Thursday, May 04, 2006

New London's House

New London's physical boundaries contain a little more than five square miles. Its structure contains a soul beyond measure. Lotuses grow out of the ponds in New London's arboretum. Algea and seaweeds thrive off New London's beaches. They choke the upper reaches of Alewife Cove. Mussels scale the rocks around Winthrop Neck. Horseshoe crabs crawl like slow dinosaurs onto New London's shores to silently mate in peace under May and June moons.

Cats prowl through eelgrass and trash. Swans build fortified nests they protect from intruders. Geese lead lines of yellow hatchlings to the lip of the surf then back to drier land. No one sees baby pidgeons, but pidgeons are everywhere downtown, picking at cracker crumbs and french fry nubs.

New London's dogs are tame not feral. Cats wander thier neighborhoods in lazy command of the territory. Raccoons and opossums foray on dark patrols. Rats roost in neglected crannies. They scavenge fish tails and clam bits and scraps of sandworms left by seagulls and fishermen.

Seagulls are New London's most common bird, followed closely by crows. There are bluejays and cardinals and sparrows and robins and chickadees and bumblebees. Pests are rare in New London. Colorful characters crowd the streetscapes and gardens and parks and salons.

New London's cemetaries are full of buried memories. Flowerbeds burst fragrant blooms. Lawns wave green blades ready to be trimmed. Wild scallions swell thick bulbs under the soil. Clover is feathered pink in white with three or four leaves. Buttercups tell the truth.

Living, human New Londoners walk and drive across the city's pavement. They animate New London's environment with arguments and friendships, with alliances and plans and vendettas, with salty talk and soothing tones. New London's human popluation arranges points of view in a horizontal hierarchy that resembles ordered lawlessness. Little is accomplished beyond the deciding. Endless discussion keeps New London abuzz.

New London contains more than a hundred linear miles of sidewalks, and most of them are cracked. Where there is a breach, ants escape to forage and explore. Termites gnaw New London's timbers. Asbestos shingles protect many older homes from threat of outside fires. Bricks neither burn nor keep out winter's chill.

New London's oldest house is the Joshua Hempstead house. Its walls are loosely packed with seaweed for insulation. Its floors are scuffed by three centuries of shoes. The man who built this house kept a diary. Those who want to get to New London's bones can read the pithy words he wrote.

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