If we each were allowed to reclaim our own small piece of Eden, I would choose this spot - here, where the plank bridge rises above the creek and lifts slightly to end at the firmer ground ahead up the hill.


For a small arboretum, the landscape embraces everything from cultivated gardens to wild orchards to meadows and bogs. The path - which starts out grassy and becomes dirt and gravel - winds downward from the apple orchard under an ever more enclosing canopy of trees and levels out before crossing the creek and starting upward again.

You come across the creek bridge unexpectedly. The winding path takes a sharp turn to the left, you round it, and . . . the sight never fails to lift my heart.

It's a simple bridge. A walkway really, wide enough for two people to amble abreast comfortably. Weathered, narrow wooden planks, close together, solid to the tread. There's a wooden handrail about 3 1/2 feet high, and paralleling that, about a foot lower, is a narrow, round metal rail that is the actual support for the structure. The metal is an inconspicuous graying brown, mimicking the color of the wood.

The bridge zigzags through the close-standing trees and shrubs for about fifty feet; it's apparent that the architect/engineer wanted to disturb as little of the natural landscape as possible. If built with an eye to economy instead of ecology, the bridge would be barely ten feet long in a straight shot across the creek.

Standing at one end of the bridge, you can't see the to other end because it's hidden behind stands of trees. As you start to walk, you notice that the zigzag pattern is also made up of gentle curves within each zig, each zag; they are little bumps away from the swamp maples and oaks that brush up to it on either side. Each bend in the bridges path across the creek holds trees too precious to sacrifice. Here it's a magnificent old oak. There it's a maple whose main trunk has split to give birth to five copies of itself, each individual trunk having grown to its own great height. Over there is a tree that has split into three parts, still young, allowed to grow.

The walkway is only two feet above the ground, and if you look over the side as you go, you get the impression of walking on the tops of the long, spiky-leafed ferns that are packed in around the trees.

It's green. It's so very green. Even the rocks - the ever-present remnants of New England's glacial past - even they are moss-covered or tinted with a light green patina that runs like veins across the gray surfaces. Soft green of the moss, dark green of the oak leaves, vibrant, bright green of the ferns, muted, gentle green of the maples. Across the greenscrape are spots of deep red berries, as if an artist had impatiently shaken out his brush against the foliage. Holly bushes, I think. Maybe young hawthorns.

The air is rich with oxygen. Musky with the scent of the loam and the earth and the bark. Birds call out, hidden in the branches. Cicadas buzz loudly, incessantly. They almost mask the noise of the occasional passenger plane on its descent into Logan. It's hard to believe that you're only thirty miles outside of Boston when you stand here, surrounded by the woods.

The creek itself - the reason for the bridge - is a small thing found at mid-point of the walkway. Lined with stones, carved into its own sinuously curving gully, it usually runs at a trickle. This has been a rainy summer, though, and the creek is full and active. It bubbles over the mid-sized rocks and collides off the larger ones, splashing and murmuring softly. There are small pools that have been trapped off to the sides, and they reflect back the trees and ferns rising above them.

The bridge ends on a gentle rising slope and gives you back to a dirt path that winds upward toward the pines. It's a lovely walk, to be sure. Still, I always find myself turning and gazing backwards for one last glimpse of the bridge that crosses through my little part of Eden.

Written 08/10/03

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