I was waiting in a Starbucks drive-thru this morning and looking at the house behind it. Before there was a Starbucks in this spot there was a Mobile station. Before that? Probably the yard of the house I was looking at. Before that? Probably farmland for a family that owned a larger plot of land in this corner of Haverhill. Before that? Probably a few generations of farmers. And before that? Perhaps the Duston family, who lived across the Little River, or another family that settled this land. Before that? Deep woodland that the Eastern Abanaki inhabited for centuries.
I wonder now and then what the generations of people who lived on this land would think of it now. Plunked down in the Starbucks parking lot, they’d be stunned to see the semicircle of cars lined up around the building as coffee addicts and Frappuccino posers each pulled up and completed their transactions.
They call this part of Methuen Paradise Valley. The valley today doesn’t measure up to the name. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some lovely parts of Haverhill and Methuen. But the spirit of the place, that intangible that prompted some folks a few generations back to name this place Paradise Valley is gone now.
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.” – Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell
Conservation and preservation are really the only way forward. I hope people look up from their phones and lattes long enough to realize that. Or maybe its just progress and I don’t see it.