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Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

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Hello, friends. Somehow it is August, and though we are so many weeks into pandemic life that I have lost count, summer is still summer. We’ve had a stretch of gorgeous hot weather (though we desperately need some rain) and I am soaking up all the pleasures summer has to offer, while I can. Here’s a list:

  • Sea breezes from the harbor through my kitchen window, which makes the heat in my apartment just about bearable.
  • Stone fruits and berries galore: cherries, blackberries, peaches and nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, tiny tart red currants.
  • Amanda’s spicy salsa roja with any chips I can get my hands on.

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  • Morning runs along the harborwalk (the earlier I go, the more shaded it is), watching for white herons and Black-eyed Susans, and the boats on the water.
  • Related: funky tan lines and freckles on my shoulders. (I promise I do wear sunscreen.)
  • Evening yoga in Piers Park, whether we’re sweating or catching a cool breeze.
  • Sliced cucumbers from a friend’s garden with Samira’s spicy muhammara – red pepper spread with walnuts and pomegranate.

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  • Sunflowers, roses and catching up with my florist.
  • Library hold pickup, about once every 10 days.
  • My new-to-me bike, which I’ve dubbed my Wild Irish Rose.
  • The music of I’m With Her, Our Native Daughters and several other groups I heard at Newport last year. (Related: reliving that magic.)
  • Making chilled cucumber soup with dill, basil and Greek yogurt – one of the perks of garden caretaking. (See also: fresh marigolds.)

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  • Smoothies from Eagle Hill Cafe, a newish neighborhood staple run by two friendly women.
  • Revisiting some childhood classics, including Maud Hart Lovelace’s stories.
  • Daylilies, Queen Anne’s lace, beach roses, hydrangea, Rose of Sharon, bee balm, nasturtiums and other wildflowers. The world is lush and green and colorful right now.

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  • Bike rides with my guy – around the Seaport (where he works), over to Cambridge, around Eastie (where I live) or just about anywhere.
  • Discovering new farmers’ markets on the bike. The Harvard farmers’ market has my heart, but I like visiting other ones.
  • Jasmine tea lemonade or iced black tea from (where else?) Darwin’s.

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  • Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski mystery series – my newest obsession.
  • Nicole Gulotta’s #30DayHaikuProject on Instagram, which I’m enjoying.

What small pleasures is summer offering you?

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A few weeks ago, I gave y’all a glimpse of the East Boston Harborwalk, where I often begin my morning runs. After turning away from the water, I cut through the neighborhood and circle onto the East Boston Greenway, which is living up to its name right now.

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The greenway runs right through the middle of Eastie, cutting under several bridges and eventually under the highway. It’s a former (abandoned) rail corridor that was cleaned up and turned into a park starting in the early 2000s. Today, it stretches up to Constitution Beach, and there are plans to extend it further to connect a few neighboring towns and a nearby marsh.

I fell in love with running a few years ago on the Neponset River Greenway, in Dorchester (south of Boston), where I used to live. For me, a huge part of running is about being outside, watching the light and the seasons change as I move through the landscape. When I started dog-sitting in Eastie last spring, I fell in love with running here, too, and now it’s my home, my regular trail.

I love running through the greenway even when it’s grey and brown, but I’m especially enjoying the shade provided by leafy trees right now, and the spots of color from day lilies, rhododendrons and wildflowers. (Plus the colorful paint at the Gove St. entrance.)

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The greenway is a public use path, and it gets a lot of use: I always see other runners, cyclists, dog walkers, solo walkers, people heading to the Blue Line to commute, friends and families walking or riding together. I’m almost never alone out there, and I kind of love that: the greenway belongs to all of Eastie, and many of Eastie’s residents get to enjoy it.

Are there green spaces you love in your neighborhood?

 

 

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As we head into summer, I’m approaching my one-year anniversary in East Boston, this neighborhood tucked between the airport and the water, where I moved on a hot, chaotic festival weekend last July.

It feels like I’ve lived in Eastie longer than that: I spent a lot of time here last spring, when my marriage was on the rocks and I needed a place to get away (while still being able to go to work). Eastie became my haven, my perch from which to look at my life and decide whether and how to change it. Now, nearly a year later, it’s my home.

On Fridays this summer, I’ll be sharing some glimpses of Eastie here on the blog. For this first one: a little background, and an intro to the things I love.

