Friday, October 17, 2008
The Trees are Taller Now
This week’s theme could very well be: The Trees are so Much Taller Now. Blessed as we’ve been with Indian Summer all week, we’ve walked every day, my father, my granddaughter and I. In Hingham there are several lovely woods with meandering paths, but 2 of the finest are World’s End (more about the global proclivity for World’s Ends later) and the GW Town Forest. My father grew up here and now lives in the house he grew up, and he has walked in these woods and along these paths all his life. And because Hingham, like so much of New England, was once entirely agricultural, all the forests are second growth (at least).
Because of his strokes two years ago, my father has forgotten huge chunks of the last fifty years, while the first twenty or thirty years are his life are still vivid. And every day he forgets yesterday and last week and last month, anew. But he is undaunted. At times bizarrely cheerful.
And the trees are so much taller now, than they were then. Each day we can rediscover this.
At World’s End, four coastal drumlins extending into Hingham Harbor, he comments that the trees along the shore were never so tall; there used to be an unimpeded view across the water to Boston. Now we see the skyscrapers in the interstices.
The trees ARE much taller. In 1889, a John Brewer owned all of the peninsula. After farming for 30 years he had the idea of developing his land. So he hired Olmsted (the very same) to design a subdivision and according to his plan, cart paths were laid out and over 900 trees were planted. Happily, the proposed subdivision never came to fruition. The adolescent trees of the 30’s and 40’s are now stately oaks, maples, walnuts and chestnuts.The vistas are ineluctably altered.
Ditto with the Town Forest. In 1922 the town acquired over 100 acres of farmland and planted mostly white pines. Those white pines are now mature and we walk along soft paths of fallen pine needles.
For my father, all the trees are taller than remembered. For my granddaughter, it is all new and colorful and she buries herself in a pile of pine needles, again and again, to emerge triumphant.(That's her in the plaid shirt.)