There are no postcards for sale in the vicinity of Footcandle, Massachusetts. This is not to say that there is nothing picturesque here for tourists who venture east from Albany, or north from Bridgeport. Like other towns of a certain size appended by gas stations to the interstate, Footcandle has its share of signature landmarks—the gazebo in Footcandle Park, the ruddy covered bridge connecting Bank Street to Falls Road, the bonneted bovine greeting patrons at the entrance to the general store. Any of these would suffice as a souvenir. But the photographer hoping to capture what is unique to the geography of Footcandle will inevitably leave disappointed. All manner of centering, decentering, cropping, brightening, or filtering will fail to imbue distinction to the snowy peak of Solomon’s Lookout, the vista of birches lining the pedestrian mall, the nearby fountain greeting guests of the Footcandle Inn. The resulting images could have been taken anywhere.
A surviving legend tells of a coven of witches seeking refuge from Salem in the late spring of 1692. The mayor of Footcandle had promised asylum, but rescinded just as the escapees arrived at the doors of the rooming house on Main Street—then known as the Starling and Crow. Their beds had been dug hours earlier, on the opposite side of town, in a grove near the banks of the Housic River. Before the summary execution, the coven’s high priestess put a hex on the town in perpetuity, calling on the spirits of the betrayed to haunt any image made of the town or its environs.
A less lurid explanation remarks the cluster of summer homes, bistros, and boutiques that have gathered along the shores of the Housic over the last half-decade. Footcandle’s reputation among realtors has grown to such an extent, some believe, that commonplace commemoration is unseemly. Only those for whom luxury is a novelty would need a souvenir.
There is still a third possibility, rarely shared or even apprehended until long after leaving. For those who experience it, a vista of Footcandle can only emerge as a shadow of more familiar landscapes, the former revealing the latter with uncanny clarity. Scarves distended by a passing train arc like willow branches against the pallor of Footcandle Presbyterian. Nesting kestrels delineate the architecture of brownstones and bank lobbies. Mossy trailheads are followed into dreams. Sunrise recalls another sky, vivid in its mask of roiling drapes.