February 19 was a beautiful day, clear and sunny. A person can only sit in his study, in front of his computer, for so long. I decided I should try to follow the blue line on the map which is Wellington Brook upstream from Blair Pond. I’ve been meaning to for months. The blue line is clear enough, but in the oft-quoted words of Korzybski, the map is not the territory.
From Blanchard Rd. to Clay Pit Pond the blue line looks inviting, but the brook runs underground. Through what would be an interesting question, and how and when did it get that way.
Clay Pit Pond, to judge by its name, must have been dug out during the years when brickmaking was a major industry in North Cambridge — similar to Jerry’s Pond, or Pit, which was a Cambridge swimming hole after it fell into disuse.
The brook enters Clay Pit Pond from underground. I found it again near Belmont Center; this is where it flows out under Common Street.
I continued trying to follow the blue line upstream and found nothing. Eventually I turned off onto an obscure side street which was marked “Private Way” and also had a sign for the Belmont Water Department. One car was parked in front of a building of imperturbable anonymity, which otherwise showed no signs of life. Nonetheless, there was a small sign reading “Please ring bell,” and it was the water department, after all. Who else would I ask? I rang bell, and was buzzed in. “Hello?” a voice called, from an office to my right. I went in and found a man behind a gray metal desk in a large, pleasant enough office. The building was silent except for sports talk radio playing loudly from the top of his filing cabinet. I told him what I was looking for, and in a minute or so it became clear that this extremely helpful guy, whose name I should have gotten but didn’t, had the entire map of Belmont in his head and knew exactly where Wellington Brook went. He also knew that there was probably nowhere else I would find it visible except those places I had already seen, thus saving me a lot of fruitless uphill biking; he also gave me a conceptual tour of Winn’s Brook without my even asking. He could name the intersection where it had been exposed to view when he was growing up, in the 60’s, but even he wasn’t sure if it still was visible there.
I returned to Belmont Center and made a few more pictures of Wellington Brook in its brief passage between the culvert under Common St. and the place where it vanishes beneath a massive sloped metal grating behind the library. It runs between the parking lots of buildings along Concord Ave. and the grounds of a large estate, liberally posted with “Keep Out” signs. The margins of the brook are controlled by squared-off stone.
I wonder if the water finds the alternation of darkness and sky entertaining. In any case, it is always in motion; we are the ones who experience the brook’s location as permanent.
Whether or not the water has an aesthetic preference, some of us clearly do.