Archive for the ‘Milton’ Category

Curiously Pleasant Subway Trip

February 14th, 2011

Something New Yorkers and Bostonians share is a dread of dirty-smellies, particularly on the subways. I got a chuckle a few days ago from a variation on that theme.

I slid over undulating sheets of iced waves that should have been sidewalks to Mattapan Square. It seems Milton has three very strict snow-emergency rules — Chapter 6, Section 10 forbids sliding or coasting on a public way without a permit from Selectmen or the Chief of Police, Section 13 bans throwing snowballs, again on any public way, and Section 3 reads you can’t move any snow from your property into a public way. The bylaws don’t bother with the silliness of clearing your sidewalks of ice and snow. Harrumph, surely anyone foolish enough to walk in winter deserves the worst.

From there, the Mattapan high-speed rail, a.k.a. the trolley, is frequent and quick to Ashmont. Ah, there where the subway begins, the vicissitudes of urban transit are in charge of your body and timing. The trains arrive when they arrive and leave when they leave. Moreover, many passengers are in for the long haul. They are likely to be headed to Downtown Crossing and many to Harvard, Davis and Alewife.


This inspires you to look carefully as you enter a car. You likely know which end of the train you’ll want to be on for the right exit strategy. You’ll almost certainly have your choice of seats at Ashmont. You’ll really want to be careful about your proximity to cellphone yammerers and screamers, those dirty-smellies, and the obviously demented. You might be elbow to elbow for 20 to 40 minutes.

On my last right north, I smelled him from 12 or more feet away. To my amusement, it was not the scent I might have feared.

I checked him out. He was deep into his tin and not noticing me or anyone. He had on old clothes, but they were clearly clean and well taken care of. I could surmise that he was not homeless, but not quite all the way in the present. Perhaps he lived in a group home.

What he was noticing and into, and what permeated half the car, was the curiously strong Altoids scent. It was the red-trimmed peppermint variety. The oils filled the air between us, aggressively and agreeably. He carefully and with apparent pleasure plucked three or four at a time to place into his mouth. There was a man who enjoyed his mints. He rolled back when they were in his mouth and grinned his satisfaction.

If there was a wee lesson there, it would be to go with what is before you and be aware of it. I might well have seen a not-quite-together fellow and ignored him or worse thought ill of him. Instead even my low level of awareness let in the pungency of his mints and a glimmer of his pleasure in them.


Flat Out XC from Milton

February 4th, 2011

The Burma Road trail in the non-hill Blue Hills hiking/cross-country skiing route. The uxorial unit was inspired by the DCR XC brochure (art below lifted from this). Its wee description of this is:

Skiing from Fowl
Meadow Parking Lot
Located at the intersection of Neponset
Valley Parkway and Brush Hill Road in Milton
Burma Road
4 miles (2.5 hours) Easiest
This long, level course through the wetlands of the Neponset River is nearly a straight line, terminating at Interstate Highway 95. Easy terrain but a lengthy route. Great
for endurance-building and diagonal stride practice. Start
behind the bulletin board and follow the trail to the beginning of Burma Road. Ski to the end, at Interstate 95, and

Skiing from Fowl Meadow Parking Lot

Located at the intersection of Neponset Valley Parkway and Brush Hill Road in Milton

4 miles (2.5 hours) Easiest

This long, level course through the wetlands of the Neponset River is nearly a straight line, terminating at Interstate Highway 95. Easy terrain but a lengthy route. Great for endurance-building and diagonal stride practice. Start behind the bulletin board and follow the trail to the beginning of Burma Road. Ski to the end, at Interstate 95, and return.

xcbluehillsIndeed it is very flat. It also runs through what must be marsh and meadow on each side, planted with trees. We kept waiting for the hills, as we are used to in the reservation. It has the feeling of the Cape Code Rail Trail instead. Yet, it was a workout by its length.

We also got to play a bit of Holmes too. One skier had been through before us today, followed by a hiker with a dog.

The latter pair was clumsy and messy. For the first mile of the trail, they tromped and excreted on the ski tracks (an unfavorite of mine). The dog was prolific, wet and dry, gold and brown.

The skier was more intriguing though. The tracks were close together and shallow, suggesting someone slender with narrow hips and light, perhaps 100 pounds or less. The pole basket holes were not far from the tracks and close together, suggesting that she had narrow shoulders and likely short arms.

We appreciated that she had blazed the trail, so to speak. After the first mile the booted one and canine companion headed off and back, leaving a decent track for us. On the way back, our tracks made the route even faster.

