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Writerly Inspiration - Lynn Woods Reservation
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This particular special place deserves an article all on its own: since it has so much to offer in terms of potential writerly inspiration.

Lynn Woods Reservation, situated in Lynn, Massachusetts, is the largest municipal woods reservation in the United States.

Within, or bordering on, the reservation are various man-made reservoirs that serve as the municipal water source for the city of Lynn.

Most people who know of Lynn Woods think of the woods reservation as encompassing the primary tract of land that extends from Great Woods Road on one side to Penny Brook Road on the other. However, several separate, smaller tracts of land also are designated as a part of the reservation.

Apart from the reservoirs, Lynn Woods reservation has several well-known and notable features. At the Great Woods Road side, the reservation borders a public golf course. Also on this side of the woods is a children’s playground with slides, a swingset [though not always equipped with swings], monkey bars, and a manual “merry go round.” There are also open-air chimneys in this area for cooking food for a family outing.

Hiking up into the woods from this side of the reservation, the visitor encounters a structure known as the Stone Tower on a hillside. The last visit I made, the structure was still accessible but the upper floors somewhat deteriorated. The overseers of the reservation began discouraging public visitations after a teacher committed suicide by jumping from a window in one of the upper stories . . . all of the stone tower’s windows being open and not enclosed with glass.

Lynn Woods Reservation is also home to the Steel Tower. Although less interesting, being essentially an abandoned park ranger’s overlook to watch for possible forest fires, the steel tower also has attraction to some visitors to the reservation.

One of the most well-known landmarks within Lynn Woods Reservation is a location known as Dungeon Rock. This is perhaps the most associated with legend of all the Lynn Woods Reservation locations. Dungeon Rock is a large, hollowed-out boulder with a dungeon-like door hung at the entrance. Dungeon Rock had fallen into disrepair over the years, but in more recent times some admirers of this location organized a group to take over the preservation and maintenance of this landmark which is associated with a place on nearby Saugus River known as Pirate’s Cove.

Other locations of interest within the Lynn Woods Reservation include a location known as the Wolf Pits and another known as the Lemon Squeezer: both a series of rock formations that suggest the uses that gave them their names. Young adults in particular enjoy negotiating the tight-fitting boulder formations of the Lemon Squeezer: which is either in one of the separate smaller tracts of land or there are two locations that go by that name: I never quite figured out which. The Wolf Pits, however, is within the main tract of land of the Reservation.

At the Penny Brook Road side of Lynn Woods Reservation, the visitor finds the Rose Garden, a place that a long-ago caretaker of the woods furnished with and cared for a wide range of different species of rose bush. Like Dungeon Rock, the Rose Garden fell into neglect for some time and then came into renewed existence in more recent years with a new caretaker.

The Great Woods Road side of Lynn Woods Reservation was only about an eight block walk from my childhood home, and I have many memories of visits there. These include afternoons spent in the playground as a child; learning to drive under my Dad’s instruction on Great Woods Road; visiting Dungeon Rock; and an occasion when myself, my youngest brother, and my oldest brother (old enough to drive) got stranded inside the Reservation when the police or the park rangers closed the gates on Great Woods Road at sundown with us still inside. We eventually left the Reservation by squeaking the car under the chain barrier across the road up into the woods and driving to the Rose Garden side of the woods and exiting at that end: but not before for a time we got stranded in mud in my mother’s car.

It is of places and experiences like that you can build a compelling fiction story. I did write a very short children’s story set around Dungeon Rock. Published only in small press periodicals, I eventually had the chance to read it to a class of third graders. They enjoyed it greatly and asked lots of astute questions.

I encourage you to shoot for the same sort of audience engagement in your own fiction. And a part of that is the special sense a good background of place . . . of setting . . . can invest into your fiction.

For young writers, you can start now by trying to capture descriptions of the special places you know or have known and the things that make them special.


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