It’s 603 miles between my home in Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island. My parents had a farm there, so I’ve driven that route over 100 times over the past 50 years. During those 50 years, the road has changed. Whole new towns have sprung up.
I’ve changed too. When I first started making the drive I was a girl in the back seat of my parent’s car. I soon started making the drive myself, then with boyfriends and cousins. Then my husband and I started making the trip. The drive was long, and in the beginning, some stretches of the road were pretty bad. It was potholed, and it was often clogged with Irving logging trucks, but I usually pushed through it in one day. I had a career, and that doesn’t lend itself to leisurely travel, so I stopped at the fast-and-easy places like the Service Plaza on the Turnpike, or the Tourist Information Bureau. I listened to the radio when there was reception, and I accepted the boredom as though it was a force of nature, like the weather.
Then we had a baby. The hours of mind-numbing boredom strapped into the car had been acceptable to me before, but now we had a child to consider, so something needed to change. We broke the trip into two days. I researched history, and made up stories about what we were passing. We created adventure by stopping in a slightly different place each time.
I wasn’t a quick learner! It took 13 years of making the drive before I realized something crucial: no matter how many places we stopped to explore, there were going to be places we missed. No matter how much research I did before-hand, we were going to drive past places I knew nothing about. Of course we couldn’t stop in all the interesting places, and everywhere we drove, we passed someone else’s destination. I longed to know who these people were. What was their life like? What did they do? Why here? For each thing you choose to do, there are millions of opportunities you miss. But wouldn’t it be great to not miss quite so much?
That’s when I started imagining Audri.Life. But at that time the technology wasn't available. Now it is! The answer to “Are we there yet?” is ALWAYS “Yes.” We just don’t have the connections, or know enough to recognize it. I hope that Audri.Life will help us change that for each-other.
I started building the Audri.Life platform right after my 70th birthday, at the start of the Covid lock-down. Now I’m inviting you to help build Audri.Life as a global community.
I’m having a blast.
PLEASE JOIN ME!
Having spent the last 37 years working as an Interior Designer, I have a deep respect for walls.
Walls protect, display, and also divide. I wonder if we are neurologically hard-wired to understand that walls surround something precious. Sometimes we find ourselves on the precious side of the wall, and we, ourselves are the precious thing, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes people think that the division itself is what is precious, as Robert Frost wrote about his neighbor, who believed that "Good fences make good neighbors." Frost did not agree....
Great walls, tall ones, long ones snaking across the earth, wide ones like paths, rocks carved or piled to create tunnels, walls of glass or mosaic -- when the proportions are right they all have the capacity to reach beyond what we understand as “merely human.” Experiencing them can make actual changes in our brainwaves, and make us think of the divine. Building a wall that converts the landscape seems like it must be a super-human act, so great man-made walls prepare our brains to believe in holiness. Those walls add power to the places they lead to, and enclose.
I am not a Mormon, but yesterday I wanted flowering trees, so we visited the grounds of the Belmont Temple of the Latter Day Saints. Instead of coming through the main entrance, we approached from below, walking up from Ledgewood Place along a massive retaining wall that we didn't even know existed. By the time we stepped from the path and stairs to the top of the wall, and the tabernacle of the Temple came into view, it appeared as a holy place.
Every week we travel to interesting places on earth, but yesterday we went just twelve minutes from our driveway, and -- as you can see in my husband’s wonderful photograph, some walls transported us to the realm of the sacred.
Especially if you remember the “old Allston” it’s worth going for a walk-about there now. Harvard has taken huge strides re-making it, starting with the Paulson School of Engineering. The transformation is astonishing, and the experience of being there completely re-worked my understanding of local geography. Since it used to be unreachable across the rail yards I thought of it as distant, but now I see how close-and-connected the area is. I didn’t know it before, but now I see that it’s a neighborhood where artists live, children play, and many people are gardening. The houses are old, but the area feels young.
Upton is home to the Upton Heritage State Park, on Elm Street. Here you can see a perfectly preserved stone wall that was once an Indian Council Circle. Even more surprising-for-me, there’s The Upton Stone Cave -- a stone structure with a 14-foot entrance tunnel leading into a corbelled stone domed area with a large capstone. Elm Street was once part of a trail between the Connecticut River and the harbor of what came to be Boston, and along this trail were many such chambers. The Upton Historical Commission repaired this particular chamber. They investigated the date of the structure using optically stimulated luminescence, which measures when a soil sample last saw daylight, and preliminary data suggests the stone chamber is at least 400-years old, though possibly older, so this is a structure that pre-dates European contact. You can go all the way inside the dome if you are prepared to squat-walk.
