Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Castle

This morning I decided it was a good day to ride to a castle.

I headed out the door at 6:30 am with the title track from The Decemberists' Hazards of Love album buzzing through my mind. A friend of mine and I saw The Decemberists last Tuesday Night at the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston Harbor. It was a great concert, on a very cold and misty night -- the perfect setting for the Decemberists' dark, character-driven brand of music. Vengeful mariners, legionnaires, forest queens, chimney sweeps ... The Decemberists tell these creaky old characters' stories with rich lyrics and colorful melodies.

So with good tunes still ringing in my ears and mythological figures on my mind, I headed down Furnace Brook Parkway in Quincy, turned onto Adams Street, turned again onto Reservoir Road, and then made a rapid-fire downshift to begin the short, but intensely steep climb up Forbes Hill. It begins so suddenly that when you hit the initial slope it feels like the rotation of the earth has slowed a bit (remember, we're thinking mythologically here...).

The climb up Forbes Hill winds it's way counter-clockwise past big Tudor houses. As the summit nears, the golf course of Furnace Brook Country Club appears on the right...

And then, straight ahead, something mysterious starts taking shape between the trees...

I got off my bike, walked through the small patch of woods, and there it was...

The Castle!

...or a keep. Or a Medieval tower. Or Rapunzel's tower. Or whatever you imagination decides.

In reality, the large field in these photos used to be a reservoir, and the castle is simply a stylized water tower built between 1901-1904. Apparently, civil engineers thought the original metal tower looked pretty bleak. So they simply built a castle around it. Problem solved.

On the ride home, I thought about musicians like The Decemberists, opera composers Verdi and Puccini, and the great storytellers J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling ... how they transport us to the Imaginary World in such all-encompassing, complete ways. But we all skirt this world in our daily lives too -- just on a much smaller scale. For example, here are two scenes from my normal morning ride...

Now strictly speaking there's an anchor on the front lawn of the first photo (look closely on the left) and a miniature lighthouse in the second. But is that all they are? Just lawn ornaments? I think they're more than that. In a subtle way, the anchor and lighthouse remind us of the myths and legends of the sea. I mean, really ... why else throw a rusty old anchor on your lawn?! It's all about the powerful images they evoke.

So here's to all the good folks who look at their front lawns and say: "You know, what this really needs is a miniature dragon" or "a pink flamingo" or "a metallic-purple mirror ball". Just like those civil engineers that built the tower on Forbes Hill, they see ordinary things, dream a little, and turn them into castles.

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