Emerald Necklace


As a result of not working, and in an attempt to procrastinate my inevitable need to pack and move away, Monday night I flipped through the Boston guidebook given to me in anticipation of my freshman year at MIT five years ago. I’ve never really consulted the guidebook before for anything other than the occassional quest for a new restaurant. But this time I was looking for something to do in the city that I had never done in my five years of living here.
And then I found it — The Emerald Necklace, five miles of parks that includes the Fens, Riverway, Olmstead Park, Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park.
So, early afternoon on Tuesday, I took the Green Line over to Kenmore and set off into the greenery. Somewhere, either in the Fens or the early part of Riverside (the parks blended together), I stopped to watch a high school fastpitch softball game — the team in green, with their hyperactive and aggressive coach, appeared to be dominating the team in blue. But, knowing that I wanted to be back in time for my last Gilmore Girls watching experience with Lisa and that I had much more park to go, I picked up after an inning and headed into the woods.
Riverway was my favorite stretch of the parks. I felt so separated from the city, and yet a D Line Train rode past me every few minutes, cutting through the trees and reminding me that I was still in Boston. It was also on the Riverway that the Canadian geese and their goslings crossed my path. Now, growing up we had lots of Canadian geese in our neighborhood. I learned very quickly to stay away from the ones with goslings, because if you even looked at them funny, Mama Goose would get defensive and start hissing at you. And believe me, hissing geese are not something you want to encounter from a short range. But Bostonian Canadian geese are much more polite — or perhaps more used to people. As I held my breath and walked through the gaggle that was spread out across the pathway, not one of them seemed bothered by my presence. City geese, I guess.
Olmstead Park was also very pleasant. At one point I opted to head off of the paved sidewalk, following a runner onto a dirt path into the woods (which looked like it may have just been a well worn erosion trail — my old camp counselors would have been very disappointed in me). Once the dirt path seemed to disappear and the runner I had followed was long gone, I started wandering the woods and I stumbled onto a pond. The pond, which based on maps I looked at later was probably Wards Pond, had a little boardwalk and I ran into a few dog walkers there. But I circled that pond twice, and I never figured out where the non-erosion trail entrance was. And so, I simply hopped a little brick wall and found myself ten yards from the shore of Jamaica Pond.
Now, I’m going to digress a bit here for a linguistics question. Why are Jamaica Pond and Walden Pond considered ponds in Massachusetts? Maybe it’s because we count everything so that we can brag about having the most, but in Minnesota, those bodies of water would be called lakes. Heck, even Turtle Lake isn’t referred to as a pond, and that’s just a glorified marsh in my backyard. (See Google map vs. satellite image.)
In any event, Jamaica Pond was lovely. From there I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, but I followed Arborway and walked myself around a rotary, the first time all day that I walked alongside cars. Yet magically I didn’t get lost and wound up at the Arnold Arboretum. The lilacs were in full bloom and it was under a lilac bush that I decided to finally stop and take my first rest since the softball game. I had brought a book of crossword puzzles, so I pulled it out and started puzzling away.
And then I remembered.
I’m allergic to lilacs. (Well, basically, I’m allergic to any flower in bloom.) My eyes started watering and my notorious sneezes started coming full force. So, I picked up and moved on, stopping to watch a pair of frolicking bunnies in the non-blooming rose bushes. As it was late in the day, I didn’t continue on to Franklin Park and the zoo. Instead I hopped on an Orange Line train at the Forest Hills stop and headed back into the city.
The whole day was a little surreal. For five years I have lived here and always missed the wildlife that used to live in my backyard. I’ve never really considered Boston Common a real park, as it is far too citified. And yet this whole time, a real park existed… I just had to venture out of my way a little to find it.


4 responses

  1. I’ve heard this pond question from you Minnesota types so many times that I’ve finally gone and looked it up. The answers I got from the internet were conflicting and was unsatisfied until I made it all the way to the OED.
    A “pond” is, according to most dictionaries and all etymology resources I found, an artificial lake (the etymology comes from the same place as “pound”). According to lesser dictionaries, a pond is merely “A still body of water smaller than a lake.” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
    While for me, a pond has always had the meaning of a small lake (or, in fact, an artificial lake such as a “fish-pond” or the “duck-pond”), the OED explains that this meaning (1b) applies only Locally in “England (esp. in Surrey)” and “New England, etc.” and in “colonial use” is also used to mean a pool in a river or stream (now that I think of it, I would accept pond as this meaning as well, although it really doesn’t come up very often these days).
    It is interesting you mention Walden Pond, since Mr. Thoreau seems to be entwined in the etymology of the word, being one of the OEDs references for the humorous use (2) referring to the Atlantic Ocean (a big hello to Jeff over on the other side of the pond!).
    It seems that in Canada our regional dialect has percolated northward, and in fact nearly all the lakes in Newfoundland are called ponds, and quite a large number in Eastern Quebec as well.
    Here, there is no formula for what is too small to be called a lake or too large to be called a pond, but anybody from here would just know what we’d call it.
    We like it that way.

  2. It seems, by a quick survey of the naming of ponds and lakes in New England that it is difficult to find a pond of more than 75 acres, and hard to find a lake of smaller than 20 acres. (so at 62 and 60 acres respectively, Walden and Jamaica ponds are in the range that could go either way).

  3. Let’s not forget the literary strength of the word “pond.” Compare the usage by imposing it in reverse upon Thoreau who, we all know, did not live his wayward time nearby “Walden Lake.” It wold not have fulfilled the image he was striving for or the one he was struggling with.
    Ponds – I am struggling with the conviction here that (at least northeastern) NY IS NE! – can cover a pretty piece of submerged grounds but are most often found in the middle of a) reconfigured farm lands or b) trout streams – artificial being the working concept in the first, literary force being the conceptualization of force in the latter (that also go by the name “pool/s.”
    It is likewise interesting that, on rare occasion, when small circles of land below the level of “islands” erupt above the surface of a river, stream, lake, or pond, they, too, might be called “ponds,” as in the expression (creation, not quote) “…they ponded above the surface of the circling waters onward down the stream until they polka-dotted out of sight around the bend” leaving me in wonder that I might hopscotch from one to the next on my imagined giant’s feet.”
    doncha just love this stuff of words, without which the “real stuff” cannot exist