Walk interrupted. I had been up working on my poem about Ardeche and so I started out later than the dogs appreciated. After we headed out the door, crossed the field to the river, I got a text from my friend who has just returned from Davos, Switzerland. She’s picking up her dogs from the kennel, so I tell her I will drive up to Medfield State parking lot and meet her there. Then I remember the spray paint can I’ve been meaning to bring. It’s the perfect time to get rid of the swastika I found painted on a rock in an old root cellar in November.
I tuck the can of silver paint inside my jacket. I reported the graffiti the day after finding it, expecting it would be immediately removed. Instead, the next time I walked past it, the old root cellar had been surrounded by yellow caution tape – but the swastika on the rock had not been touched.
I meet my friend, our four dogs are randy and running mad, and we have so many things to catch up on as we cross the meadow and the old hospital grounds and keep walking over the largest meadow toward the neighboring high school playing fields. When we get to the caution tape, we bend over the hole, and yes, there it is, untouched, and the grungy ground around it is wet and strewn with trash. I had imagined dropping down into the hole to spray the rock, but it’s creepy and we decide it may be hard to climb back out. Instead, my tall friend decides we can spray toward it from above and hope the paint reaches it. I hand her the can. Within a moment or two of silver spray the graffiti is obscured. We high five each other, keep walking and talking about philanthropy (hers) and I tell her about the Mary Oliver memorial we staged on the arch of her front steps overlooking Farm pond in her absence, and we talk about how our kids are doing and how grateful we are to be walking by this this calm, old river under the trees. Who painted the hate symbol, and why, and why here? Why anywhere? I have made progress on my poem that I feel good about: it’s about cave art – my visit to Chauvet Cave (replica) last June in Ardeche, France. The artists used charcoal and hand mixed natural pigments for paints. The floor of the grotto is littered with cave bear skulls, not juice bottles and potato chip wraps. The earliest known art: Animals. Handprints. Human hands.