I am now in my new house in New England after almost a year of living in a temporary apartment. And finally, after a year in a new job, I am finally orienting myself in all directions.
At the smallest scale, my daughter and I worked on my year–which is bigger than my previous yard–and I started to see what was there. Raspberry bushes line that back yard along with other bushes. A few Hawthorne trees are along the border as well. But as I mow and weed I also realize that the size of the yard requires that I can’t cultivate it at the same level of precision as my previous yard. I have been going for a more “wild” or “native” look.
Last September I visited the Patton Homestead with another person from work for a meeting. After driving down small winding roads and many turns, I remember thinking–where in the world is this? I realized recently that I now live down the road from the Patton Homestead. What seemed totally unplaced in my mental map is now defined as close to home.
My experiences of the first year developed my mental map primarily along the corridor between Logan Airport and Gloucester, stretching along the Cape Ann peninsula and the main artery of Highway 128.
In the past several weeks, two outings have gotten me to face different directions and given me new insights as to where I actually live. The first outing involved kayaking in a section of the Ipswich River. To get to the starting point we went through part of Topsfield after picking up the kayaks in Ipswich. Topsfield was one of those places I had heard about that I placed on my mental map as being off to the north, far, far, away. After kayaking up stream and then back, we went downstream so that my friend could show me the Wenham swamp. I was confused. We were way north, in Topsfield, so how could we be near a “Wenham” swamp (I lived in Hamilton-Wenham!). When I got back in the car I closely looked at the map and drove home around the swamp and the connected water bodies. I now realize that I live just to the east of a local landmark called the Wenham swamp–almost literally across the road from my house! And the Ipswich River is just up the road from my house in the Bradley Palmer State Park adjacent to the Patton Homestead. Topsfield is just on the other side of the River, not 5 minutes away!
My most recent outing was to go birding on Plum Island near Newburyport. That town is near New Hampshire so I thought it must be at least 45 minutes away! No–it was less than 30 minutes away if I went slow and Topsfield was on the way. I had been to Topsfield before and recognized the place.
For my first year, I primarily faced work and the highway corridor. But finally my mental map is being stretching in different directions and local landmarks and natural features are starting to fill in the blank spaces.