‘Murphy’: A Re-Post from 2009

When I wrote this post in November of 2009, I didn’t know Patrick Murphy and nobody had any idea of what would unfold in the next few years. Catching up with the latest local commentary on social media this morning, I remembered this quirky post written in the aftermath of the 2009 city election, when I was hiking regularly around the city and reporting on what I saw. When I re-read it, I was surprised by its relevance. There is nothing particularly profound here, but I like the sense of time and place evoked: the notion that we are part of a long flow of natural change as seen in the ancient glacial markings of the Highlands and shifting seasons right in front of us. Political names will come and go, but the process endures and is replenished by new people the way the leaves come back in spring. Everything has its place.—PM



I’m titling my latest walking report “Murphy” because in the Highlands this morning I saw several of the blue Murphy signs hanging in there post-election and Patrick Murphy was on the front page of the Sun this morning, along with councilors-elect Franky Descoteaux and Joe Mendonca. I don’t know what someone would call the area I walked with my brother early this morning, maybe the “Middle” Highlands, as opposed to the Lower Highlands or Upper Highlands. It’s a neighborhood I don’t know very well. We were in the area of Penniman Circle, the new Morey School (which looks very suburban), and the back side of the Wilder Street Historic District with its many well-kept Victorian-style houses.

Even in a dense residential section like this one there are institutional presences tucked between houses, including Calvary Baptist Church, Montefiore Synagogue, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Willow Manor Nursing Home, and the school mentioned above. All within a few blocks.

We stopped at the Glacier Oval, an oddity for monuments in the city. I’d never seen it up close. It’s an ovoid section of ledge about twenty feet long and ten feet wide, if I recall correctly. At first I thought a huge boulder had been sliced off, leaving a rugged layer of ancient rock, but I think it is more like a patch of ledge. Someone reading this can enlighten us about it. (I just Googled the term and got a passage from one of the books by the Old Residents Historical Assoc., which says it’s a ledge behind the Highland Church “deeply furrowed” by the legendary “glacier.”)

I was eager to walk this morning because of the mild weather on a November Sunday. Up and down the streets flowers bloomed, including lots of healthy red, pink, and white roses. Some trees were leafless while others held onto their full golden crowns. A small grove of bamboo filled the corner of one yard; nearby was a large Chinese dog made of concrete. Christmas and Halloween decorations overlapped on one block. Part of the writing impulse is the urge to name things and describe experiences, and I was thinking of that as my brother and I kicked through the leaves on the sidewalks. A writer-friend of mine says the colors are exceptional this year. I’ve been looking at the leaves up close and far away and trying to come up with words to paint the colors. From a distance, the leaves under the trees look like pencil shavings.

The neighborhood was waking up between 7.45 and 8.45 a.m. At the Donut Shack on Westford Street a man wearing pajama bottoms and a jacket walked out with a coffee and a small bag. Most of the political signs were gone. A black-and-pink Mercier sign leaned into the shrubs in one yard. You almost wouldn’t know from the street-scape there had been a big election last Tuesday. Opara signs hung in windows of a few shops. The candidates and their supporters had cleaned up quickly. I asked my brother to guess how many leaves were on the ground across the city. We couldn’t say. Millions, hundreds of millions? Billions and billions, as Carl Sagan said about the stars? Could you count the leaves on one block and project the total number? It’s a lot of bio-mass, as they say.

—Paul Marion, 11-08-09

One Response to ‘Murphy’: A Re-Post from 2009

  1. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:


    Your word-walking has a lovely feel. By the way, the number of leaves at that time was one billion and five (plus or minus a few million) and the stars are gently smiling at my quantum estimate.


    Although my color yellow glistens gold,
    Under rousing air there’s a hint of frost:
    Some juries’ breath of coldness—beggars’ mold.

    I still embrace the heating rays of sun,
    Sustain my limbs through days of windy toss,
    Sway my blooming petals till summer comes…

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy