Monday, April 28, 2008

Driving out to the NEARA meeting

I had about a 1.5 hour drive to get out to Northampton so I popped a CD in the player and drove along as fast as possible while trying to keep an eye out the side window for stone work next to the road. My son made me a CD with Philip Glass's music and I have to say (where my son cannot hear me) that, based on that CD, Glass takes the monotonous repitition of the same phrase over and over again to new heights. I kept listening even though it hurt my ears until I was well past Worcester, by which time I gave up on it and drove along in silence.
Driving along Rt 290 heading southwest, I saw an area with lots of stone walls and I looked as closely as possible (while going past at 70 mph) until I spotted a huge box shaped rock pile - maybe 5 feet high, six feet wide, ten feet long. And then I was past it, looking around feverishly for some kind of landmark I could use to remember the spot. Then there was another damaged pile on a rock, then a cross street, then exit #22 just before Lake Quinsigamond. When I got home later I looked up this spot on the map:
And the aerial view:
So I am planning to go back next weekend.
As I continued the drive I was thinking about what people assume as they look out the window of a moving car. Maybe, most typically, they do not see any passage of time and, to them, the landscape is the same as it has always been. But slightly more reflective people are going to see farms and fields and assume that this is perhaps a little overgrown but otherwise the same as before. Knowledgeable people will look at the trees and know they are new and that 80 years ago all of New England was logged off. So these people might believe, if you told them, that they are seeing the overlay of farming on top of a now vanished Indian landscape. What I think we are seeing is modern neglect on top of 1950's dairy farms on top of Indian modifications on top of 19th century farming, on top of 18th century Indian modificatons, on top of 17th century farming....and back it goes. The truth, the context for these rock piles and ceremonial structures that we see today is an almost ongoing use and re-use of the landscape that has continued from before the European arrival through to the present. At the rate at which oil prices are rising, who knows how long it is going to be like it is now?

1 comment :

Tim MacSweeney said...

I've got a long list of places along the highway that I'd love to look around in, but have that same parking problem.
Especially along route 8 around the Thomaston/Northfield line, overlooking the Naugatuck River: there's a linear row or two with "the Indian Look," near boulders and outcrops where I suspect "heaps" and who knows what other surprises.
The big problem around this spot is that many bodies of murder victims have been found in the area, by the exit and the closed down rest area...