Friday, May 23, 2008

“Dwelling in the House of the Lord”

Dwelling in the House of the Lord”

Maudslay State Park offers natural beauty, both immutable and ephemeral, this time of year. The walk I took yesterday led me first down the formal drive, under the double row of English oaks, then up past the newly sanded and rebuilt well to the Italian Garden. Not many years ago, the boxwood hedges there were ratty looking, the wisterias rampant and the rose garden one in name only. Now all are restored to Moseley-era splendor, although the upright yews are such popular deer food that they’re virtually bald. Continuing on through the pollarded beech trees and past the greenhouses and cold frames, the espaliered apple is perfectly pruned and blooming away. Poeticus narcissus, my favorite variety of daffodil, dance on their narrow stems and colonize the hillside under apple and hawthorn trees.

Returning to the main driveway, however, I was drawn down a path I’d never explored before, and maybe you haven’t either. Across the wide spring lawn, beyond the wide arms of the magnificent beech tree where my kids have always enjoyed climbing and hiding out, a narrow path passes the empty concrete shell that once was a swimming pool, then enters a cathedral of tall pines. I was stunned to find myself dwarfed by such symmetry and scale, in this formerly unexplored corner of the park.

The pine-needle path led me to a shuttered, shingled cottage, overlooking the Merrimack from a high elevation. What a welcome retreat it must have been when the Moseleys lived here, capturing every breeze off the river, and with a river vista stretching for many miles. Clearly a favorite spot, it was also the final resting place of “Whiskey, my pretty boy” whose stone on the ground made me want to know more: whose dog was he? When did he play here? Why is he buried here rather than with Akela, Sampoo, Gypsy and the other Moseley family canines in the dog graveyard beside the well?

Reluctantly, I left Whiskey and wound my way down the hill to what must have been the family boathouses, locked and shuttered, but still tight to the weather and apparently in good condition. The trail then became a two-track road, and eventually rejoined Curzon Mill Road below the caretaker’s cottage.

As I walked, I kept hearing verses from Psalm 23 in my head: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.” Feeling well shepherded and free from want, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share a landscaped park so beautifully conceived and so well tended by the State employees and the volunteers whose work was everywhere evident. We are all truly blessed to have access to Maudslay, particularly in the spring when its glory changes by the day.