Thursday, October 11, 2007

The plank bridge

There are certain places that define a life. One of those places for me is the plank bridge over the Queset Brook, along the Path I have walked almost daily for 43 years. It will be familiar to those who know my work. Arcturus reflected in dark water. Boys angling for sunfish in the shadows of the purling stream. Dragonflies curling their bodies into copulatory valentines. A great blue heron that lifts into morning mist on bedsheet wings. Clement autumn afternoons journaling with students in my Naturalist class. And countless other moments that never made it into print. A kingfisher I saw 40-something years ago, the only one I have ever seen in New England. The swimming turtle that came when the mysterious child summoned it. A black snake improbably taking the sun in the middle of the bridge.

One foot onto the planks. Then another. And another. Twenty feet of timber suspended between heaven and earth. Earth, air, fire, water. If you learn to love one place, says the novelist Anne Michaels, sometimes you can learn to love another.

It was a bit of a worry recently when the Natural Resources Trust of Easton decided the bridge needed to be replaced. What would take its place? Some concrete monstrosity? Earth fill over corrugated steel culverts? Ah, blessed continuity. The new bridge is a sturdier version of the old one. A plank bridge. The Queset Brook makes its way to the sea. The world turns on its same old axis.