Charles Coe, haikuCharles Coe offers a haiku at Uncle Sam Plaza on Minuteman Bike Day. / Bob Sprague photo

      First dividing us,

      the bikeway's spine now strengthens

      to Bedford and back.

UPDATED, Oct. 3: That traditional haiku form -- but not the content (where's nature?) -- outlines in 17 syllables the history of the Minuteman Bikeway, from longtime resistance to a more than 25-year-embrace of cycling, running, walking.

So it was on Saturday, Sept. 29, as three towns celebrated America's Revolutionary Rail Trail. Bedford, Lexington and Arlington marked the day with music and poetry.

The weather was as brilliant as sharply drawn fall verse by Donald Hall. In Arlington, celebrants swigged the season's last beer garden at Whittemore Park, while across Mystic, they poured out measured draughts of exploratory words at the Haiku Hangout in Uncle Sam Park.

Series of photos portray the day

The day's goal, said arts consultant Cecily Miller, was to read through all 112 haikus stenciled on the bikeway's 10 miles from Alewife to Bedford.

There was little formality. Speakers stepping the microphone in the shadow of the newly refurbished statue of Uncle Sam read those three judges chose or the from the more than 460 entries, some from as far away as Ann Arbor, Mich, and Queens, N.Y.

Let's focus on those words and the people who spoke them.

"Am I published?" asked Amy Goldstein, referring to her haiku among those on the bikeway. "Yes," listeners responded.

Her words recall "Ripple," a knitted installation on display along the bikeway from September 2017 to last June

Bright sweaters on trees

Kept us all warm last winter

But the seasons change

Goldstein and others "published" will be able to take her stencil home.

Liz LaManche, a consulting artist who helped cut the stencils using oil board, said she used a laser cutter from Technocopia in Worcester.

Miller said those whose words are on the bikeway can ask her for their stencil after Columbus Day weekend. "Take a photo with it," she suggested.

Arlington poet Jenny Brown thanked two prime movers behind the literate installation, Adria Arch of Arlington Pubic Art and Miller. She then read a few "short, sharp lines," including her own:

My son pedals, slows.

But how do the trees drink, when

we put pavement down?

and one with a Trump-era news angle:

Season of open windows

man in turban on bikeway

the blotter reads.

Colleague Grace Solomonoff reads of matters small and large:

Play on the bike path!

In a second spin around

Earth takes a whole day

"I guess Mother Nature likes haiku," said Charles Coe, a haiku judge, referring to the day.

Traditional haiku refers to the seasons, but he does not always. Witness "Cat Haiku":

If I were bigger

I would be licking your bones

sweet and gleaming white

It drew laughter and applause.

Carl Carlsen of Winchester said he rode to Bedford and found the ride "thrilling" and the haikus "a little distracting." He read one of his:

pedal rhythm gear

shift regain steady cadence

at one with my bike

And one by Cathy Garabedian, which elicited chuckles:

Don't come here at night.

The bunnies might clobber you

With small furry paws.

Reflecting the event's casual attitude was a haiku by Fred Jodsworth Boak of Harwich ready by Theresa Henderson:

Nice day for a ride

I wrote no haiku today

Or maybe I did

Ryan Katofsky, of Sustainable Arlington and the Arlington High Building Committee, he said he had one poem accepted and one rejected. "You figure out which."

Bystanders protect

The large slow snapping turtle

That crosses the path


"On your left!" I shout

But what is the point of it

Jogger with earbuds

The last one spurred laughter.

A public official arrived. Select Board member John V. Hurd stepped up and read one by Cathie Desjardins, town poet laureate:

Small girl, big helmet

Smiling Grandma trails behind

shiny new scooter

and one by Jack Johnson of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, a group supporting cycling and the Minuteman since 1996:

Hope for bicycling:

Humbly gets us around town,

while saving our world

Johnson was at the ABAC table at the nearby Aeronaut beer garden.

A haiku titled "Dear Smith Corona" by David Hummon paid homage to the nearby typewriters positioned on tables inviting authors. Providing the aging but perfectly clacking machines was Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter. Among his client is David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. He once said, and it's almost a haiku ...

"History is a

guide to navigation

in perilous times."

haiku bikeway flier

Sept. 29 Minuteman Bikeway Day

Arlington, Lexington and Bedford host events

The bikeway was completed and dedicated by the three towns during 1992-93, and its success has inspired countless rail-trail and pathway projects in New England and beyond.

Community receptions will be held simultaneously from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. along the Minuteman Bikeway in all three towns.

Arlington’s Minuteman Bikeway Day celebrations will include a community reception at Whittemore Park in Arlington Center with live music, local food vendors, beer garden and additional bicycle racks.

Along the bikeway, live music performances will be staged along the path, where you can view "Bikeway Haiku" from Arlington to Bedford. 

Read about the Arlington events.

Read about all events.

Check out the music schedule.

Read many of the haikus here >>

July 18, 2018: Turning film memories into poetry at Uncle Sam Plaza

This news feature was published Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Earlier, it was an announcement.