Walking up from the light is a literal statement – the street slopes upward, coming to its apex just beyond Tobey Hospital. Past the light on the left is Ladner Street, with a garden so lovely it refreshes the soul. Sawyer Street cuts in on the left halfway up, with Kennedy Street one house up from it on the right side. Half the distance again, and Center Street is on the left. Saint Patrick’s Church and Church of the Good Shepherd (the bullet hole in its spire cross is a story for another time) are on the right side. Tobey hospital comes next, on the left. High street dead ends a few hundred feet later, with a right or left turn onto Cedar Street. With houses lining its sides, two churches and a hospital, it offers the full range of human experience – a living novel. But those stories are for another day. Today, it’s the walls.
The first is a three layer wooden retaining wall, just eight or so inches high. It hugs the yard of a white colonial on the corner of Chapel and High. Next, fieldstone walls on either side, forty inches high with taller columns marking the driveways.
At Sawyer Street, a nine inch cement retaining wall in front of Wiegandt Immigration Law. Almost across from it, a two foot fieldstone wall with electric lanterns lighting the front walkway. Close to the end, a waist high stacked stone wall separates the street from Tobey hospital’s parking lot.
I’ve loved walls my whole life, walking countless ones for untold hours and holding the hands of many little ones as they learned to do the same. I’ve fallen off a few – gravity at work. Balancing on the narrow ones, skipping along the wide ones, walls offer a new perspective. Young children grow taller than their parents, getting a foretaste of their grown-up height. Adults can see farther in all directions than is possible on the ground. Thin ones are an exercise in balance and trust, wide ones are steady as solid ground.
I don’t walk on them so much as walk beside them these days, except the one at Sawyer Street; the owners are friends who won’t mind my trespassing. I still love them, though. They remind me that 1) Adventure and fresh perspective can be found by anyone, but not without personal effort and some risk; 2) Learning to walk on walls is easier with a helping hand; and 3) At some point, it’s time to be the helping hand.