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Then as Now

Over the past year we’ve increasingly been drawn to “character trees,” inside the Quabbin Reservoir.  The typical definition of character tree (it is really a subjective one to be sure) has more to do with it’s shape and the apparent story it tells by the twists, turns and gnarls in its trunk.  I now add a qualifier:  they were planted, by humans.  This highlights for me the idea that we can understand something about a society’s relationship with nature by the way they planted trees.  And, trees last a long time, particularly away from an urban environment (less pollution, fewer dogs). The story they tell can last longer than the communities that planted them, as we see here along the Road to Millington, inside Gate 30/29 at the Quabbin Reservoir.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

We were quite surprised to come upon this carefully ordered stand of trees last December.  What stories can we infer?  It’s fun to image.  This area, a part of North Dana, was relatively prosperous.  There was manufacturing nearby but it was still largely a farming community.  The land owner was trying to make a statement. There is graphic order here, but it’s kind of a friendly order.  After all, these are shade trees.  Just the thing for a hot summer day, pre air conditioning.  The temperature under row of trees on a summer day might have been 15 degrees cooler than the hot sun.  A nice place to stop and rest the horses perhaps.

These rows of trees, along stone walls, are not, however, just an artifact of the past. They are still with us today.  Here’s a recent image from “downtown” New Salem, just a few miles away.

Perhaps this is something like the scene along the road to Millington would have appeared were North Dana here today.

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