I’ll do that again. Also, while it’s not on Ranger Tom’s Suggested Hikes, I’m sure we’ll try it in the warm. If it isn’t too marshy and buggy, it should be a fine adventure and nature gawk.

Winter Fluffer

January 16th, 2011

After a glance, my uxorial unit declared the backyard looks like a field of Marshmallow Fluff®.  That’s how winter should be, and how it is in my childhood recollections.

We’ve been a week with scant new snow. We had a pathetic dusting last night, sky dandruff. Yet, the air has been colder than average and not modulated by that famous ocean effect that Boston gets. Our 18 inches up on this hill stays a solid foot, even after several sunny afternoons.

For much of my childhood, I spent vacations and for a few years lived in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia. To my memory, snow that came stayed.

Romney is in the mountains and on a plateau surrounded by them. The huge apple orchards and corn fields overlooking the Potomac were white from the first flakes, on and on, with regular new snows.

Normally fluffin-town snow in Boston, if it deep enough to cross-country ski in, stays that way one to three days. Temperatures above 30F, bright sun, and no new snow quickly reduce the good stuff to intermittent grass decoration and junk that sticks to skis.

I’m quick to grab the skis (sometimes snowshoes instead) and head to one of my Boston ski resorts — the Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park’s golf course or the nearby Blue Hills Reservation in Canton/Milton. Alas, I used to walk to the Forest Hills Cemetery when we still lived in Jamaica Plain, but two years ago, the management there got grumpy, nasty and non-accommodating.

It’s not a huge deal to drive 45 minutes or even a couple of hours to get to a bona fide cross-country course. They have groomed trails, warming houses or huts, places to pee and such. They do charge say $20 a person, but the big thing is that they are OUT THERE. It’s fabulous to ski Boston. I have an odd pride in being able to do so, even hitting someplace twice a day or more than one location.

So, I’ve been grokking the cold weather keeping the deep snow for my amusement and sport. Tomorrow again will be bitterly cold — more obvious in the arboretum or particularly on the Devine golf course, which only means faster skiing and no slogging in the gummy stuff.

If global warming means hotter summers and colder winters, at least the second part keeps my fluff deep and hard enough for play. Bring it on and keep it on the ground, if you please.

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MacMilton Mansions 2 of 2

September 13th, 2010

Like an obese tourist couple on the Red Line, Wellesley-fication plops ever closer to Boston. We really don’t have the land in this jigsaw puzzle of a city for the distinguishing ostentation of the burbs…at last anymore. Yet, as with five-carat cubic zirconia rings on the shiny nailed hands of parvenus, mac mansions need only the slightest encouragement.

Ostentation must have its display!

A few hundred yards from our new-to-us Hyde Park home, this apparently will play out in all its tawdry splendor. The vagaries of zoning dovetail elegantly with the whims of the privileged.

The short of it is that an early 20 century mansion on Brush Hill Road slowly became dilapidated and then quickly lost much of its roof in a fire on April Fool’s Day eve, 2008. Its six-acre plot is under agreement with the Ruscito family of Brush Hill Properties. They want to tear down the mansion and its nearby carriage house to make way for a subdivision of five huge houses.

A little (17,000 square feet) of the land is in Boston, but the rest in Milton and the Boston bit would be lawns and not houses. The Milton Planning Board does not like the project, nor does the Brush Hill Neighborhood Association. (The Bulletin papers do not make issues easily available online. The article on this appears in the 9/2/10 issue.)

In a short-notice public meeting, locals apparently were shocked to hear of plans for five houses of 4,000 to 4,500 square feet each. The abutters, planning board members and others seemed left to sputter likely ineffective objections. For example, with limited drainage and one catch basin, where would the rain go? Yet underlying it seemed the real concern of aesthetics.

Legally though, the developers seem solid. I recall this tale from my old JP Woodbourne neighborhood. There, a family catercorner from us slapped up a pre-fab looking house for their daughter on a tiny lot, just inches outside the requirement for distance from the adjacent house. Even though it was an historic neighborhood, the new construction did not fall under the strictures and elaborate approval process of the simplest addition or other exterior changes would have.

Milton town planner Bill Clark said that the purchase-and-sale agreement provides for subdivision. Nominally, the planning board has to approve this. Likely though, while Milton could make the family alter the proposal slightly, this appears a sure deal.

