Starting at Home


January 27, 2019- 

One of  my mother’s favourite sayings, “Charity begins at home”, was made a basis for many of my actions, as a child and as a teen.  Nothing was made, or done, that wasn’t shared with family, on some level.

So it is, also, with conservation- as the late John McCain was also fond of saying.  A few weeks ago, during the height of the ill-fated shutdown, I went up to Sunset Crater National Monument, to see if I might help with a clean-up.  It turned out not to be necessary, though there was a mess, on Federal land, some twenty miles west.  Others took care of that clean-up.

With the shutdown over, however temporarily, I decided to take some time, after a study session this afternoon, and check a popular local trail, Lynx Lake, for residual clean-up that might be needed.  I was thanked by a few other hikers, especially accepting three pooper bags in my larger trash bag.  It was rather cute, that a lone duck followed me in the water, as I walked along the north shore, collecting a few plastic bottles.  It was almost as if it knew that the toxic items were being removed.  Long story short, I put a half-filled trash bag in the dumpster of the  south beach.

It was a minor effort, in the scheme of millions of acres of Federal land needing attention, after the lengthy hiatus.  I can only hope that there were thousands of others stepping up and doing their part, with there being way too much to be done, as it is, by those returning to work.  I think of the first National Historic Site I ever visited:  Saugus Ironworks, of the most extensive I’ve ever seen:  Grand Canyon and of the park I visited most recently for the first time:  Valley Forge.  Then, there is Arlington National Cemetery; today would have been the 95th birthday of my father-in-law, who is interred there, along with his wife.

I can only hope there are no more shutdowns of government, but if there are, I know to be ready to help, as a citizen.

Tales of the 2016 Road: My Eastern Anchor


July 8-9, 2016, Saugus-  I’ve mentioned before about this town of 40,000 people having been the springboard for the American steel industry, as it was the site of the first fully-operating Ironworks in British North America.

For me, it was also a springboard.  Though I was nowhere near as polished or as strong as the iron that came out of Saugus Ironworks, I have thrived, because of what I learned here.

My mother grew up on a small farm, north, northwest of the Ironworks site.  When she was a child, there was no National Historical Park, such as exists today.  The place was unearthed in the early 1950’s, when lower Lynnhurst was being prepared for a housing scheme.  The town leaders were wise enough to see to its unearthing, and preservation- a chance to get some of the Boston-Salem-Gloucester tourism traffic.  This led to Route 1 becoming one of the roads designated “The Great White Way”, for all the neon that reminded visitors of New York’s Broadway, as restaurants sprang up from the Revere line  to Peabody, 8 miles further north.  Yet, I digress.

Mom was the main reason for my visit here.  I would still have spent time with my amazing brother, a legally-blind sailor and bon vivant.  Mom, though, is still a force of nature, in late octogenaresis.  She is actually feeling and doing better than when I saw her in December.  She has always been about independence. She let me know where I need to work on myself, and it’s true that I have slacked off a bit, exercise-wise.  Choosing to spend most of the past several days driving, and not getting out and walking much- except for Bushkill Falls, is a habit I tend to embrace when going cross-country.  Habits can be broken, though.

I, like most people, want to feel my mother’s approval.  She has held the bar relatively high, all these years, but not out of spitefulness or malice.  Had I not been encouraged, at times cajoled, I would not be standing here today as a man of 34 years’ sobriety, or as one who puts the good of the whole above my own comfort.  She is my anchor, on the East.

So, I spent a fair amount of time just being present, watching the same reassuring TV films we saw last December- a fact she found amusing- “Why can’t Lifetime be more ambitious than to recycle the same canned stories, over and over?”  When it came time for me to go back on the road, she was a bit somber-but life for Lila Mae Boivin will go on- and she’s determined it will have quality.  There is no finer example, even for a man in late middle age, than someone who embraces the place in life, at which she finds herself.

Her last words to me were “Drive safely”.  These words proved prescient.

NEXT:  The demise of Nissan Altima.