It appears that the calendar will conspire with New England weather to turn tomorrow’s historic winter solstice, timed to coincide with a total eclipse of a full moon, into just another cloudy workday. So for me the ritual walk likely will be little more than a late afternoon trip for coffee along the icy Saugatucket River, just a snowball’s throw from my window.
It’s still worth celebrating the return of incremental light, and scenes of mallard tribes huddled against the riverbank and randomly scattered copper oak leaves trapped under thin skins of cracked ice make the detour a pleasant one, despite the increasingly annoying intrusion of sign pollution marking the short walk. Where once there was just a river abutting a parking lot, with no signs to speak of, now there is a fenced boardwalk leading to a gravel path connecting the area to the bridge that leads from Wakefield School to Main Street, sprouting signs like weeds. They are permanent admonishments, mostly variations of: PLEASE DON’T FEED THE WATERFOWL and PLEASE CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG. While the rebukes are well intended, it’s somewhat ironic that before the river walk became a recreational haven, it lacked the aesthetics of modern leisure (benches, viewing platform, a dock) – but it also didn’t need the cautionary overkill.
No doubt the walkway has brought more people to the river. And, yes, there are minefields of doggy detritus to navigate because some pet owners can’t be bothered to pick up after themselves. And, yes, some misguided souls like to feed Wonder Bread to wildlife. But the signs don’t seem to prevent people who leave waste untended and feed Twinkies to geese from doing those things. They just sort of ruin the view. If signs really could change behavior, I’d be the first in line to make them: PLEASE FEED THE HUNGRY. PLEASE CLOTHE THE TATTERED. PLEASE SHELTER THE HOMELESS.
As long as we’re admonishing folks, we might at least try doing society some good.
What sign would you like to post for anyone passing by?