In their favor, the Ruscito folk are locals. They have built and occupy their own mac mansions on Metropolitan Avenue. They are listed at 124, 130 and 140. Their sprawling, junior-college or suite-motel looking properties may not be to the tastes of old money Milton. So what? Money power, pursuit of happiness, home is your castle and so forth…it’s all as American as keeping up with and racing past the Jones.

We strolled around the existing mansion recently. The images here are from that trip. Click on a thumbnail for a larger view and use your browser back button or key combo to return.

The present path up the hill to the mansion and carriage house looks like a Wind in the Willows image.  The carriage house looks in good shape from the outside, but would be expendable in the project. hiddenhouse
approach The former grandeur of the mansion is easy to see from the approach.
The magnificent American beech is up to 10 feet around and perhaps 100 feet tall. It has split, dropping several large limbs and showing a big cleft in the main trunk. From my own experience at my previous house, I’d estimate that this is a 200 year old or so tree and would die on its own within 50 years (unacceptable to a developer).
boylefront The front entry shows piles of books and papers indicative of the dissolution within.
The roof at the front burned thoroughly. Newspaper reports said the surviving family occupant caused the fire accidentally with a cigarette. firedamage
porch The side porch still has its furniture.
While overgrown with vines, the back of the house belies the destruction on the other side. overgrownback
chest1 On the side porch, a travel trunk sits lonely in blown beech leaves. It makes one wonder what lands it visited over the past century.

The fire that hastened this process got brief, but thorough coverage at the time, like here and here. The reclusive and forlorn looking resident, Valerie Boyle, has the made-for-TV-movie look. We are left to imagine her life in the run-down home without water or electricity. The mind jumps immediately to thoughts of Grey Gardens, minus the cats.

Estimates at the time put the value of the then 102-year-old mansion at around $2 million. That could have bought a nice annuity, were she inclined to leave the family home. Meanwhile, before the fire, Milton officials had apparently told her that the house was unsafe for habitation. Her 80-year-old brother-in-law Edward Fallon, lived in the carriage house and the property apparently was owned by a family trust.

One news article in the Patriot Ledger summed up the future of the property — Fallon said Valerie Boyle has lived alone in the house since one of her brothers died several years ago. Boyle has no children. Fallon, a retired real estate investor, said the family will probably raze the house and sell the nearly seven acres of land. He said the younger family members have moved away and taking care of the huge house and rolling grounds has become increasingly difficult as the years have passed. “I guess it’s time,” Fallon said.

Now, one Milton Planning Board member would like to see a cluster development instead of a land subdivision. Another would prefer a single large condo building. Regardless, I’d bet the Ruscitos have their way, maybe with a few placation changes for the neighbors.

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MacMilton Mansions 1 of 2

September 8th, 2010

Visualize a set of four or five instant mansions at the Hyde Park border on the Milton side, Brush Hill Road. You apparently won’t have to imagine it for long. The same developer who has been plunking down oversized brick-faced thingummies is poised to re-plunk.

We strolled around the burned-out property they’ll use, snapping images of the sad and grand old house on the hill. (Pix follow in 2 of 2.)

I also found the remnants of what appears to be an outdoor teen living room where coyotes pass. It is a wonderful joke on the mansions of Metropolitan Avenue.

Originally, I went onto the well forested path behind a six-foot privacy fence because I’d seen neighborhood coyotes trot there in midday. I hadn’t considered it rec-room territory, but it looks like the local youth have.

macmiltonPix tricks: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. Use your browser’s back button or keys to return.

First, consider the environment. Metropolitan as it heads east from Hyde Park has several old, grand homes. Mostly though, it’s parvenu palaces. We realized eventually what they appear to be — a bunch of suites motels!

Architectural tastelessness is neither a crime nor limited to Boston’s immediate burbs. Wright and Wren know that Wellesley and Dover among many other nouveau riche reserves are splatted with overly large tacky manors. In general, folk can spend as they wish.

Tucked among the outrageous examples here though is that counterpoint to it, quite possibly created and enjoyed by the offspring from that superficial grandeur.

joesentmeThe path entrance is a bit horror-movie-ish. The darkness from the trees compounds the steep descent beyond the fence. It only needs Psycho music to be truly ominous.

However, instead of wild canines, the suburban jungle features junk furniture and graffiti. Just inside is a roofless rec room.

Surely this is the away-from-mom-and-dad preserve of teens. There is a Bud Light can or two, but most beverage residue is the likes of Hawaiian Punch juice boxes and energy-drink cans. There’s no obvious drug leavings, like syringes or rolling-paper packs. There are not latex gloves or condoms. There are none of the discarded nips so common on the length of Brush Hill Road, apparently tossed by driving topers.

