It matters not the season, the day, the hour, or the age, there is
in the blood of Concord folk an intense longing to be afield.
The snows of winter whirl with blinding force across The Plain, The- Causeway, and The River Road yet man and beast bend joyously to the tash of breaking through. Before the storm has scarce abated out come skiis and snowshoes to travel the windswept fields or to course along the winding river bed. Down the steep, clean slopes of Nashawtuc, made bare when her sturdy oaks were sacrificed to construct the stalwart frame and iron sides of the frigate Constitution, the toboggan and ski tracks plunge.
When winter snows turn to slush, hiking follows on the familiar, traveled highways. These hikes are not aimless strides about the country- side. There are shapely, coney twigs of dark brown alder, and slender, yellow-green willow branches to be gathered for spring forcing; or the sunset to be viewed across Fairhaven Bay as the warm tints of the western sky are reflected in the expanse of flooded meadow.
Ere the ooze has left the ground the birches of the lane bend invitingLy for one to inspect the ravage of the winter storms. What man has failed to prune, nature has ruthlessly torn asunder. The sleek, grey-blue twigs shading into purple and red, or others merging from grey to yellow-green and green, display a renewed energy.
When woodland paths are open we go beyond the blueberry swamp with its mysterious, bottomless brook, skirt the pleasantly wooded Mount where grandsir concealed his young wife and child in an ancient cellarhole before going to the bridge that April morning in '75, cross Bear Ridge pink with a carpet of moccasin flowers in May, pass the old line-kiln overgrown with raspberry and blackberry vines, and wind- down a sharp incline lined on either side with a single row of magnificent, shapely evergreens into a secluded meadow through which there runs an avenue of mammoth, paper-white birch. Tucked here and there along the woodsie path and in the well- groomed, sleepy meadow are all sorts of odd floral specie. This bit of fairyland was once a part of Brook Farm. Here it was that Mr. Brook, later a member of the Alcott family, lived. The Pratts - for so they were in real life - attempting to establish a nursery here endowed the land with an idyllic charm.
As the flood-waters of the rivers recede, the canoe houses open their doors, and youth glides joyously down-stream beneath. low-hanging maple branches, into quiet hemlock coves, or out where the meadows are broad, to search for offspring of the water-chestnut planted by Thoreau more than half a century ago. As cool shadows descend, the canoe is headed for Egg Rock and drawn up on the shore for a "bacon bat," or a picnic supper. Here, where the Assabet and the Sudbury rivers merge to form the Concord, the grass-covered slopes of the rock are worn shiny, and bear witness of a recent fishing expedition. The spirit of Isaac Walton had lately stirred the flood of three fair damsels, while engaged in the pursuit of Latin and Greek, bicycles and fishpoles reposed outside the ivy-covered walls of the hall' of learning. Recitations over, the maidens stopped for naught. Directly, girls, bicycles, books, fishpoles, and. worms dashed through the village streets, and along the Causeway to 'the river pasture, where a wild ride over hummocks, a scramble across the railroad trestle, and a jaunt through brush and woodland brought the young nimrods to their fisher's paradise, Egg Rock - now a banquet hall.
"What is so rare as a day in June?" sings all too strongly in the -souls of Concord boys. When a warm noon-hour has proved the day thus rare, empty schoolroom seats reveal the lure that Walden has for every boy. Few indeed are the boys of Concord who haven't "hooked" for that first plunge in Walden.
Summer passes swiftly with hours spent at Walden, White Pond, or "the old swimming holes," picnics, corn roasts, and camping. When crisp nights bring Indian summer days the fruited apple orchards, deep red barberry bushes, fragrant red cedars, and pungent wild grapes hanging from tangled vines along deserted Estabrook Road cause one to linger on pasture bars and bask in reverie.
Again, the brilliant foliage of the maples lining the river leads one along its bank to the old mill, and the mill-race, dark and swiftly moving. Upon the deep and treacherous waters float bright red and yellow leaves flecked with sunlight. 'Twas in her home beside the mill that the miller's daughter, Millicent Barrett, a dauntless girl of sixteen, feverishly plied her scissors in the cutting of paper wads for the old flintlocks. With her apron full of wads she raced fearlessly along the river-bank to the Old North Bridge to deposit the fruits of her labor that "the embattled farmer" might "fire the shot heard round the world."
Beyond the dam and the mill-pond, a secluded road lined with brambles, richly hued sumack, and brilliant woodbine leads one up the gentle, slightly wooded slopes of Annursnac. It was housed in crude camps along this remote road that Harvard functioned during Revolutionary days.
Leaves fall and scatter. Winter comes on apace, and with it skating at Goose Pond, at Punkatasset Pond, and on the River Meadows.
Christmas Eve, a soft mantle of snow deepens the sanctity of the old burying-ground on the hillside, enhances the classic beauty of the First Parish, magnifies the simplicity of the deserted Mill Dam, now known as Main Street, revives the quaintness of the Inn, and warms the hearts of carolers gathered about the Yule tree on the village green who, within the hour, will go afield in Concord to sing of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill among Men."