Yesterday J and I walked to Boston College for a football game at Alumni Stadium. Our seats were high in the south end-zone bleachers, so we had a bird’s eye view of the Boston skyline towering over the turning trees at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. J and I have been to enough BC football games that we’ve taken some version of this same shot countless times. There’s something about a skyline that just begs to be photographed, especially when the buildings of said skyline seem to be shimmering straight out of the water and trees.
This semester I asked my first-year writing students at BC to write about the history of a specific site on or near campus, and from those essays I’ve learned that the Chestnut Hill Reservoir used to have two basins, with Alumni Stadium now standing on the drained site of one of them. Chestnut Hill Reservoir is a manmade body of water, originally built to supply water to thirsty Boston residents, so I guess it makes sense that it would be re-engineered over time: first to provide water, next to provide extra land to the college campus next door, and now as a place where students from that campus go to jog, walk, or otherwise de-stress.
It seems a bit odd to look at the remaining reservoir from bleachers built on what used to be its other half: when else have I sat or stood on seemingly solid land without realizing the former fluidity of the very ground beneath me? Now that I know Alumni Stadium used to be water, however, that might explain a curious phenomenon I’ve observed at every football game we’ve attended there.
At some point during the game’s second half, one or two gulls quietly appear overhead, soaring from the reservoir next door and gradually being joined by more and more of their fellows. I’ve always assumed these gulls were looking to scavenge the peanuts and popcorn left behind by football fans: over time, I assumed, the reservoir gulls have learned that the sound of cheering crowds means lots of leftover snacks.
But that doesn’t explain the fact that these gulls are always gone by game’s end: just as they spontaneously appear overhead at roughly the same point in the second half, they just as inexplicably float away, back to the reservoir that remains, before the game ends and we football fans vanish, as well.
Maybe these stadium gulls aren’t looking for handouts, and maybe they aren’t even earthly birds at all. Maybe they’re the ghosts of gulls long dead, soaring over the site where they once in a past life dipped their feet and feathers in a reservoir made and then reclaimed by humans, those fickle folks who would build you a home then turn around to take it away. Finding nothing but a stadium, football fans, and the promise of scavenged snacks, these ghosts of gulls float overhead, disappointed, before they soar to find something more enduring to sustain them.
This is my Day 3 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.