Instead, the amusement that leaves traces seems to be tagging the inside of the fence with spray paint. The decors is simple hillbilly or squatter camp. A seriously mismatched grouping of upholstered (surely disgusting in the outdoor weather) , plastic and wood chairs. These are what we’d see on the curb on Fairmount Hill trash day.recoom

Despite the grunge, the rustic den shows a flash of wholesomeness. Again, there’s no drug or sex leavings, as well as no evidence of serious boozing or dangerous fires. Assuming this is the space of pubescent non-delinquents, they retain some decorum and know as the ancient Greeks had it not to kick against the goads.

When I told my wife out this small find and its juxtaposition with the ostentatious abutters, she had just heard a similar distant tale. A friend in a small South Carolina city had recently cleared out her parents’ house and land. She found a rec room like that hidden in the overgrowth there. It makes one wonder how many impromptu clubhouses (minus the house) there are.

Next up, the gutted mansion and its aftermath.

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Bikepath? Are You Crazy!

August 25th, 2010

THEY want my stuff. THEY want to hurt me. Keep THEM away.

NIMBYism is most obvious and somewhat understandable with the institutionalized — substance abusers, child abusers, convicted criminals, developmentally disabled. Yet many towns put a finer point on it for others.

I’ve been watching the inane hoo-ha for the past 15 years around here about (drum ratta tatta…wait for it) bicycle/walking paths. These perceived threats separate the sophisticated, civilized and sensible from emotional dunderheads.

Cross-post note: As political and non-political, this post appears at Marry in Massachusetts as well.

It was only after 9/11 and the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency’s springing full-blown to dominate our thoughts and feelings that a parallel was obvious. Small towns about the country begged for security funding. To big-city dwellers, that is those at real risk of terrorist actions, such entreaties were absurd. Yet on a granular level, you see the motivation.

If you live in Wee Placidville, Idaho, you likely justify your quiet, hermit-like area with its positives. It seems safe and unchanging and folk around you look and act pretty much like you. You don’t have to accommodate diversity in almost any form. City folk may think of you as a hick, while you are sure you live in a paradise.

Why wouldn’t the terrorists eager to rip the heart out of America attack your ideal example of U.S. virtues? Of course, you need and deserve HSA funding to protect Wee Placidville!

Two-Wheeled Thugs

Closer to Boston, an all too similar dynamic has played out for decades. Think the 11-mile Minuteman Bikeway from Bedford to Cambridge. Proposed in 1974, furiously debated, and dedicated in 1992, it was a demon child to some…but has proven quite the smiling angel.

The asphalt strip runs where trains used to go. The anti-bikeway folk keened portents of certain doom. Noise would be terrible and well into the night. Litter would dot and blot the meadows and woods. Punks from Boston, Somerville and who knows where else would cycle over to rob and harm the gentle folk of Lexington. Property values would plummet while the bucolic life by the path would be no more. Oh, and the bisected towns would go broke paying for additional police, fire and sanitation related to this blight.

Pretty much the opposite occurred. The path is a gem to all the communities. Citizens walk, bike, picnic and otherwise enjoy it. Houses on its length are more desirable and valuable. Literally no one rides five to eleven miles to commit any crime. (Plus, I try to visualize an inner-city teen cycling out to Lexington, breaking into an alarmed house, grabbing a plasma TV or the like and trying to chug it back to a housing project far away.)

Other Times, Places and Loonies

Regardless, the parochial fantasies did not disappear with the Minuteman’s obvious, long-term success. We heard the same craziness in Weston in 1997 and just recently a somewhat muted version in Milton. For the former, consider the Weston Rail Trail Task Force Final Report & Recommendations.

Weston’s pathetic NYMBYism held the way as they refused a trail extension there. It got wide coverage, mostly ridicule, as in the 1997 LA Times piece with the lead, “Imagine: A bicycle trail through the state’s wealthiest suburb. Do you have any idea what kind of people would be pedaling into town? Ruffians, criminals–mountain bikers!”

The Weston task force glued a veneer of reason on their emotions. They rejected the trail because they were “unable to adequately mitigate several serious impacts, thus making the trail unacceptable.” The unproven and certainly unprovable impacts would be an annual $162,000 town-services cost, having to pay tax abatements to abutters whose home values would plunge, and “decreases in ‘quality of life.'”

