First Walk on the Rock Circuit: An Exultation
A Guest Post by Natalia
There have been some astonishing natural events these past few weeks: a blood moon rose, was eclipsed, and again became full and luminous as the Earth spun away. A tropical storm, Joaquin, reached in from the coast, bringing sharp winds and torrential rains, flooding some places. And all the deciduous trees began kindling those colors for which New England is known. Soon, they will blaze and fade.
Sunday morning, I stood by the kitchen window with a cup of tea, looking at the back yard. A vine clinging to the apple tree, newly scarlet, shone in the first sunlight seen in days. Robins gorged from the drenched earth. A pair of jays squawked from the pines, and squirrels cached near the base of a maple. There were sparrows and starlings and other plants gone rust and red, but although all of this gave me pleasure, I needed to be someplace unfamiliar, where the creatures – and I – had more room to move and breathe than this little back yard surrounded on three sides by parking lots. Most of all, I needed to escape that species whose members will surely one day pave over this lovely, lived-in yard and put unattractive, sterile condos or the like in its place.
So, I walked a mile or so to Jerry Jingle Road, an entrance to the Southeastern region of the Fells. Being so close to the Reservation was a major appeal of the apartment we recently moved in to, but I haven’t made much time to visit. When I have come, I usually haven’t gone much further than the edge of Shiner Pond, where I’d sit and watch frogs sitting stereotypically on lily pads, turtles sunning, and little fish dart from my shadow.
That morning, I planned on doing the same, but changed my mind early, followed a whim to leave the gravel path of Jerry Jingle and climb onto the Rock Circuit Trail. Almost immediately, I noticed some of nature’s more delicate features. Not the dramatic dynamism of blood moons or sea storms, but a fixed, mute kind of beauty: a rock on the trail seemed to have been tenderly rubbed with pale blue and pink and silver pastels. But this description isn’t quite right. The colors were not adornments, not on the rock’s surface but of the rock’s surface, the same way a blush rises to cheeks from emotions within and is, for a few moments, the complete state of the cheeks.
I had to resist the temptation to think of Degas as I admired the rock, just as I had to resist seeing feathered brush strokes, deft calligraphy, on the yellow leaves that littered the path I’d just left. What looked like perfect streaks or droplets of green in vibrant yellow were actually remnants of summer, not signifiers of masterful control over water and pigment. The marks and saturated colors of these fallen yellow blades, and the scarlet bushes I encountered next, so pleasing to my eye, were really evidence of darknesses which lingered a bit longer each night. I shook Degas and inky Asian scrolls out of my mind, and moved on.
I soon stood on a large mass of rocks in a clearing with a view of Boston town, cold and blue in the distance. I didn’t pause long to look at the familiar formations of steel and glass; though I love the city, it could not hold my attention when there were white blazes at my feet urging me forward on a path I’d never taken.
Through more trees and out of them to another clearing, I spent some time poking around the site of the former MIT observatory. The walls of the small building, built in 1899, were made of piled stone, now only a few feet high. The inside of the structure was rife with goldenrod. Many cairns clustered around the site; grasshoppers congregated there as well. I disturbed a few of them, and a hush fell over the site temporarily.
As I walked on, over dried streams and scattered birch paper and more beautiful leaves, my mind vacillated from all that I noticed of my surroundings to internal affairs (a growing pang of hunger, the bliss and treachery of intimacy, and all between). About an hour into my hike, I stopped, listening. The sound of cars could no longer be heard. The skies were empty of jets. The winds through the trees, and the silence when they ceased, quieted my mind, released me from cares. If this sounds saccharine, it can’t be helped. It’s true.
I began to take even more pleasure in color and shade, in gentle exertion up inclines and careful descents, in the feel of moss and root and rock beneath my feet. When a leaf turned over and revealed a large beetle with a burnished green, copper, and mauve body, I laid on the ground near it for a while, watching. My conditioned response at first was to wonder what it was called, but I decided I wouldn’t look it up later. The beetle, as I, existed then and there, with or without a name or an elaborate taxonomy. While the knowledge drive is a noble one, and one to which I am quite attached, I didn’t want it to overshadow a moment of simply being in damp soil and dry leaves beside a creature whose exoskeleton held the sun with a dull glow as clouds moved beyond it.
On previous hikes through other areas of the Fells, I have seen a doe with her twins, a squeaking pair of moles or shrews, woodpeckers and many other feathered species unfamiliar to me. I’ve seen butterflies and dragonflies , frogs and salamanders, garter snakes – the list goes on. But this lone beetle was the only wild life I encountered on the Rock Circuit, and I could not have asked for more. I know the Fells will be just as generous with its revelations every time I return.
Photo credits: Natalia C.
Natalia is a degree candidate (BA in Humanities, with a concentration in writing) at Harvard Extension School. She is also a full-time figurative art model; her work as professional muse is the subject of a book she’s currently drafting. She trains at Shobu Aikido in Somerville and lives in Malden, MA, wonderfully close to the Fells.