There’s a lot of art in the world, and many places to view it. Along the way, I’ve developed STRONG personal feelings about what it means for a place to be a GREAT GALLERY, and I’d be interested to know your criteria.
At minimum, I want: the breath knocked out of me a little when I enter, to learn something fresh about the art by looking at what hangs-or-stands in view of each piece, to see at least one piece of art that changes how I think. I want to look at the art in lighting that makes it easy to see detail as well as the whole, and to be able to sit with individual pieces for a while. I want each piece to be thoughtful, skillful, and powerful. I want my knowledge improved by generous information -- both written and verbal. The physical space should have a volume, form and tone that enhances my understanding of the content, tone and form of the art, sound that helps me focus, and I want to be able to see work from many angles and distances.
Also, I want to feel that the collection helps me to know, and to like the gallerist.
By my definition, and -- I bet -- by any other, Spaightwood Galleries in Upton is one of the GREATS, able to take its place alongside the best in the world. Set in a lovingly restored church, Spaightwood is home to magnificent art from the 15th through the 20th century. From Albrecht Durer through Miro and Picasso, to Emmi Whitehouse, the collection traces a rich and joyful ark.
Sonja Hansard Weiner and Andrew Weiner are open and welcoming, and they have great taste in music! I got to sit peacefully in front of a large piece by an artist I’d never heard of, but should have, named Dorothea Rockburne. Basically I just swam in it.
Sonja and Andrew often open their door to walk-ins, though it’s best to call ahead.
Mick Lawless is a warm, knowledgeable guy who owned too many records. Now he runs a GREAT vintage record store called Nevermind Shop offering a wonderful selection of vinyls, as well as t-shirts, black-light posters, and memorabilia. He grew up in the area, loving-and-playing music, and his shop is something of a community center. We watched Mick greet at least five people by name within the first 15 minutes of being open. He still gathers people to play together, and we could have happily spent hours browsing, and listening.
For more abut the bird-painting, read about the artist, Davis Allen Sibley.
This week we went down to Canton.
Canton Center is only a 5 minute drive off I-95. It’s a pretty town, with lovely old homes, and rolling terrain at the foot of Great Blue Hill. The Canton River flows through the center of the town, linking a chain of small lakes including Bolivar and Forge Ponds and flowing into the Neponset River.
What we did there:
The downtown is walkable, and benefits from being culturally diverse. People are masked, and respectful-of-distance. There's a train station, some nice restaurants with outdoor seating, a great consignment store (where I bought a replacement for my always-loosing-them-engagement-rings), two fabulous Formal Wear shops, one for men, and one for women -- really elegant (made me wish for an EVENT), a Mikvah, and a well-stocked dance supply shop.
Just about a mile from the center of town is the amazing Museum of American Bird Art. You can visit in safety because they are ticketing in such a way that you’ll have the building -- three small exhibit rooms -- entirely to yourself for a whole hour!
The Museum is the exhibit space for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. There are no dead-stuffed horrors. Everything is either carved or painted, and wonderfully so!
The Museum building was initially an art studio, and the natural light is soft and lovely. It’s a very comfortable space to view art.
Behind the building is a beautiful wild nature reserve, where you are free to walk. The 2.5 mile Main Loop is a wide and well cleared path that takes you through woods, past frog-ponds, and along a clear reservoir-fed fast-rushing brook. Along the walk you can hear distant traffic (but much less than at the Fells) until you get to the brook, where the sound of water blots out all man-made noise, and leaves you alone with nature.
I have never particularly been a bird-lover, though I have a soft-spot for Mourning Doves, so I didn’t know much about the Massachusetts Audubon Society. In the few hours that we were at the Museum, I became a fan.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society was co-founded by Boston socialite Harriet Lawrence Hemenway (1858–1960 - that's a long life!), and her cousin, Minna B. Hall. (See a picture of them.)
During the Gilded Age, it became fashionable for women to wear hats decorated with plumes. These plumes came from woodpeckers, bluebirds, owls, herons and warblers, thousands of which were killed each year. In 1896, Hemenway and her cousin held tea parties for the wealthy women of Boston where they urged them not to wear feathered hats and invited them to join a society for the protection of birds. Having gained the support of many of these fashionable women, Hemenway and Hall then organized meetings between leaders of the high society and prominent New England ornithologists, paving the way for the creation of the Massachusetts Audubon Society; over 900 women joined.