Forward to this year in Milton. The town borders Boston starting at the Neponset river. Although our African American governor has a home there, it is not racially and culturally very diverse. It has the nation’s highest per capital Irish-American population (38%) and overall is 85% white, 10% black, and about 2% each Asian and Latino. Its median income is roughly twice that of Boston.

There is a short, flat, benign bike/ped trail along the Neponset on the Boston side. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation wants to expand this popular trail just slightly as the parks and paths alone the river develop. Miltonians want none of that, thank you very much.

A full accounting of the opposition appeared in the Bay State Banner recently. For the proposal that the trail include a bridge so Boston and Milton residents could bike or walk over to each other’s tennis courts and such, the lingo was familiar. Despite the clean, quiet, pleasant and safe history of the existing sections, Miltonians at a hearing spoke of lowered property value, litter, and crime. While additional lighting as well as bike and foot traffic in fact create a safer environment that hikes property value, the obvious backed up by statistics can’t sway the parochial.

Not surprisingly, the Milton selectmen just voted to oppose any bridge or trail on their side of the river. Prompted apparently by a reactionary enclave in the Capen Street area, the selectmen urged the state to put a big bump in the preferred route. While their letter to the DCR said nothing of race or inner-city criminals, its scheme would coincidentally keep the trail in the black-densest areas of Boston’s Hyde Park and Mattapan neighborhoods. Hmm.

Town and neighborhood pride has good aspects. Yet as we see in the highly segmented Boston, too much of such identity has other features. You may well distrust and dislike anyone who is not like you and not from where you are. Such is racism, classism, religious intolerance and the like. Not from here too often translates into not good.

There’s a fair chance Milton’s NIMBYs will get their way. In coming decades people may forget and wonder why there’s this odd circuitous crinkle in the popular path.

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Up the Creek with Paddles

July 24th, 2010

…and down…

We joined 18 others today in the second Neponset River canoe-arama or as the hosts called it, CANOE the Future Greenway. As in an earlier post, we did the wet parts. Chris Lovett joined a landlubbers version on a Neponset Greenway Walk.

Moreover, I’m now a believer. The bike tour we took with the ever dour Doug Mink earlier didn’t have a lot to show for it. He pointed to where the bike/ped path was supposed to eventually come. I was skeptical. Yet, as I found last week, the DCR sprang a new park off Mattapan Square at the beginning of the completed section of the path. You can picnic, launch your canoe or kayak, sit at river overlooks and laze.

I’ve cycled up and down the Neponset bike paths, on and off-road as well. Nearly all is paved now and has very active pedestrian traffic, with a few cyclists. The section around Pope John Paul II Park has a long loop that is walkers only for some strange reason, but there’s lot of bikable trail.

Pic click tricks: Click a thumbnail for a bigger view. Use your browser back button or keys to return.

canoes Rob McArthur of the DCR starts unloading the canoes. He supplied the boats, paddles and life vests…plus instruction and nature lore.
My wife and I were early, so we got the newly donated the beast, a two-person kayak, simultaneously heavy but still swift enough for the non-raging Neponset. beast
choco The 20 of us paddled a bit upriver to the Baker Chocolate Factory. Originally, we were to head up toward Paul’s Bridge at the lower Hyde Park/Milton line. Despite our wettest-ever spring, water levels prevented that. BNAN guide Shea Ennen had scouted the Neponset before and knew the story. So he used his back up plan and headed us East to Gulliver Creek and more of the story of granite and the building of the Bunker Hill Monument.
Near the factory, the cormorants had seen it all at the little marina in Milton. Even about a dozen colorful boats and nearly twice as many flashing, splashing paddles didn’t rate with them. divers
sean Doing his best Lance Armstrong imitation, Shea was a font of history on the Neponset and its human users, industrial and recreational.
At the Eastern end, Rob and Shea tag teamed to describe the granite blocks that remain from the wharf where the 60-ton slabs were staged for barges. Rob also describe his love for his totally recycled Walden kayak. Rob

We were all set to be disappointed at the duplication of river section from the previous paddle. Most of this batch of river tourists were different. We had hoped to head up toward where we live and explore the Western end as it goes into Hyde Park. However, Shea and Rob made sure we experienced different aspects of the river.

We want more.

Call Yogi and Boo Boo

July 18th, 2010

neponsetsignAbruptly, an excellent pick-a-nick spot has appeared at the Milton/Boston line. Just Southwest of Mattapan Square, the Netponset Esplanade Park awaits picnickers, gawkers and canoers.

Pix click tricks: Click an image for a larger view.  Use your browser back button to return.

