Writing Contest Winners 2021-2022

First Place Winner, Grades 3-5

Jillian Leigh Shapiro
Grade 5, Bishop Elementary School, Arlington
Ms. Bell, Teacher


“Bubbling Harbor, flowing and bright…”
“I’ll keep you clean, for the gull’s flight…”

The gull circles around its home, Mystic Lakes. It glides through the wind, effortlessly and gracefully. The gull leans forward, propelling itself into a dive. It lands on the surface of the Lower Mystic Lake, causing ripples to bubble throughout the cool water. It ruffles its feathers a bit, before comfortably floating atop the surface. Its legs kick every now and then to help it avoid the occasional floating leaf or stick. The gull has arrived at the lakes after flying farther south to avoid the cold weather. But it’s springtime now, and the trace winter left at the lakes is almost gone. The gull will stay at the lakes to rest for a bit, before maybe gliding up to Boston Harbor to peck at some sandwiches the people at the harbor had left. Or maybe it will fly around Boston, landing on buildings and generally being loud. Deciding to head to the harbor, it beats its wings, carrying itself upwards. It aligns itself with the wind. It then follows the Mystic River, letting the breeze carry it. The gull will follow this river all the way to the harbor, where the salty sea air will greet it. Boston Harbor, the Mystic Lakes. These are the gull’s home, the place it lives and flies, the place it feeds.

To this gull, a clean Boston Harbor and Mystic River means home.

“I’ll keep you clean for the alewives below…”

An old alewife fish swims through the calm, peaceful waters of Mystic River, traveling toward its birthplace. It makes the journey every year during the spring, along with many others who were born in the Mystic Lakes. Though it is old, it will keep making the journey every year until it dies. When it reaches its journey’s end, it will spawn its eggs and then return through Mystic River, to Boston Harbor, and then out to sea. But for now, the alewife will swim through these waters, hoping to make a safe journey up the river. The other fish are younger and faster, their flashy silver scales reflecting the bright sunlight hat filters through the water. The old alewife recalls a time when its scales were once that bright, and its tail could move that fast. But those days are no more. The alewife swims along at its steady pace, following the same path it does every year.

To this alewife, a clean Boston Harbor and Mystic River means a new generation of alewives, and new life.

“I’ll keep you clean for so your water can flow…”

Two kayaks move swiftly downstream, through the glittering water. Sitting inside them is a little girl and her father, conversing. The little girl asks, “If you didn’t live by a river and lake when you were a kid, where did you kayak and swim?” The father chuckles. “Well I went to the pool to swim, and I didn’t kayak until I moved here with your mother.” The little girl frowns. “You didn’t kayak?” She took a moment to consider this. “I feel bad for you, and all the other kids who don’t live near the lake and the harbor.” The father gives a small smile. “You don’t know how lucky you are to live here, JJ,” he says wistfully. “You really don’t.”

To these two people, a clean Boston Harbor and Mystic River means family.

“Into the ocean, into the sea…”

As the little girl and her father paddle downriver, they spot a gull gliding above. The little girl points, and the gull dips its wing, as if in greeting. Below, in the river, an old alewife swims, one among many. The Mystic River and Boston Harbor intertwine these completely different stories, and truly show how anything and everything is connected.

These animals and people wouldn't be connected however if their water wasn't clean. We must protect Boston Harbor and all the rivers, streams, and lakes that connect to it to keep species like alewife fish and gulls alive. While doing research, I found that the Mystic Lakes and Mystic River are connected to the harbor. This has made me think: Because the people in the Boston Harbor Island Partnership are working so hard to keep Boston Harbor clean, they are also affecting many other streams and rivers that connect to it in a positive way. They allow alewives to enter the harbor and journey up the river in peace, and let the gulls snack on the leftovers from people enjoying the harbor. We must also keep the Mystic Lakes and Boston Harbor clean for the generations of families like mine to come.

“I’ll show you how much you mean to me, yes siree…”

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