Down By the River

Before Rob Lowe was Benjamin Kane and Jennifer Grey’s nose job, there was a fabulous little Cinderella story called If the Shoe Fits.  Its fabulousness consisted not only in ridiculous French accents and big hair a la Strictly Ballroom, but also the subdued wildness of high FASHION that only made for TV movies can provide.  Certain key quotes also spark the imagination, such as the strongly intoned ‘READ them to me’ or the somewhat obvious ‘she has this place she likes to go, down by the river’.  Who doesn’t have a place they like to go down by the river, some murky canal of sewage where they can reflect and let small ripples peel consciousness away for awhile?

In cities with over 1 million residents, people are rarely alone, even in the privacy of their own homes.  How then can one find a space to think, a space to be alone, a space for the individualism and expansive personalities our culture so admires?  How do the quiet corners of a public garden, or the atriums and courtyards of libraries and malls serve to give us a little room to breathe?  How do we find peace, even for a moment, with all of humanity traipsing past?

There are several spots of seclusion I have found in Boston that allow me this space, that have yet to be spoiled, even when shared.  One favorite place is my own personal bench down by the river.  Facing the Charles on the Cambridge side next to the Longfellow Bridge, it doesn’t have a perfect view of Boston.  Instead, Memorial Drive arcs out over the water some distance away from the bench and the railing in front of it, creating a small pool river waves that gently slap against the roads’ visible pilings.  Every day at about one pm, the sun is low enough to warm the bench despite overhanging trees.  The light also strikes each strand of spider silk between the iron bars of the railing, giving the whole mass an oddly tempting glow.  The whole scene puts me in a kind of daze, the sounds of joggers, water slapping, and cars speeding past somehow not disturbing the overall seclusion and peacefulness of the space.  Even the occasional goose hanging around for a handout doesn’t disturb the atmosphere, and I really despise geese.

What planner or builder knew to set a bench just here, seemingly to view cars and concrete?  What gardener planted and watered these trees, protectively nestled between two roads and a bridge?  What hobos have slept here gently, or promenading females have gently taken a seat out of the sun’s glare?  How many spiders, geese, and sparrows are provided for by the largess of picnickers and passers-by?  What souls have found comfort here, or puzzled minds, a solution?  Do the stones tell a story in this place, any more than those of the bridge, or those of my fluorescent-lighted office building?

1 Comment

  1. Shannon said,

    April 21, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I miss nature

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