Widow’s Walk


Clapboard and brick homes from the 1700s and 1800s line the streets in my seaport town.

Narrow roads radiate from the waterfront and climb uphill like the monture of a folding fan.  Atop its arc is a busy main road where magnificent colonial captains’ houses soldier on.

Their windows now hold modern fixtures. Simulated brilliant candles hold blandly steady, never flickering in wind that still sweeps into minute seams in horsehair plaster walls.

Some of their roofs are topped with a platform known as a widow’s walk, or widow’s watch.  Were they at ground level, where neighbors wander companionably to shops and farmer’s markets, a dog park or a church, they would be mere porches.

Some have ornate painted balustrades in ghostly white.  Elevated above these houses, the small enclosures occupy their own solitary plane, like the crow’s nest outlook on an old sailing ship’s mast.  I imagine lachrymose long-departed wives standing, casting thousand-yard stares down towards the port from which spouses might never have returned.

Widows would have floated above their neighbors, having ascended those extra steps closer to heaven into a small space seemingly open to the world’s bustle, yet set apart and steeped in solitude.

I study these houses every day on my own earth-bound path, always chosen by a beagle who hilariously fancies himself an alpha.  He and his brother, sweet Brady, used to run ahead of my husband on a long hill up and away from the centuries-old home we all shared then.  They never just walked; they ran, the pups’ soft ears bobbing.    I never picture them returning home; in my mind’s eye they are always starting out together.

Now only Rufus remains with me.  He has enough of a white muzzle that other dog lovers instantly recognize him as a vintage model.  Although we rarely run, Rufus invariably pulls me at a steady, quick clip downhill to the waterfront.  He is always searching his map of the world,  nose burrowed into particles of the past until we reach the port.  There he strains his left flank against the same old granite post, thicker than a tombstone, then goes to the low waterfront fence, and raises his deep brown eyes to scan the sea and sky.

“Why does he always look so sad?”  I would ask Jim.

“Because he’s a beagle.”    

Winter is just short of its official arrival, but by October the harbor had emptied of all but the most stalwart working vessels.  Summer pleasure craft were hoisted on enormous hanging belts and levered from the icy Atlantic.

When we turn back Rufus and I look up, where masts and rigging tower above us, a graveyard of ships out of water shrouded in heavy white plastic that gleams in harsh sunlight no longer softened by a filigree of leaves.

Another day.

Another widow’s walk.


About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
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10 Responses to Widow’s Walk

  1. scillagrace says:

    My son just got a beagle pup. My Jim had one growing up, too. I feel that’s a kind of circle. 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      There is nothing in this life more beguiling than a beagle pup! There’s something so deep and sweet and empathetic about beagles, even though one of my sons says they’re the “ninth dumbest breed” 🙂 Their emotional intelligence seems far higher.

  2. Pingback: Ascend – Standing out – What's (in) the picture?

  3. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I know that his is a tough time of year for you, Stephanie, and having Rufus in your life has to be a blessing.
    Best wishes for a Happy Holiday season.

    • Stephanie says:

      He is a sweetie, and still trying to pull me on long walks in the polar vortex. Thank you–holidays are so complicated, and I still have a lot of work to do on trying to make the best of their lovely morsels instead of just weathering through them.

  4. Ann martin says:

    Love your writing. You are superb at everything that you do — so talented! Even better than your Dad!!! What’s up for your big holiday and who is home????? Dan and Laurel wll be off to CAL. later this week. Can I do anything fol you and your family??? Please let me know. Love, me


  5. rutakintome says:

    I pray you sensed hope in the midst of your journey. Lonely steps are silent, but, at the shore I find a connection with how small I am, and, this brings me hope… there is a much larger story – a song –
    and many of the details are as fuzzy as the crystal clear details that harmonize together, even though some of the notes are pain and joy and, the rhythm seems always to be a pattern of unanswerable questions.

    • Stephanie says:

      You write with great poetry, and are so right. I was recently assigned the “homework” of reading a book called “Sapiens,” which I suspect is to assist me in seeing the whole tapestry, and that it is no tragedy to know one plays only the most miniscule part, and to do the best one can with that. I am startling myself, realizing I do feel hope–and even a little happiness–from time to time, especially at the dazzling shore.

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