Trimming Grass and Weeds Around
Old New England Property
(Antique) Granite Landscape Fixtures
"On Page Nineteen"
Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal come, chirping and flitting, to my (bird) feeding station in the very gray dawn of each morning. The chickadees follow me ‘down’ into the forest and... flit and dee in the sun upon the upper branches of the old spruce and hemlock while I, far below, carry-off their ‘standing dead’ brethren. The mother phoebe has pushed her fat baby out of her moss walled homestead in the rafter corner above my ‘piling (fire) wood’ shed. Her young Fatso is ensconced in a choke cherry bush and will not move.
She; the gray fox, strips the ground below the (bird) feeding station of the half handful of raw peanuts that some fool tosses there... everyday. “She wouldn’t come if you didn’t do that.” I’ve heard said. Her mate, the male, curls puppy dog style past the (bird) feeding station by the zucchini plants. He never hunts for peanuts. Their kit has been told to ‘stay’ under the shed. Mother’s glance causes the small nose at the crack of ‘under the shed’ to vanish. When mother ‘does not’ anymore, the little nose returns to my view. Exhausting the half handful of peanuts Mrs. Fox trots off... up... and over... the old stone wall between the farm yard and the forest. Her kit scurries to be behind her and is off... up and over too. Mr. Fox then follows... inclusive of the pause to look back... before he, too, is off, up and over... the old stone wall. Is there anything in all of this, I’ve wondered... for decades... that Thoreau... missed?
What if... when the foxes are ‘off... up... and over’ the... old stone wall... Thoreau missed THAT; the off... up and over... the old stone wall. This colonial era wall WAS there and WAS old when Thoreau was a “there” too... “then”.
Well... obviously... the foxes ‘see it’; do not ‘miss it’; the old stone wall is not missed by THEM.
And what about the (good or bad aesthetic) TASTE of the old stone wall. Is the old stone wall ‘in good taste’ to Thoreau...? Or is it bad taste...? Or is it of no taste at all; a... he ‘missed’ a ‘that’ about ‘it’?
What was (is) good taste for Thoreau? I find his excavation and study of the burnt rocks in his bean patch at Walden Pond to be... superior good taste in... ‘old New England property... (antique) granite... field stone... landscape fixtures’. Further... I find... Thoreau and Emerson’s practice of walking from their home(s) in Concord ‘into’ Harvard to attend or give a lecture even better astute... sound... good... taste. Too...: It is a ‘good judgment’ of one following one’s own traveler’s eye. This traveler’s eye develops the ‘good taste’ it (that eye) sees. This eye makes ever more choices... of choices... of ‘taste’.
But... it is a long walk... today...; there and back; Concord and Cambridge... in one day... with the lecturing too. OH I JUST CANNOT get anyone to even DRIVE that way... in and back out. And it is the BEST way in and out of the village (Boston) TOO. Slip in over Harvard bridge after all that “Concord - Lexington - Arlington” “business”. Maybe if one is “GOOD” one will “GET” (have to stop at) every stop light on this old route so be... directly... benefited with the... task... of ‘looking around’. It is well understood that both Thoreau and Emerson had the... good taste... to look around.
I first affirmed Thoreau’s bad taste when I was brought to notice a ‘pile’ of ‘plaster’ dumped behind the hut at Walden pond. The excavated plaster dump was used to further define that ‘this’ ‘was’ “THE SITE” of the... hut at Walden Pond. As was the ‘pile’ of ‘rusted nails’ too... found dumped back there (behind the hut). Too. Dumping ‘behind’ has always been ‘in bad taste’. If of good taste, one does NOT dump anything ‘behind’ anything... especially as a chosen aesthetic (?) effort to ‘get rid of it’. This dumping at the hut at Walden Pond... is... in... “almost”... “inexplicable” ...bad taste... inclusive of this dumping truly coming back to a ‘haunt Thoreau’; a shadow cast. If one is enticed by a trail of the aesthetic eye of ‘finding out’ Thoreau’s bad taste, the story of the archaeological romp at Walden Pond... is a fine start. It takes Thoreau’s hut of the mind’s eye and... turns it upside down and dumps it... behind the site of the hut... for all to read... when one reads that story with THAT (‘bad taste’) critical eye.*
And then ... I expressed my continuing quandary of ‘does Harvard have good taste too” (Part Sixteen near the end). And that was after I’d tossed (Part Sixteen again) “the diorama book” (I call the book that from now on) into the examination of “Trimming Grass and Weeds Around Old New England (Antique) Granite Landscape Fixtures”. I said I’d be coming back to the book.
