just before the half-mile mark is the COVID Community Garden.  Its modest beginnings date to the beginning of the lockdown and preceded the rock garden by a few months.  There is a couple that comes by and cares for the patch of ground on which it sits and have added to and improved it over the years.  There are planters and pinwheels and gnomes and photocell-powered lights and benches to sit on and carved and painted pieces of wood.  Flowers transferred from greenhouses and colorful pieces of sculpture are there as well.  People, particularly kids, walking along the trail will often pause and enjoy the ambience.

Shortly after the one-mile marker is a large open field, a landfill, that runs down a gentle slope to the Fort Meadow Reservoir.  Homes on the far side of the reservoir sit close to the water’s edge with docks that stick out into the lake.  There aren’t many boats out there, but I have seen a rowboat or two, bearing fishermen with lines out.  Swans and ducks are often in the lake as well.

Between the 1.5 and 2-mile marker is another field, quite large.  This is the athletic field belonging to the Assebet Valley Regional Technical High School.  Often when we pass, there are students out there, throwing a discus, a shot, or a javelin, or playing lacrosse or soccer.  It’s fenced in and I’ve often lusted for it as a place I could take Waldo, let him off leash and watch him run to his heart’s content.  Unfortunately, the fence bears a sign that says, “No Trespassing.  Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”  Sigh.

At the 2-mile marker is a brand new, huge, not yet completed, luxury retirement home.  A little more than half a mile after that is an old stone bridge abutment and an elderly housing building that was built three years ago.  Some of the people we pass, as Waldo and I walk along, live there.  There must be a lot of money in retirement homes.

Just before the three-mile marker is the English ivy tree.  That plant is the hardiest I’ve seen.  Its green leaves are out and photosynthesizing in snow and -32℉ weather and still doing it’s green thing in 90℉ weather that’s too hot for me to do my thing and certainly too hot for Waldo and his sable birthday suit.

Just after the three-mile marker is a large rock that marks where we turn around and head back home.  The trail continues on into Hudson, but it’s more urban and less interesting.  Besides, six miles is plenty for a daily jaunt and even Waldo is quite satisfied after we’re done.

That’s a brief rundown of our daily walk, for the past four and a half years.

It’s our own little patch of Mother Nature that Waldo and I look forward to visiting nearly every day.


Fort Meadow Reservoir and a lot of green.

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