Women played a critical role in the organization, counting for half of its officers and serving as leaders of most of the local chapters. The group used its political power to have a Massachusetts law passed in 1897 outlawing trade in wild bird feathers as well as a federal law, the 1900 Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate shipment of animals killed in violation of local laws. The Massachusetts Audubon Society remains independent, but it helped to organize the National Association of Audubon Societies (incorporated in 1905), which later became the National Audubon Society.
Hemenway was not a stranger to controversy and came from a family of abolitionists. She once invited Booker T. Washington to stay in her home, when Boston hotels refused to let him a room.
In 1898, Hemenway donated $50,000 for the construction of the gymnasium at Radcliffe College. Her home is a stop on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail, and Hemenway Street was named in her honor.
And a bit of Canton’s history:
Canton was officially incorporated on February 23, 1797. The name "Canton" comes from the (incorrect) belief that Canton, China was on the complete opposite side of the earth.
Paul Revere (Yes, THAT Paul Revere) built the nation's first copper rolling mill in Canton in 1801. His poem entitled Canton Dale expresses his affection for the town.
Now there are about 4000 jobs in corporations headquartered in Canton, which has a population of about 8000 households, and, according to Niche, the town has an excellent school system.
For a while Canton was home to Amy Beach, America’s first American educated famous female composer. Enjoy!
On our way home we stopped at Houghton's Pond, and met some people celebrating an outdoor Seder!
It couldn't have been a more beautiful day at the beach, warm, clear, and low-tide with sand-bars as far as we could see. We'd never have found it on our own, but Steph and John were amazingly generous about showing us around, even lending us boots. Their oysters are silky-smooth and creamy in texture. The taste was a revelation! There was none of the usual briny flavor: these oysters are so well cared-for, and so clean, that their salt liquid is light and almost sparkling. These oysters do cost more, and they are worth every penny! Sometimes other vendors falsely label as East Dennis, so when you order, ask if they are from the region, or from this SPECIFIC farm.
We'd never spent time in the Scargo area of Dennis. It's an interesting little community. There's plenty to do -- including climbing Scargo Tower, eating ice cream, going to the theater, or visiting an art gallery.
We had a beautiful lunch in the sparkling clean greenhouses at the Scargo Cafe. (I'll spend the next month trying to recreate their delectable lemon-parsley quinoa!) The Cafe is co-owned by David and Peter Troutman, and we had the pleasure of meeting David. He makes sure that every guest is welcomed. He's one of those rare people who constantly - and creatively - reinvents himself. He's deeply connected to his community, and loves making things HAPPEN.
The bog, on Knob Hill Road in Yarmouth, is visible from Route 6. It's over 150 years old. (In the early days the cranberries were carried on ships to prevent scurvy.) Craig started working on the bog as a teenager, and eventually bought out his former boss.
About Craig-- he knows every inch of his land, and thrives as a bog owner because he's so multi-talented. He manages change, people, plants, water, markets, and finances with equal pleasure and skill, relishing the variety. He can make-or-fix anything from pumps to trucks. His purpose-built or up-cycled equipment is a joy to behold.
You might be drinking JUICE from his berries when you buy Shaw's.
All three men had un-planned careers. They got an unexpected opportunity, and made the most of it. With no plan for gain, they had each done a good deed for someone else. Fortunately, their good deed was rewarded with the opportunity to work VERY hard, and make their way.
All three are thinking about what they'll do next, and have PLENTY that they want to do!
Now, here is a suggestion for a great outing on either a Tuesday or Friday: Leave home by 11:30 if you live near Boston. You’ll have a whole vacation and be home by 6:15.
First, drive to Devens, and get a lovely, healthy and friendly lunch at http://thenaturalcafe.biz/index.html. They take safe Covid-safety seriously. You can eat at distanced indoor tables, or at an outdoor table.
Then go to the Fort Devens Museum. http://fortdevensmuseum.org/
It is hardly marked on the outdoors, but you want Floor 3. (Open on Tuesday and Friday.)
The museum is free, small (two big rooms) and fascinating. We suggest that you accept the guiding volunteers and ask lots of questions. The guides are wonderful, and they have deep knowledge about every single artifact. There is soldier-art, original equipment, models... too many stories for me to tell. The place is full of surprises.
You can stay safely distanced during your tour, and still get the benefits of the explanations.