On the same page as the first quote I used then... page nineteen... in the text below the PHOTOGRAPH of the old New England forest with a babbling brook AND ...old stone wall... ON this page nineteen... I skip the next sentence and then I continue quoting:
“How should we manage forests that are increasingly owned by more people in smaller units? Should we continue to import wood from other parts of the country and world, some of which are being devastated by poor logging practices, while enjoying the growing forest around us as a largely aesthetic and recreational resource, or should we obtain more wood from our home forests. These conservation issues and management questions emerge from the history of our land (old New England property)”*A.
Ok... so before I highlight this ‘utterance of’... as a statement of ‘taste’... I must add some bibliographic clarity to the diorama book. The first edition of THIS BOOK was titled “THE HARVARD FOREST MODELS and was published by Harvard in Cambridge in 1936. It was reprinted, unchanged... several (?) times. I have (and am using for this vignette chapter (blog post) a 1941 printing. The original 1936 edition is reproduced in full on the Harvard Forest / Petersham web site.
It is very useful to notice that... the text... and the very poor photographic illustrations of the dioramas... in the early editions/printings of the diorama book are exactly identical to the new 2000 (most recent) edition except that the photographs of the dioramas are newly done and are far, far, far superior to those in the earlier edition. ONE OTHER CHANGE and ... only one other change... is the inclusion by unannounced placement at about the ‘one third of the way through’ is the ‘this’ ...page nineteen... lone photograph illustration (taken by David R. Foster) noticed above. The quoted text and the following pages of commentary text, too, are here added... addressing ‘modern forest landscape... summary... ecological lessons... conservation issues... habitat... erosion... Then on to... fire... and ...quasi... current woodland management... so as to weave BACK into the original text.
And thereafter (from fire onward) the text and diorama illustrations return to the original edition diorama book’s text and illustration format (with this textual return body being a considerable amount of the whole book) as a:
Commercial resource management illustrated how-to history... of the history... OF cash cropping “TREES” on old New England property.
I remind here that I earlier gave my stated disclaimer on I noticing “TREES” that said... I would not be treating “TREES” in this vignette (series of blog posts) for I am... ‘trimming grass and weeds around’ “granite” landscape fixtures (Part Six at the end). “Trees” are another ‘landscape fixture’.
Wading back to ‘taste’ and ‘the diorama book’ and GOOD-BAD TASTE “do they?” (Harvard have). I... feel... the review of both editions supports that MOST ALL (three fourth) of the dioramas and their supporting text opt for commercial forest management of ‘old New England property’ FOREST landscape fixtures and otherwise bulldoze (in fact) through, right over, all around and ...into oblivion... the other ...old New England property (antique) landscape fixtures including homesteads, homes, barns, sheds, out buildings, wells, springs, mills... old field stone piles and ...old stone walls. Et al.
“Bad taste” I say.
And that is supported by the historical sequence (history of history) presented by the actual dioramas and their support text... AND is actually pinpointed in the 2000 edition with the word choice query of “aesthetic” or “obtain more wood” found on page nineteen. The diorama book’s choice of choices of this query is... ‘obtain more wood’ and (further) loose the original old New England property (antique) landscape fixtures. Those... too... found in their neglected states upon the property... are to be treated as minor impediments to obtain-more-wood directives in addition to being... not noticed... not treated... not cared of and...
This is bad taste treatment... of ... the aesthetic... of... old New England...
THIS... aesthetic is...
VERY ACCURATELY SHOWN... by the dioramas (and supporting text)... in the first FIVE dioramas. Old New England property and its (antique granite too) landscape fixtures ARE shown with their ‘history of the history’...TOO.
So let’s us NOW delightedly look at those five dioramas for they are the beautiful representation of the “WHY” of old New England property (antique) granite landscape fixtures. We find them, here in the dioramas... well trimmed ‘of grass and weeds around’.
*A Foster, David R. and O’Keefe, John F.: NEW ENGLAND FOREST THROUGH TIME. INSIGHTS FROM THE HARVARD FOREST DIORAMAS. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000., pg. 19
* Donald W. Linebaugh; THE MAN WHO FOUND THOREAU. ROLAND W. ROBBINS AND THE RISE OF HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY IN AMERICA, Univ. of New Hampshire Press, Durham, NH, 2005, pgs. 27-57.