It has:

  • Easy access from where Rte. 28 South curves and Truman Parkway branches off
  • Parking for a dozen or so vehicles, including two big handicap-access spaces
  • Lots of shade
  • Five picnic table/bench combos
  • A half dozen sturdy benches beside the path
  • Two river overlooks with wooden seats
  • Stairway to the river, a canoe/kayak launch

neponsetmapIt does not have:

  • Grills
  • Toilets
  • Water fountains

neponsetoverlookWatching the languid and sporadic development of the walkway beside the river has not inspired confidence in its completion. Seeing the precipitous and nearly entirely blocked banks of the Neponset on both sides was also foreboding. Would there be any way to get to or even get a good look at this urban river?

neponsettablesWell, the answer is clearly yes. A look at the master plan shows more of the same coming. The inset here includes a section from that showing where this new park is and its features.

I’ll try to be a bit more patient. I’ll certainly take my pick-a-nick basket down to a quiet, shady park with easy access.neponsetstairs

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Southern Smells of Spring

June 22nd, 2010

“You will notice an odd odor. If it doesn’t have the foam and the odor, do not use.”

My favorite recipe from my maternal grandmother, Mable, is very sensual and suitably vague. That salt-rising bread recipe starts with “At noon, slice 2 potatoes into a qt. jar,” goes through creating a frothy leavening not by salt but with potato starch, corn meal and baking soda, and leads to adding “fat the size of an egg” before kneading.

The peculiar smell is definitely part of the bread, both in preparation and eating. Reading the recipe puts me back in that West Virginia kitchen. Slicing the dense bread thinly and coating its toast in a wee layer of butter puts me at the table in the next room.

Walking down Brush Hill Road today on the border of Boston’s Hyde Park and Milton, I stumbled by and breathed in more honeysuckle. I don’t see much of that up here in Yankee land and when I do, I see one vine, not 50 or or 100 yards of it. Yet, that cloying smell evokes childhood. Perhaps that’s one of my Madelaine triggers.That single full honeysuckle today sent me back to age 13.

This works even for we feeble men. Scent is supposedly the woman’s advantage among senses. Word is that a typical woman can detect the faintest whiff of another woman on a man, while he is oblivious. Perhaps, but flowers and foods transport me.

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Brush Hill Thrills

June 2nd, 2010

Small treasures abound on Brush Hill Road, just into Milton. Gorgeous blossoms are showing off now, if you’re slow enough.

I bike up the hill regularly but don’t join the many walkers and few runners often. There are no sidewalks and SUV seems the ride of choice on the narrow road — often at zippy speeds.

Heading down yesterday toward Mattapan Square, I skirted the east side and saw lots of wild flowers. I confess that I don’t notice or don’t slow enough biking to enjoy them.

xspikesFirst was the mystery. I’m not familiar with the bushy plant (about five feet high) with the clusters of purple and yellow flowers. I didn’t learn that one in my gardening classes and can’t find it in my books. I’ll keep at it and update this when I ID it.

Down at the bottom at Truman Parkway was a flashback to my youth, a honeysuckle. They are not as common up here as in Virginia. They aren’t as large either. A single bush was on the Parkway, but that was enough to recall junior high gym.

The eighth-grade PE teacher I had was into running. He had been a college and then for a few years professional soccer player in Germany. Burning lungs indicated virtue and ambition to him. He’d have us out on the 220 track all fall and spring. We ran in bunches of, as I recall, six at a time. There was lots of downtime and recuperation between sprints or miles.

The whole fence beside the track was greened with honeysuckle. It separated the baseball field from the track and was maybe 100 yards long.

We’d sit and suckle honeysuckle. We had a bit of epicurean chatter too. Was the yellow flowers’ nectar sweeter than the whites’? Did the flower from one bush taste any different from that of another? We also enjoyed the shade.

I’ve never seen Yankees sitting and enjoying honeysuckle. Surely Northerners do somewhere, if not beside a four-lane road.

Back on Brush Hill, another subtle treasure was a large number of nightshade in bloom. nightshadeThe berries were not yet ripe, but on their way. The petals though were the typical airy lavender of the family.

These are in the belladonna and deadly nightshade group. The berries and leaves, in particular, are toxic. While we learn as kids to leave this plant alone, but don’t shy away from many of its close relatives. Potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants are kin. Their leaves too have poisons, even as we enjoy the fruiting parts of some and the roots of others.

It’s a good season to be at a 4MPH pace on the roadside.

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