Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Beautiful Boston

For months William, Maria and I had discussed what to do and see in New England. Jennifer made helpful suggestions, I read maps, and revisited Make Way For Ducklings (Never underestimate the brilliance of literature to inform and inspire!) William was keen to see the Granary Burying Ground. I felt we would be remiss to miss visiting Wampanoag and Pilgrim history. Maria pointed to Orchard House, and fall color, and reminded me that "History is one of my favorite subjects," so we knew we would want to be on the lookout for significant landmarks etc.

Anyway... my point is we were simultaneously super prepared for our first day in New England, and utterly unready. There's too much to do and see, too many sights and sites, and historic markers, and compelling views! Thankfully, Jennifer recognized that the best course of action was to simply move forward, and fill the day with our deepest, fondest desires, and we agreed on finding the Granary Burying Grounds. No delay. The weather was splendid, the day was open... we moved forward!

If I've said this already, no matter, it bears repeating: Even sitting in traffic held a fascination for me, because wherever I turned my head, I saw beautiful things, nature, buildings, details, differences, delights. It was almost too much... to be in a constant state of awe and wonder. I loved it. This is a photograph of a tree turned yellow, next to a green tree, beside an old stone building. I could have spent hours here.

There's no better way to visit any place than with a local, with someone who knows the lay of the land, the customs, and where to sit comfortably, away from crowds, and sample your first and original Boston Cream Pie. Lucky us... we had Jennifer to take us adventuring. And she led us, like happy ducklings, right into Boston Public Garden!

It took me a moment. To see. To realize. I was already absorbed in the pretty details, the fence, the bustle of happy crowds rushing in to absorb the light and sky of this gorgeous fall day. When I realized that we were entering the park. The story. I gasped. Audibly.

The swan boats were stored away. Winter is coming! But there's the island. And the ducks were out.

Just like in the story.

We saw three different wedding parties that day. And I was thinking of one more wedding, back home... Congratulations, Elias and Lisa. May your love be a happily ever-after kind of love.

A Founding Father! Truly, seeing Washington's statue was actually kind of moving. Maybe it's something to do with this election year, or recalling Maria's portrayal of the general, last year. We don't get any American Revolutionary history depicted in our parks and gardens, and I was happy to reflect on the ideals and resilience of our American story... long may it be preserved.

Fittingly, we moved on to Boston Common, and it was bolstering to see that history and our modern times mingle and engage in Boston. The freedoms and truths that were claimed and fought for are not dead, not relegated to the past. I felt thankful, looking around, seeing the many faces of citizens and visitors, the art, business, expression, and peace that we enjoy in our country.

I believe in what this country strives for, our ideals about liberty, justice, freedom. Even when we aren't getting it right, the potential, the hope and the striving, through a democracy, with respect, in civil discourse are admirable. Walking through old Boston, I felt reaffirmed in my hopes that we will vote for leaders that have worked diligently, purposefully, in the service of community, and country, for individuals who raise our thoughts and intentions, inclusively, intelligently, wisely. We have been fortunate to be a nation of laws, and a model of striving for union, progress, mutual concession, give and take.

Moving forward, I hope that we can carry on enjoying our pursuit of happiness, with consideration and respect for all.

Boston's third oldest cemetery, sits modestly, discreetly in the midst of city life. Trees shade walks. Buildings tower on three sides, enclosing the little resting place, like the cover and binding of a sacred book. Inside are notable figures of the Revolutionary War era, like Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams. And young children, mothers, craftsmen, families. It is as touching for the common citizens as it is for the heroes and historic figures of early American history.

The tombstones are beautiful. Their art tells a story, as much as the recorded dates and facts.

We came because William has spent years studying and researching the cemeteries of New England and Europe, especially of this era, especially the tombstones and markers. William is passionate about preserving history and reproducing its artifacts... for appreciation, for inquiry.

This is William's work, for study, for love.

He developed a device to help him with the pictures he was taking. He made a 3D printed stand that he can use to reference scale and proportion of the stones. When he's done, it comes apart, and fits in his coat pocket. The aid helps him make more accurate records without touching or disturbing the markers.

We were moved, reading the notes on the stones, discovering small glimpses of people's lives, and ends. A cemetery is a solemn place, but I have long since lost my ideas about them being scary or creepy. Maybe, it's partly because they are so very old, and time has given distance to the grieving their families felt. Maybe it's because we were there respectfully, admiringly, with compassion. Certainly it gives me a feeling of sadness, of wishing that we could each enjoy long, purposeful lives, and be lovingly remembered. It's a strange part of cemeteries and death... distinguishing our sorrow for the deceased from our own fears and doubts about death, about missing the exultation and beauty of living fully, earnestly, meaningfully.

This touched my heart.

While he was crouched down, taking a picture, I followed this leaf as it slowly drifted then landed on William's shoulder. Fall color, the beautiful day and season, seeing William meet this place and fulfill a dream... all of it makes me happy to reflect on. I hope to have William write a post about what we saw, about cemeteries, art, traditions, slate and marble, history.

The crowds in Boston that day felt like a fair mix of tourists and locals. Tourists, like us, were rushing about and absorbing all they could of the city and the season, and the locals seemed intent on taking in all they could of a relatively warm, dry, blue-skied day... before rain, before snow, before sunset. It was a busy day for all. City noises bounced off stone buildings, echoing down the narrow alleys and walkways. It was colder in the shade of those towering edifices, the multitudes were burgeoning.

It would take unique skills of unflustered tranquility to find a place in the midst of the cold, the traffic, the noise, the brisk activity, to paint, or think, to feel at ease, or reinvigorated. Fortunately, Jennifer knew a place where we could be resuscitated, warmed, in peace.

Once again, the advantage was ours. Any guide book can recommend a place, but a resident knows. Knows where you can enjoy both local flavor and a sublime Boston experience, but in a place that is less likely to be mobbed, even on a beautiful autumn day in the city. We stepped out of the wind and chill, away from sirens, and busloads, and into genteel refinement, back in time.

The Parker House was lovely. It revived us with its calm, quiet spaces, it impressed us with its grandeur and elegance, it delighted us with its history, and local legends. Beautiful, Boston. Thank you, Jennifer.

After lunch, and dessert, after relaxation and contemplation, we retraced our steps... through the cemetery, once more, across Boston Common, and right back into Boston's Public Garden.

One tree in particular was aglow. It attracted dozens, everyone was admiring and besotted with the shimmering, red, maple tree. The tree, resplendent in the setting sun, seemed almost to be beaming appreciatively for all of its admirers and kind attention.

Even with our long list of things to see and do in New England, we were already feeling as though it would be enough to have had this beautiful Boston day.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

You bring it all so beautifully and brilliantly back to life. I love re-seeing it all, through your eyes....