May 10, 2013

I looked around and I saw.

200 yr old Charlestown Bridge. 10 yr old Zakim Bridge behind, TD Bankorth Gardens on the left, Charles River Locks, under.

Having unshackled myself from Facebook - and thus my iPhone- for a day-long Sabbatical, I went for a walk at lunch time.

I earn my bread in a venerable old building right by Boston's historic North End, within stone's throw of Charlestown and on the banks of the Charles River. Plenty of places that could let in some light.

A spot I knew by the river's edge called to me and I answered. I rested my elbows on the sun-warmed rails, felt the breeze play with my hair, allowed my shoulders to drop a bit and let my eyes wander.  Without any purpose whatsoever.

The USS Constitution in the Navy Yard, Charlestown
The masts on Old Ironsides across the water bristled as they have done for 200 odd years. Young women sunned their winter-bleached bodies gratefully on the slim green strips of grass. A man in black paddleboarded up against the current.  And I heard the quiet in my mind. At last.

Not really though. The Charlestown bridge rumbled un-rythmically from passing traffic. The river went about it's business with occasional swishes and gurgles. And a few distinct splashes that tugged at my now-adrift consciousness. I looked around for the source. Down by my feet, the water was it's usual murky green but punctuated by unusually large, bulls eye ripples. They dotted the water as far as I could see, timed to those sharp little splashes. Then something silver flashed just under the surface. A short distance away, another silvery flash. These too lined up with the splashes.

Of course. Fish.

I tried to collect more flashes that timed with the tinkling splashing, delighted at this novel symphony.

And so I looked. Really looked - at the murky depths. What was merely the motion of wave-creased water and the play of light a moment ago, transformed suddenly into a procession of striped little bodies, moving with astounding speed and determination. Each flash was a silver scaled body twisting up to the surface, catching and throwing back the light in its leap. Each splash marked its re-entry.

  And the more I looked, the more I saw.

The choreography that was only just revealed to my utter delight was a matter of routine for the tiny lives involved. While i focussed so intently on this amazing stream of life within the river, the traffic continued to rumble over the bridge. They silently rushed by for the 5 minutes I watched with my newly opened, awestruck eyes.

Charles River Locks
The Charles River locks were just a few hundred yards away and I remembered the fish ladders there, for young Shad, Alewife, Smelt and Herring to run.

A motorized boat with 3 young men drifted up and cast their fishing lines. They must have been watching their boat radars. By the time I'd turned my gaze down again to soak up more of the quiet but incredible energy roiling sub-surface, they were gone. I inadvertently froze, hoping someone would hit the 'play' button again.

They were gone.

I hung around as long as my conscience would let me: my work wasn't going to do itself. My increasingly desperate scanning of the murky depths for any darting colors or flashes of light revealed nothing.

I gathered together my disappointment and headed back to cubicle-land. I let go of the sun and air and mentally prepared to give myself up again to the stifling, controlled environment that would numb my senses while somehow opening up those mental facilities that let me be professionally effective.

Only a few paces before I would leave water and grass behind for the asphalt that led to my building, I caught sight of a newly sprouted Boston ivy creeper.

It had twined up an ugly chicken wire fence, spreading out it's finely veined, impossibly glossy new baby leaves to the light and burgeoning heat.

I thought of that faraway stream of young fish, swimming from their spawning grounds to their Lives out in the big, wide bay. The urban, resilient invasive ivy shoots forcing up from sidewalk cracks and around wire frames to claim their place.

So much life teeming around me, where I can't see or even guess at it.

My cubicle doesn't feel so stifling anymore.


  1. AnonymousMay 16, 2013

    Sometimes the best escape is waiting right outside, no?

  2. This is cool. I've been feeling a little dysfunctional relationship with fb lately as well. There's a lot of urban beauty around us all in the most unlikely places, it doesn't have to be all 'Walden' all the time for us to feed our souls methinks.