“It’s not down on any map—the true places never are.”
(Herman Melville, Moby Dick)
My destination was not marked on any map that I could
find, and in the end I left my apartment on foot with a backpack of
picnic snacks, a pen and notebook, but no map. I was determined to find
the base of what I call my “fairy tower,”
a mysterious white spire topped with a sea green turret that chases me
on my walks to work and dodges and dances on the horizon each evening
when I return home. I have seen that tower from every point in this
city, but have never found it.
As I left my apartment in Jamaica
Plain, I peered anxiously at the horizon, waiting for my goal to appear
in front of me. Usually it would show up, slightly to
the right of Stop n’ Shop, hovering over the Jackson Square T station.
Today it was gone.
“When the rainbow disappears, the leprechauns still remain,” my husband, companion for the trek, mystifyingly assured me.
he was right. We followed the Southwest Corridor Parkway around the
corner of Jackson
Station, and there was the tower, perched high on an
embankment of houses and autumn-tinted trees, with no clear path leading
to the top.
Keeping our goal in sight, we crossed the traffic of
Columbus and came to a stop: a Y in the road. We chose to go left,
though soon we were cutting right on a series of labyrinthine
switchbacks that led us up the hill, past haunting mansions in decrepit
states of disrepair, and a life-size, slightly creepy statue of Christ
perched on a large rock at the corner of an empty lot, hands
outstretched as if to bless our pilgrimage.
As we climbed higher,
now and then I would catch views of the city and surrounding
neighborhoods: the Prudential and John Hancock buildings marking
downtown, the white blight of the Vet’s hospital I pass every day on my
way to Brookline, the dome of the abandoned church down the street from
my apartment. The monuments of my life in Boston were beginning to shift
behind me, uprooting from their chronological anchors in my habitual
every day to move on the tides of elusive memory.
As I circled
the tower I craned my neck, trying to see into the dark windows beneath
its peak. A seagull flew by, perhaps with a message for a captive
princess in its beak, but the windows kept their secrets, reflecting
only the cloud-dappled sky. We sat down to our picnic fare beneath a
weeping willow crying the golden tears of autumn. I knew I had come to
In life there are no maps, only the ever-shifting
unknowable future. But that future is anchored in place, in destinations
which we can come to know and love for the moment that we inhabit
them—or is it that they inhabit us, because even as I set out on my next
journey, I feel this place inside of me; Boston now a captive of my
newly returned from Tokyo, and queen of two geography bees, in 4th and 8th grade, she’ll be there to guide you on your next journey. Safe travels.