It was a beautiful May day in 2001 and I was walking up Bussey Hill in the Arnold Arboretum with a new friend when she suddenly took flight. This young redheaded woman I had just met was climbing a tree and soon ten feet above my head and out of reach. You’re not suppose to climb trees in the arboretum but Mary didn’t know. She was from Maine and trees were made for climbing so I climbed up after her.
We had met earlier at a party in Roslindale. She had driven her dad’s hand-me-down pick up truck there loaded with old chairs found on the curbs of Cambridge where she lived. Her project – her obsession really – was to photograph these solitary and time-worn chairs in beautiful landscapes.
We climbed down from the tree before getting caught and walked up the hill keeping a shy distance between us to take in the view to the south toward the Blue Hills. The Blue Hills are the southern outpost of Greater Boston’s regional park system imagined by Charles Eliot a century earlier and starter here in the Emerald Necklace by his mentor, Frederick law Olmsted. As a landscape architect I knew that ancient history well but all Mary saw as a photographer was the form and color everywhere – in the limbs of trees, the veins of a leaf, and the rolling unsteady ground beneath our feet. All I saw was her.
We walked on down the hill into the valley, our third date coming to a close and our solitary lives spreading out before us. I brought her to the immense Beech tree at the bottom of the hill – it’s impossibly long arms spreading out horizontal to the ground. She looked up longing to fly to the highest branch. I lifted her up to sit on the first branch and stood between her dangling legs as she looked up. When she slid back down into my arms we kissed for the first time.
When we retraced our steps to that tree and hilltop in the fall her answer when I asked the question was Yes!