Photogravure

A slow walk through Pine Banks ...

 ... a familiar place through the camera lens

The Stringer Photo Group



It's a hazy Friday afternoon, the Spring sun is warm and the leaves are just beginning to pop. So for our photo group's weekly outing, we decided there is no better place to record this advent than our own Pine Banks Park -- which we share with the neighboring city of Malden.

Three of us were shooting that day: Natalie Thomson, using an Olympus D-550 Shirley Rabb, with a Olympus 2.5, and Don Norris with a Nikon Coolpix 950. All are digital cameras, and since there is no cost in developing our numerical pictures, we shoot like mad. Here's a sampling -- nothing really spectacular, but when combined with a few choice words, it is good stuff.




One wonders if the people represented in the carved initials are still together -- or, for that matter, are still with us. Perhaps this lovely tree will last longer than those who professed their love by carving into the bark. Of course, I've never done that.




Here is a close-up of a pine tree healing itself after losing a branch. But next to it, someone jammed a quartz rock into another knothole, whereupon the tree simply ingested it and began to grow around it.




These rocks, which surfaced from Earth's molten core during Devonian times, have been treated to two million years of ice ages -- which came and went four times during that brief period. It took an enormous number of warm days and freezing nights for the water to do its job -- to split this two-ton piece off, then split it again into three pieces.





There's not much one can do with an old stump -- or two -- but let them rot away into stump heaven. Both of these are (or were) cedars, which were probably planted here in this rocky-but-swampy terrain more than half a century ago. The park is full of cedars, hemlock, fir, oak, beech and birch, maples, pine ...





There is a secluded small pond at Pine Banks, which is surrounded by very solid bedrock rising 40 to 50 feet above the surface -- almost like the caldera of a small, ancient blowhole -- a mini volcano. We saw fishermen here, but we can't imagine what they'd catch. A cold, more than likely. But it is a beautiful place.





Bedrock: This is what our planet is made of -- solidified molten rock, melted in the huge furnace in the center of this flying space ship called Earth. Most of Melrose is of this stuff called "gabbro", and we are officially a product of the Lynn Volcanic Complex.





Balancing rocks: At the left is a rock that must weigh as much as 30 grown men, and it hangs, seemingly, on the edge of its perch. When viewed from the opposite side, however, it appears firmly rooted -- and not a threat to the playground below. Such rocks as these are probably erratics, carried here from somewhere more northwesterly -- perhaps from the ridge that forms Melrose's western flank -- during one of our recent ice ages. Or, the pair in the right photo, which seem so artistically placed, may have been shuffled around by man, simply for aesthetic value.





A weed is a weed is a weed. Sometimes that's a shame. Take the ubiquitous dandelion, for instance. It has a beautiful blossom, and its seed pod is one of the most beautiful forms on earth. Well, it grows too at Pine Banks, although with a large host of other wild and not-so-wild plants. It's a fine place to play "Name the Wild Plant" with your kids.





Different perspectives: Two of our shooters saw this tree that afternoon, but from slightly different angles. At least both thought it worthy of photographing, for when was the last time you saw a pregnant tree? We have no explanation for this phenomenom; perhaps one of our readers can tell us about this beech.





Much of our valley was reclaimed from marsh during its two-century development. It is appropriate, therefore, that we have a spot in town where we can see what Melrose looked like before we reached our fill of homes. And Pine Banks has such a marsh, complete with redwing blackbirds. We are just outside the unoffical boundary of the Boston Basin -- that giant fault line that roughly follows Route 60 through Malden, westward; but our natural drainage is in that direction, due south -- and not eastward, directly to the sea.




It seems there's always been a playground here, and there has been a small zoo, which proved impractical eventually. But it is still a playground, used mostly by family groups. It is quiet, peaceful, adventuresome, exciting, varied, and has a change over every knoll.




I'm running out of words -- but I love the photos. I took the dry stalks in the left, and Natalie (I think) dared the brambles to take an unusual and lovely picture. For a bunch of oldies, we do pretty darned good.




Funny, but Shirley noted that these new red leaves look more like fall than spring, but there you are. A whole bush of red leaves at the left, and a couple of special leaves on a what-kind-of-tree. Not important.

So there you are. That's what we do on a Friday afternoon. Look for beauty. Times are pretty good. If you are younger than we SilverStringers, you have a good time ahead of you.

Commentary from Don Norris.


June 6, 2003


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