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REST ASSURED

In praise of strategically placed benches and low walls

I’m in training for a future full of ocean cruise adventures, so I walk a lot. And as an octogenarian, I’ve grown to appreciate a good place to rest.

Benches are playing a key role in the author's training regimen.Adobe Stock/nerthuz - stock.adobe.com

Although I am in my early 80s, I still do a bit of walking. I do so mainly because of my doctor’s insistence, which is strongly supported by my wife. But I also have an ulterior motive: I am in training for the excursions I hope to go on when ocean cruises open up again. We came to ocean cruising late, just five or six years before the pandemic closed everything down. But we came to enjoy it immensely.

My usual and favorite walk is around Fresh Pond. It is about three and a half miles and takes me a couple of hours, a far cry from the 45 minutes it took me 20 years ago when I first moved to Cambridge. And a much further cry from the 26 miles a day I marched in 1960 when training in the UK’s Territorial Army.

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Of course I am not on my feet for the whole two hours. I take several rests on my walks. Fresh Pond is well equipped with benches and rocks on which to pause. I don’t sit on every bench, but I do sit on several. As part of my training regimen, I try to walk a mile before I take my first rest. It is a mile, according to my phone’s activity calculator, from my house on Griswold Street to the bench on the path just after the Sozio roundabout. My wife and I usually walk together down Concord to Sousa’s rock. But she is faster than me, so then takes off on her own. As far as resting is concerned, I am very tempted by Sousa’s rock and the subsequent benches between that and the rocks at Lusitania Field, so I have to push myself to continue for the next two-tenths or so of a mile.

I sit for 10 minutes to rest my legs. Since vaccination, I just plop myself down on the bench; I do not bother to wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. That is about the only post vaccination change to my practices. I still wear a mask despite the government relaxations. Since those were announced, I can no longer glower at the maskless even if they are within six feet. While sitting, I enjoy seeing the occasional pair of swans, the flock of ducks, as well as the ubiquitous seagulls.

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I then try to make the next leg another mile. That takes me past the water treatment plant, past this year’s owl nest high up on a tree branch, and on to the bench under the tree, where, for many years, an owl was to be spotted huddled in a triangular hole in the tree trunk. Again I sit and rest and check the mileage on my phone.

Now I am more than halfway, but not yet in the home stretch. The path takes me to the golf course. I usually walk half a mile and rest again where the dogs splash in the lily pond. One more rest along the golf course parallel to Concord Avenue, and finally one more rest at Sousa’s Rock before the last leg up Concord to home.

We have other shorter routes. We sometimes drive to Huron Avenue and park near Aberdeen Avenue. We then walk along Huron — well supplied with benches — to Formaggio Kitchen. We then load up and walk back to the car. I think this route, on balance, involves a net addition of calories rather than burning them off. A second route is to drive and park at the water treatment plant and then walk down the new bike path toward Mount Auburn Street. Some eye-catching landscaping is currently underway. We come out into a cluster of streets that connect to Holworthy Street and Park Avenue. My wife and I part company here; she returns to the car via Holworthy, while I return up Park, which has at least one tempting low wall — for I am short — for me to sit. But I must resist temptation, having only walked just over half a mile. I turn along Huron toward the golf course clubhouse. The community center is about a mile from where we started and has some convenient rocks for sitting, so here I perch for 10 minutes and check my mileage on my phone.

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Off again, down to the cemetery and up Grove Street toward home. I have several routes to choose — all well-endowed with convenient low walls. I like the west side of Grove for its rustic wall. I like the east side of Blanchard near the roundabout for the crisp flat surface on which I rest and, in spring, enjoy the sea of scilla that flood the area between the two old farmhouses. Two or three other Belmont streets off of Washington Street (Watson, Bright, and Dalton) have all provided good low walls for respite at the end of a long walk. If I really want to push myself, I’ll walk all the way down Washington past the beautiful Victorian farmhouse to School Street; then up the hill and working my way round to Concord Avenue at Belmont High School, which is still under construction. Finally inbound on Concord, with at least one rest to my home on Griswold.

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Thank you to all the homeowners who have allowed me to gain a brief rest on their low walls.