At the bottom of Cedar Street, I can see the beginning of Main Street to the right – a few hundred yards back at Warr Avenue. But I go the other way, walking past Tobey Hospital into town.The Agawam river meets salt water here at Besse Park, hosting swans and herons, fish and fishers. Train tracks run between Main Street and the river, disappearing behind downtown businesses just a few yards past the hospital.
Wareham village, the town center, looks good. New sidewalks and lights, gardens and trees make it a welcoming place – a federally funded facelift that encourages tourists and residents alike to spend time here. Riverside Cafe serves a tasty breakfast at a low price, Twigs & Tides offers the wares of local artists, Minerva’s has great pizza, and the post office staff is friendly and efficient. Bait and tackle, dog grooming, legal advice, haircuts, chiropractic adjustment, and gas for the car are all here in this half mile space.
The odd thing about Main Street: the businesses on the right side of the street, closest to the river, face away from the water. Changing tides and graceful wildlife are blocked from view by walls, storage rooms, and dumpsters. Riverside Cafe’s customers can see the insurance office across the street, but not the river. The only exception: Cafe Soleil. When it was Merchant’s Way Cafe years back, the owners built the dining room facing the river.
I love this downtown, but I see in it a cautionary tale. For convenience and the loveliness of human communal space, the wild world that feeds human bodies and souls is often ignored. The Agawam has its own life, far removed from human needs and preferences. It supplies fish and oysters, and destroys homes and streets when it floods. This tidal area serves a much larger purpose than feeding and entertaining me and the rest of the human family. It is fearfully and wonderfully made by and for the glory of God – not for the glory and convenience of humanity. When I walk on Main Street, I wonder if these buildings turn away from the river to avoid facing this.
Question: What can you see in the heart of your town?
For more information on this series of writings, see Walking Wareham on the “About” page.