Twenty years ago, when my children were young, a narrow path wound around the point in Kingsley Park, the peninsula that juts into Fresh Pond, the City of Cambridge’s reservoir. Walking paths, woods, and meadows surround the pond, three square miles of natural relief from the surrounding city. Besides surrounding our water source, Fresh Pond Reservation offers green space and recreation.
To a five-year-old, the trees on Kingsley Point are a dense forest. When we tramped through the wild on fine spring afternoons, my children would shuffle off the path through last autumn’s leaves, crackling branches that had fallen through the winter. One day, in a clearing beneath the pines, we came upon sticks and limbs propped upright against each other: a teepee of bones, a massive skeleton. We ran around and through the construction; we added sticks to the structure. Each time we went to the park, we found the assembly changed, and altered it ourselves.
My children have grown, graduated high school and college. They both have ‘real’ jobs.
I recently suffered an accident; long walks are my prescribed therapy. I circle Fresh Pond daily. Over the last decade the City of Cambridge has landscaped the reservation. Paths are paved; some are lined with granite curbs. Trees have been thinned, underbrush removed. Unusual specimen plants have been introduced, fiddleheads and lady slippers. It’s less like the unruly forest it used to be, more like a fairyland.
A sign near the promontory of Kingsley Point identifies a nature play area where the ad hoc array of sticks used to stand: a circle of woodchips and an assortment of smooth logs with different contours and lengths. The sign reserves the area for children only. I guess the idea is they can move these pieces around to create sculptures. The playground designers have offered clues: some stumps are cut to look like chairs, others stools. Two long logs lie parallel on the ground with short cords in between, a horizontal ladder. In the middle, an elegant skeleton rises from the ground, resonant of the one my children contributed to twenty years ago, but cleaner, and better proportioned.
Having discovered this new addition, I keep an eye on it during my walks. I don’t mess with it; the sign makes me unwelcome. But few others do either. There’s nothing casual or organic about the wood components, so static within their perfect circle.
Whose idea was it to take an organic place that provided a creative outlet for city children without any taxpayer dollars involved, and turn it into something designed, organized? There are so many things that humans do well. One thing we can’t seem to do at all: leave well enough alone.