If you have a bit of extra time drive in to Fitchburg. On your way in to town make a stop at Strong Style Coffee for a snack. Their offerings are delectable, and you can feel the energy of the resurging City. Then drive to the area around Bolder and stroll. There's a nice art gallery, the museum is open, and the churches you'll see as you walk the streets are amazing.
On your way home, stop in Acton at the superb Idylwilde Farms https://www.idylwildefarm.com/ and get yourself something special for dinner, even if it’s just one perfectly ripe tomato. (When Aaron was a toddler, he rode on the bulldozer while it was digging the building's foundation.)
Turns out that all you really need to do is to spend a few years being inattentive to change. :-)
Then, look around, and -- PRESTO! -- you’re in a brand new place. Super-easy. No need to clean out the fridge, and there’s no suitcase (or Covid) involved.
I used to be in Maynard center 3-4 times a week. I liked it, but haven’t been back in 22(?) years.
We went yesterday, just for a look-see, and....
WOWIE-ZOWIE! WE LOVED IT!
While we wuz pay’n-no-attention, Maynard has created a fabulous new city infrastructure. They’ve cleared the Assabet so that it roars free, and built miles of walking paths along it. There were many spots where we heard nothing but wind in the trees and the rush of the water that once turned the great mills.
Maynard has renovated the great mill buildings, not with new-fangled-machine-made-siding, but by cleaning the old lovely brick. That texture highlights the fact that many people in Maynard do manual work. There are many modest homes. “Manufacture” is not a hobby in Maynard. It is a place where many people’s brains, hands and bodies are fully engaged together.
Stores that can’t afford to be in cities-with-high-rent anymore have moved to Maynard. There are some empty store-fronts, but they aren’t depressing, and you can tell that they’ll fill post-vaccines. Even now, Maynard has many open shops, restaurants and cafes, a movie theater, galleries, gourmet food, clothing, farmer's market, maker-space, and murals.
Before we left, we visited Maynard’s cat-about-town.
He lives next door to the McDonald’s, so maybe that’s ketchup in his mouth? We heard that there used to be a dentist's office next door, which might explain his human teeth....
What ever. It's always nice to meet a cat!
For a few hours we indulged in a totally escapist fantasy, and considered buying a vacant church -- conveniently for sale, beautifully simple, well located, and next door to a lovely house with a Star of David on the door. The church needed a new roof, wiring, HVAC, insulation, plumbing, and has no parking.
So we came home.
If you are wishing that you could go to a gallery, I can suggest the current exhibit at Bridge. Grieg has hung a few pieces inside on a wall where you can see them through the door, hung two additional sets in the windows, and two more sets on the fence across the street.
The pieces are interesting, and you can get right up close.
For Father’s Day I wanted to buy a card for R, but the card aisle was packed with people, one of whom was coughing, so I looked in the birthday section instead. I found: "Celebrate like a cat. Lay in the sun. Sleep. Go throw up in a corner."
We walked a new-to-us part of the more-that 2200 acre Fells reservation. The reservation covers 2200 acres of forest, water, and wildness. Deep in the center the road-noise recedes a bit at some points, but it never disappears. (As an aside: too much noise results in hearing loss. Hearing loss is linked to decreasing cardio-vascular health. We humans experience loud noise as a stress-inducing physical threat. Heart-failure is 8% higher among populations living in noisy environments. Noise pisses me off. We need quiet electric motors!) The Fells trail signage is egregiously, almost maliciously, poor. Olmsted designed wonderfully meandering paths, so the concept of "direction" is not helpful. There was thunder. There were loose rocks. There is not a spring at Crystal Springs, or perhaps it is seasonal, however there is plenty of mud and many small flying bugs.
There are lovely little sandy-cove beaches marked NO SWIMMING, and blocked by strategically-lush poison ivy. 60-member-strong gaggles-of-geese take a long time to cross a path, and leave a lot of poop.
If you block your ears to cancel the droning traffic your brain actually relaxes, and becomes free to see more detail. The reservation is incandescently beautiful.
This week I have continued to read Making Noise about hearing. For example, I learned that sound travels so far under the ocean that you can hear a freighter coming a full day before it comes into view. Water makes noise as it crosses rocks at the bottom of the ocean, and shrimp sound like gun-shots. Reading about hearing has made me think about seeing.
