blue tree

Last assignment in my second module on Setting. This was challenging as I have been traveling the entire week and am now fighting a cold. My hope for an online class came through however, I can write anywhere. I hit submit from my Eugene, OR hotel room. The other challenge was word limit. We had to write about our primal landscape, the setting where we spent a good amount of our childhood. I chose to concentrate on the hub of Needham – Great Plain Avenue.


Simply describe this landscape, no characters needed as we are all highly influenced by the place of our youth. For better or for worse, our hometown is always our hometown. Let yourself go through the intense experience of remembering this landscape, its weather, people, its joys and sorrows.


Word Count Minimum = 500 and Maximum = 750

TITLE: Great Plain Avenue

The city of marsh lay surrounded by water, salt and fresh, sea and river. It followed the river westward and discovered the land of a great plain; rich and plentiful and dense with gravel. The city desired the land of the plain. It took the land’s riches and left behind its railroads, sand pits and a new, growing populace.

Like arms stretched outward in a welcoming embrace, Great Plain Avenue wiggles its fingers and touches its neighbors. At the middle lies the heart of the Avenue: the pulsing town center. The Town Hall is fronted by an expansive area of town green and one majestic sugar maple. Its trunk sends its roots deep into the green, its limbs branch out for shade in the summer and adoration during the Christmas season. Every night in December, the brown, stark branches come alive after firefighters hang miles of blue lights on its boughs, shining as a beacon of celebration and tradition. Beyond the common area, storefronts dominate the Avenue, tightly squeezed along a straight half mile of two lanes and sidewalks, stop lights and train tracks, offering the residents all they need for a vital and substantial life.

Across from the Hall, wood-paneled station wagons pull up to Rimley’s Market, loading groceries into the back as children crowd together on ridged, pleather second rows, twisting, turning, crawling over each other for the short five to ten minute drives home. Even the furthest reaches of the town lie less than ten minutes from the epicenter.

For activity, a converted main street home houses the YMCA. As its front door opens, hints of an inside basement pool waft forth with steam and chlorine inviting its patrons in for training, toning, and graduating teens ready for summer life guard work at Rosemary Pond. Across a side street, steel on steel grinds the blades of ice skates at the sporting goods store, honing edges to cut the ice of ponds and reservoir in pick up hockey games and from twirls by diminutive Peggy Flemings.

Flanking the hubs of activity, the red-bricked, three story elementary school releases its students to field and playground, bound and kept by a chain link fence lest the students escape during the day to visit Brigham’s ice cream shop a block away where it beckons with scoops heaped on sugar cones and rolled in signature chocolate jimmies. Sounds bounce over and through the fence, boasting competitive games of four square as the balls hit the black top. Hands clap in unison to “Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, With silver buttons, buttons, buttons, all down her back, back, back…”. Other elementary schools sit outside the center and inside the maple tree-lined neighborhoods of parallel streets where children walk to other red-bricked schools with their parents waving them off from front steps and onward to their futures. The high school stands within the town center environs. Mightily set upon a hill, the Classic Greek architecture, complete with Doric columns bracketing the front entrance, gives credence to the importance the town and its families place on higher education.

The health and wellness of the soul is well tended, too. The Avenue nods to its earliest New England roots with white steepled Protestant churches anchoring each end of the half mile. As the town grew, other denominations dotted the radii continuing out from the center. As land grew scarcer, the newest populations built their Temples at the farthest reaches of the town. On Sunday mornings parking lots fill with cars built for families, bringing them inside for worship and to linger with coffee, donuts and talk. There are no pressing engagements. Sunday is a day of rest and peace.

Beyond the quiet town center, Sunday afternoons pull neighbors outside. Yards of post-war developments of Cape Cods, ranches, and split levels are well raked in the fall, driveways and walkways are hand shoveled in the winter, spring blooms with the pale green maple trees, yellow forsythia, purple lilacs and pink cherry trees while grasses are neatly trimmed in the summer. Children race across the streets, calling out for games of dodge ball and kick the can.

There is no need to visit the city created by the town’s offering of gravel. The town pulls its families close and keeps them there, in mind, body and spirit. Needham, Massachusetts.

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