Saturday, May 11, 2013

Revisiting the Past

As a young boy my friends and I would take a few of our days of summer vacation from school to hike about the Middlesex Fells Reservation which occupied portions of the towns of Medford, Stoneham and Winchester Massachusetts.  They would be day long excursions with bagged lunches to sustain us while out in the “wild”.  I enjoyed those tromps through the woods.  At times we would have a small handful of boys and at other times it was big as a scout troop.  There was mystery and mystique within those treed pathways that wound about and at times crisscrossed deep in the woods.  All the while with the tramp of each footstep thoughts would run through my mind of who may have pass along this path yesterday, a century or millennia ago.  I was sure that Native Americans must have walked these paths and perhaps colonials too.  There was no visible evidence to support these thoughts but that did not damn back the flow if those random thoughts.

Now that I have attained senior status my thoughts vary to would others ever remember that I have travelled this way?  Would another young boy on a future day wondered who traveled through the same woods?  Maybe, he would see and think the same thoughts I did as we set out about our adventure within the woods of the Fells.

No trip to the Fells would have had been complete without a climb up the fire watch tower for a view of Boston.  In my younger days I did not have camera in hand to record the adventure.  So, a few years back on a sunny Sunday afternoon I went on an adventure to retrace some of those earlier steps.  First was the finding of the trail leading up the hill to the fire watch tower!  I walked the winding path with the less steep incline which seemed much longer that I recollected from my earlier days.  Back then we were surer of foot and I am sure the ascent to the tower took a much more vertical path and a lot less time than it had on my more recent visit.  Eventually, the tower was in sight and I hoped that still had access for those willing to climb the steps for a view of Boston.

Fire Watch Tower, Middlesex Fells Reservation
 This time I climbed the familiar tower steps with camera in hand.  The view was pretty much how it had been more than a half century ago but the landscape had changed dramatically.  The Boston I viewed was far different from my boyhood days.  However, the view is still one that gives a bird’s eye view of the city with the tall buildings appearing as parapets against the cotton ball cloud checkered sky.  The area closest to the tower did not have a highway running though it as it does today.  There were fields of rolling green grass, a running brook and trolley tracks in the landscape of those days.  I only wished I had a camera then to capture that moment in time that can now only be seen with my mind’s eye.

View of Boston from the top of the Fire Watch Tower, Milddlesex Fells Reservation

Satisfied that the view from the tower was pretty close to what was recollected from my boyhood, I decided to find the “Panther Cave” which held a great deal of mystique now as it had back then.  As a boy there were no signs that highlighted the features of the Fells as there is now and I was glad someone had taken the time to mark the trails.  My memory was not complete enough that I could locate this den on recollection alone.  At first when I saw the pile of rock that was labeled the “Panther Cave”, it did not appear familiar as far as how I recollected it.  In reality, it was an outcropping of rock that with its arrangement created a void to create the cave.  It appeared much smaller to me that day and the likelihood that cavemen may have occupied it in the past was erased from the boyhood memory bank.  The sun was starting to set and I thought best to start back to the parking lot before it got dark.

Panther Cave, Middlesex Fells Reservation
 As I made my way to exit the woods, I came across a less traveled path but a path nevertheless which seemed to lead out of the wooded Fells.  As I walked along I spotted something that appeared out of place within the woods.  I walked from the path to a tree where a set of frames containing water stained photo and type written page.  It was a memorial left by the children of a man who used to like to walk the woods as I had when I was a boy.  He apparently had taken them with him on his adventures and on one of those trips carved each child’s initial in a tree.  The tree is there with the initials very visible but I wonder if now after another few years had passed if the photo and typed text would be legible enough to see the love of a parent from his children and know how he used to walk these very woods.
A memorial to a loved Father

To me photography is the seizing of a moment in time and preserving it as long as the media can survive the test of time and the elements.  I only wish I had a camera in those earlier days, It will take another lifetime to retrace all those past steps.

The initials of the children carved in the tree