Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just A Nod And A Smile

The morning after the tornado I drove to old Route 15 to see in the daylight what I had barely seen at dusk the evening before.  The evening before I was scared, but not so scared not to be able to drive about to satisfy my curiosity.  In the daylight, I was no longer scared, but dumbstruck.  I pulled the car over to the side of the road just past the Days Inn, got out, and just stood there, staring off at the heap of pine trees surrounding the motel .  Then I noticed that there were no trees standing behind the motel.  The thick woods behind the motel were gone.  I could see all the way over to route 131 near Hall Road.

Behind me, across I-84, there was a large highway sign knocked part way to the ground.  It was like I was standing somewhere in tornado ravaged Missouri, and the evening news was playing all around me in 3-D.

The Public House billboard that stood back from the roadway for decades was now lying flat, it's steel girdered legs bent over in submission to the storm.

I returned to the car, pulled a u-turn, and headed back towards route 131, and towards Southbridge.  I got as far as Hall road, and was detoured down that road because all of route 131, as far as I could see was a mass of tree service trucks, downed trees alongside, and in  the road, utility cables strewn about, and men working.  It didn't look good.

Down Hall Road a short way and then took a right onto Whittemore Road, and up to the top of Fisk Hill.  There, at the top of the hill the damage I had seen on the way up the hill was magnified a hundred fold.  Two hundred year old trees pulled out of the ground, and onto their sides.  Some trees split in so many pieces that they had to be taken down completely.  Tall one hundred foot tall pines snapped  in half, de-limbed, and standing at attention as if they were war weary soldiers surveying the field after the battle. The more I saw on the top of that hill the more I realized that was exactly what they were.

I parked my car on Fox Run Road, and walked around with my camera for a  long while.  I saw the damage, the people, the lost looks on their faces, and the  nods, and small smiles on their faces as they acknowledged me as I walked by.  The smiles were not so much meant to greet a stranger in their midst, but acknowledging to themselves that on this particular morning they were actually alive, and very glad they could greet anybody.
Big difference.

From Fiske Hill Road I drove down and onto Route 131 and headed towards Shaws Market.  131 was blocked off in front of the plaza, and I headed down the road, on foot, towards the common.  The scene that lay before me was disorientating.  Landmarks gone. There was sunlight where there had only been shadows at this time of day for decades. All the old growth trees were gone along route 131.  A third of the auto body building was gone.  The newly planted trees across from the Sturbridge Service Center were untouched as if there was a predestined master plan in place all the time, and those trees were planted to fill the voids soon to be left by the storm.

It gives me shivers if I read too much into it.

We lost our lights for about six hours.  We were lucky.  We've lost power for twice as long for one pole being down last year, never mind an entire town being knocked out.  National Grid did well for those of us on Brookfield road that night, and for restoring the rest of the town in the time they did.  They deserve a lot of credit, and thanks.  The same with the other utility companies.  They worked non stop to get the essentials back up and running.

For days we have been had the National Guard, Mass Highway, the State Police, the Environmental Police, Army Corps of Engineers, the Red Cross, the countless trees services, and cable companies amongst us.  Helping us.  Thank you, all.

Tomorrow is the Town Meeting at the High School.  Mary and I will be there.  We'll bring some non-perishable donations, participate in the meeting, and most importantly, acknowledge others we see with a nod, and a smile.

1 comment:

  1. Nods, smiles, help and direction where needed, careful listening to stories that need to be spoken, and kind words...the healing begins. Warm thanks to all those who present a friendly face and/or a lending hand, and to those, like you, Wally, and others who are so willing to connect the dots to bring our world back into focus.


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