Cambridge Outdoors

playing, learning, and being outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.


The Host-Parasite Thing, with Many Digressions

Image copyright University of Montreal

Did you know? Ladybugs, aka ladybeetles, can be parasitized by wasps.

Ideas and facts aren’t bad just because we acquire them via social media. As a parent and self-teaching nature club guide* I’ll take what I can get from the Internet. Here’s an example. So am I a host or a parasite in the digital food chain?

*I’ve been calling myself a “leader” of the club I started for elementary kids. but that’s because, in addition to “teacher,” it’s what the other spunworgs** seem to expect. But I think I’m ditching that. “Leader” is  girlscoutspeak. (Let me tell you sometime about my research on the scouting movement in mid-20th century Botswana. But not here.) Point is, I actually don’t lead the kids; they tend to lead me.

**I hope my twelve-year-old never outgrows her capacity to speak backwards. She’s been a happy contributor to our family-specific lexicon. I bet you’ve got an FSL, too. You do know adolescents have always been a fundamental contributor to language change, throughout human history, don’t you? You may love or hate particular neologisms (I got me some humdingers I love to hate), but do not a Luddite be on slang as a whole.


Park[ing] Day

Enormous, lumpy, bright green spheres—walnuts sporting their whole husk—are littering the byways of Fresh Pond Reservation like a shell midden in the middle of nowhere. Asters are in full flush. A vole was so busy with fall it didn’t bother to hide itself, scuttling right in front of my feet across a wood chip path.

People are choosing their indoors existence right and left; even I am choosing my walled and locked and upholstered and gas-fueled exploits above just the wandering, lolling, and gazing that I could be doing. Every day. Or at least every week.

Park[ing] Day tests our indoors-burrowing, busifying, bustling outer shells. Park[ing] Day, now an annual event the world over, says What is open space, anyway? And is the line that designates a parking spot really etched in its rectangular purity, or should we, maybe, try to unthinkour privileging the presence of cars amongst our stalwart and tiniest pedestrians, our neighbors, our shopkeepers?

Kids from a local school not only making red-winged blackbird wings and beaks to wear, but just generally hanging out in the Play Outdoors! Parking Spot

At our Park[ing] Day spot, on Huron Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, amongst the pine cones, chestnuts, birds nests, tracking guides, and diorama of Fresh Pond Reservation, I met a woman who said “I don’t want to be churlish.” What she then said wasn’t what I expected—perhaps that we aggravated traffic by our little park, or that our hasty signage was a blight. No, she related how she had played amongst the dirt and plants in Arizona as a child, that children today call out, above a floor littered with playthings, that they are bored.

The official co-sponsors of our spot were the Friends of Tobin (a local school organization) and Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation. Unofficially, let’s say the wild turkeys that have been crossing our streets, the gray squirrels mad with storage strategy, and the pines and chestnut trees that are giving kids in our neighborhood the best toys ever these days, are the real sponsors.