Yesterday morning I went for a run around the lake. I’ve recently learned that Arlington Pond has a very interesting history. It’s one of the few artificial lakes around here. It was created as part of an effort to increase the power available to the textile mills in Lawrence. So on the other side of the lake there is a Mill Pond Road, an Arlington Mill Road. As I jogged along I tried to imagine what this area looked like back in the early 1900’s, when Arlington Pond was a rural vacation destination, dotted with small cabins or “camps” as they are known up here. It’s really not that hard to imagine, since quite a few of those cabins remain here and there, in various states of disrepair. It’s one of the things that makes Arlington Pond so fascinating. It’s such a strange combination of tackiness, wild beauty, and opulence. Do we live in a charming New England village? A wild spot of natural beauty? A hard-scrabble Yankee blue-color enclave? Well, yes.
It was cold, but there was no wind, and it was sunny. About three miles into the run I heard a loud flapping noise overhead and watched in amazement as a hawk landed on a tree branch directly above me. I almost fell over, looking up at such a large bird from a unique perspective. Above the perched hawk other hawks glided in the warming air currents. The simple beauty of the sight made me smile.
Farther on another seemingly beautiful sight left me with mixed feelings. As a college student in Missouri I fell in love with AmericanBittersweet. When we first moved to New England over two years ago I was thrilled to find bittersweet growing prolifically everywhere I turned. But my classes at the New England Wildflower Center have made me a wiser plant-lover. I have discovered that bittersweet is a very destructive invasive plant in this area, that grows as a vine and kills the other plants and trees it twines itself around. Now when I see bittersweet growing I also see the dying tree it is growing upon. But I still think that its orange and red berries are so beautiful. It’s like some crazy candy bar that I know is bad for me, but I still want it. I’m bittersweet-conflicted I guess!
At around mile four I heard a loud knocking sound off to my right. I looked into the trees, hoping to spot a woodpecker, and I did. It was a pileated woodpecker. I still find them thrilling to see. They are so large and striking. They seem much more common now than they were back in Missouri in the 70’s. But they are still uncommon and another piece of natural beauty that makes me glad I live here.
Toward the end of the run, crossing the little bridge close to our house, I could see flocks of mallards huddling in the small pools of water where the lake has still not frozen completely. This is such a strange winter. It has been warm, unseasonably warm, with no snow to speak of since the freak snow storm we had around Halloween. I have been startled, however, that people are starting to go out on the lake, skating and playing impromptu games of hockey. There was even a snow mobile out there yesterday. I know most people are very careful and test the ice before the venture out, but it still surprised me. The lows have been in the 20’s now for a couple of weeks, but the highs have frequently been in the 40’s during the day, with even an occasional 50 degree day. I guess it must be the days and hours below freezing that count. I’m still not about to take my snow shoes and go out there though; not until the snow mobiles are all over the lake and the ice fisherman are out. Surely eventually winter will arrive. We can’t go a whole season without some snow! I'm not ready to experience a winter like the last one any time soon, but a little snow would be nice.