I have trouble recognizing faces. Disability-level difficulty. However I think of myself as being pretty good about noticing details on buildings. This week has taught me a lot about the degree to which that's true, and not. R and I have continued our long walks, often on streets we've walked frequently before. But now, in the quiet-City, I can see this city in a whole new way. Seeing this way has given me to understand how quickly Somerville developed, so I did a bit of research. Old maps show that in the 1880's only the main streets of the City were laid out. By 1900, not only were most of the side streets created, but most "lots" already had houses on them. So, in a ten year span, this city went from being open fields and orchards to being the urban place it is today. By then, the City was served by 7 different rail lines to access the brick yards. When big trucks roll by I longingly imagine the "old" City as a quieter place, but in fact, the noise must have been deafening. In addition to the industrial noise, there was the noise of building roads and digging sewers. Then for each house: every stick of lumber being thrown and cut, studs and joists being hammered into place, each individual lathe being nailed to each stud (every 2 inches - 22,000? nails for the smallest 4 room house, just for the lathe) gravel being churned, stone being cut and hoisted, carts of slate clattering down gravel roads on horse drawn carts with iron-wrapped wheels. (The City must have stunk of manure.) There would have been almost no street that wasn't a construction zone in those years. Some houses were built entirely for economy, and some were full of flourishes, curving walls, outlook turrets, and carved filigree -- for no particular design logic, but Just Because They Could. All over town there are houses with the same cross-shaped medallion signature. Same builder? Same architect? Catholic? I'd love to see the insides of those houses. I've worked on a few of them, and want to see more. So, at this time of community consciousness, I am proposing a new practice: every day, at dusk, everyone should be generous enough to open their window coverings and turn on their indoor lights. Then all nosy-people-like-me can walk down any street and look inside.
I'd love that.
All of this is now available to see because our brains are free from what they usually need to focus on. This has given me the understanding that simply "seeing" is an act of creativity and focus. We often speak of creative people as being "selfish," but of course it's necessary to be selfish, and to focus your own brain, because otherwise your brain is pulled in too many directions. To be creative requires that we allow our brains to ignore much of the information that comes to us, but of course also to make use of available information in interesting new ways. Maybe that's what constitutes the state called "flow." It is the perfect balance between new stimuli, and our brain's power to make use of what we are looking at, hearing, and touching.
This brings up the subject of toilet paper. It is, as we all know, high on the list-of-concerns across our nation. Locally, the search for toilet paper is the Top Post on Next Door Digest today. This is not a basic human need, folks. Well, it's certainly preferable to have it, but, as R is fond of saying: "Survival is assured." Can this be so????
But first, I’m going to digress, and reminisce.
My neurological wiring requires us to make frequent stops when we go on car rides. R has been a prince about it. A few years ago we got off Route 1 on exit 119 A-B, and went to Wolastoq Park on the west side of St. John, New Brunswick. The park, which we’d never heard of, and were not seeking, is populated with life-sized statues of locals, and one very large beaver, along with rich information plaques. As you walk the park you learn the history of the terrain and City. Wonderfully my kind of place!
From there, we walked to the Tourist Information Center, and ended up being directed over an old bridge, and down a swervy unpaved road. To where? To an overlook of the St. John River Reversing Falls, at the Moment of Reversal. The power of the falls is unimaginable, and twice each day the out-going Falls meet the power of the incoming Fundy Tide. The Fundy Tide force is so great that the Falls waters are actually pushed up and back until the river is made level. People used to need to row across the lower falls in the era before-the-bridge, and timing was critical. It was a strenuous row. Even for the very strong, it took time. But cut it too close, and you were dead, crushed and ground up by the colliding waters. Never found. The phenomenon took many lives. Sometimes, as happened when we were there, the Reversal coincides with a magnificent sunset, as well as full steam-belch from the mill-chimneys.
Kimberly-Clark built a toilet paper factory to harness the power, and with the factory came the bridge we used. Irving owns the factory now, along with a neighboring pulp mill. A soup-to-nuts operation. If you’ve ever bought Scotties TP, it may well have been made there.
Yes, here we are, back to toilet paper.... I spent some hours this week doing research about this topic. Because that's how I roll....
PS. In the photo you see a package of toilet paper that R ordered from Amazon. They took about 10 weeks to arrive, and -- as you see -- they are minis., and too small to be worth opening. The caption reads "The feeling of falling in love with you" which is both funny, and very sad, when applied to TP!
Will they become "Collector's Items" if they are carefully preserved in their original packaging?
Am I to keep them for 50 years to find out?
What do you think?