Like so much of Boston, Eastie is a curious mix of natural and man-made: it is built out of five different islands and a whole lot of landfill that connects them. My part of Eastie, Jeffries Point, looks out over Boston Harbor (the area was a shipbuilding mecca for many years). My kitchen windows look out on the shipyard, which is still active with warehouses and pleasure craft. Some of the piers have fallen into disrepair, but you can walk out on a few others, and a couple of businesses – the Downeast cider house and the excellent KO Pies – have made their homes in the shipyard, too.

I live in a row of redbrick houses with curved bowfront windows and dormers in their roofs. But there are also a lot of traditional Boston triple-deckers, with wood siding and flat roofs, in the neighborhood, as well as some modern homes with more glass and steel in their designs. The architecture reflects the mix of old and new and constantly shifting that characterizes Eastie: it is historically a working-class area, but has seen an influx of wealthier residents over the last decade or so. You’re as likely to hear Spanish on the street as English, which reminds me of my West Texas hometown, but there are immigrants from all over the world, as well as a growing number of young and youngish professionals (like me) who are largely American-born but transplants to Boston.

There are a lot of things I love about Eastie: the plentiful parks, the beautiful Harborwalk (where I run all the time), the delicious food (Mexican and otherwise), the proximity to downtown on the Blue Line. But most of all I love that it feels like a neighborhood.

I’ve lived here less than a year and already run into people I know on the street. I attended my first social event here three days after moving in last summer. (This was thanks in large part to my college friends who live down the hill, who have done their best to invite me to everything.) Even in the era of masks and social distancing, people wave and say hello, and the folks who sell tacos, wine, produce and Somali food at neighborhood establishments know their regulars.

Boston is a city of more than 700,000 (the metro area population tops 4 million), and it can feel – it has often felt – impossible to carve out a small place for myself here, a neighborhood in which to know and be known. But Eastie feels like a patch that is truly mine. I’m still mainly an observer of life in the neighborhood, but am gradually putting down roots here, and I’m thankful for every single one.

More Eastie stories and photos to come.

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April has felt like the longest, strangest month ever. But we’ve (nearly) made it to May – and whatever it may bring. Here’s what I have been reading (with ratatouille, sometimes):

The Whistling Season, Ivan Doig
I picked this novel up months ago at our street’s Little Free Library (which is now closed). It’s set in rural Montana in 1909, when a widower with three sons hires a housekeeper, and her arrival – along with her brother’s – has all kinds of effects on the community. Warm, witty and absorbing; Doig evokes place so well and I loved his narrator’s voice.

Inbound 4: A Comic Book History of Boston, Boston Comics Roundtable
My guy is a comic-book geek from way back, and he lent me this quirky collection of comics about incidents in Boston history. I’ve lived here for nearly a decade and I’m a history nerd, but I learned a lot from this collection, and chuckled several times. Link to the Million Year Picnic comic shop in Harvard Square, where it came from (and to whose owner it is dedicated).

I Was Told It Would Get Easier, Abbi Waxman
Single-mom lawyer Jessica and her teenage daughter, Emily, embark on a weeklong college bus tour of the East Coast. They see a lot of campuses, but spend even more time learning about themselves and each other. I like Waxman’s fun, quippy novels and this one was enjoyable, especially the witty dual narration. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 16).

Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change, Pramila Jayapal
Jayapal, a congresswoman from Seattle and a longtime activist, recounts her career and lays out her passionate arguments on several big issues: U.S. immigration policy, Medicare for All, a national $15 minimum wage. She’s whip-smart, warm, compassionate, super prepared and compelling – and so is her book. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 30).

This Won’t End Well, Camille Pagán
After chemist Annie Mercer quits her job over her boss’s sexual harassment, and her fiancé tells her he needs to go find himself (in Paris), she swears off new people altogether. But that’s before Harper, a glamorous but mysterious young woman, moves in next door, and also before Mo, an annoyingly cheerful amateur PI, shows up too. I loved this sweet, witty novel about a woman trying to make sense of her life in the wake of big changes (sound familiar?). Recommended by Anne.

Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery
I adore this underrated final book in the Anne of Green Gables series, set during World War I. This story stars the grit and gumption of the women of Ingleside, especially Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla, faithful cook-housekeeper Susan (whose wit is second to none) and local schoolteacher Miss Oliver. I needed its wisdom and warmth during these weeks of quarantine.

Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice, Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m not big on mediation, but I am looking for ways to bring peace into my space these days, so I dipped into this slim book over the last few weeks. I like the notion of bringing peace to every aspect of one’s home – even a studio apartment – though the mantras themselves didn’t really work for me.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstores, Brookline Booksmith and Trident.

What are you reading?

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As with so many other aspects of our lives these days, my yoga practice has gone online.

I discovered yoga about 10 years ago, when a friend invited me to some classes taking place in the Center for Contemporary Arts in downtown Abilene. I was (and remain) a bit intimidated by people who can twist their bodies into pretzel-like shapes, but I fell in love with the poses and breath work, and with McKay (the instructor’s) warm, practical, down-to-earth approach to yoga. When I moved to Boston, I immediately started taking classes at Healing Tree in Quincy, just down the road from my house. And when I moved to Eastie last summer, I found and fell in love with The Point.

Right as the social-distancing plans were ramping up, I went to a Sunday night restorative class at The Point. I had a hunch (correct, it turned out) that it would be my last chance for a while. There were three of us plus Taylor, the instructor, and we spread out with mats and blankets and bolsters, and tried to breathe deeply by candlelight. I felt it might fortify me, somehow, for whatever was coming next.

Since then, I’ve been dipping into Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and taking virtual online classes from both The Point and my friend Erin’s studio, Savin Hill Fitness. I like Adriene’s calm voice and occasional Texas twang (and her dog, Benji). I like that her videos are there for me any time. But I also like the virtual classes: even though we’re not in the room together, it helps me to know there’s a live instructor on the other side of the camera. The best part, when I’m taking from an instructor I know, is getting to wave at Erin or Izzy or Renee at the beginning or end of class.

Yoga is, of course, often silent and individual, except for the instructor’s voice. But for me it is also about community. It’s been a way for me to ground myself in the places I have lived. And even though I’m doing it solo on my kitchen floor these days, it’s still providing a bit of connection. Not to mention some seriously needed stretching, core work and deep breaths.

Are you doing yoga (or other workouts) online these days?

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Princess Mia, aka Anne Hathaway, via GIPHY 

Hello, friends. We’re in the middle of week 4, over here (I realize some folks might be on slightly different timelines), and I am here to tell you: I am feeling all the feelings, pretty much every day.

There’s the deep gratitude for my beautiful apartment, my cozy neighborhood, the water views out my kitchen window and the new life I have built for myself here. There’s the (sometimes uncomfortable) awareness that I am privileged to stay home, to still get paid, to continue to have health insurance. There’s the awed thankfulness for the healthcare workers, postal and delivery folks, grocery store staff, transportation employees and others who are still going to work, keeping us fed and safe.

And then.

There’s the loneliness: I miss my coworkers, my yoga instructors, and oh man do I miss my florist. I miss my friends the most. We are doing our best with FaceTime and texting, but it is not nearly the same.

There’s also the ongoing fear and anxiety: wondering when and how things will get worse, if we (the city, the nation, me) are remotely prepared, what we (I) can do, other than staying home and washing our hands. There’s the deep uncertainty of how long will this last? When will things get better? What does ‘better’ even look like? 

And there’s the sudden, surprising joy: the magnolia tree down the street is in full glorious flower, as are the daffodils. I’ve been talking to my sister more often, and checking in on friends near and far. I’ve still got a few good books on the stack. And I’m moved, all the time, by the artists and writers and musicians sharing their work generously via social media.

Everything is heightened, I said to a friend the other day: all our normal fears and frustrations are thrown into sharp relief by this ongoing crisis. It is so much to hold, every day, all at once.

I am trying (oh, am I trying) to be honest about where I am each day: write it out, text a friend, do some yoga, text another friend, cry if I need to. To admit it is hard, and also celebrate the good stuff. Like the bike ride I took with my friend Marisa the other night, or the socially-distanced chat with my friend down the hill while her six-year-old walked across the porch on homemade stilts. Like the cherry blossoms, pink drifts of beauty, and the good meals I’ve (mostly) been making for myself. The endless cups of tea in my favorite mugs. The bear hugs from my guy, extra precious because I can’t hug anyone else right now.

So that’s where we are today, friends. All the feelings, all the time. How are you?

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Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe’s to do my weekly grocery shop, as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Boston has several Trader Joe’s locations, one of which – the tiniest one – is down the street from my office. (I’ve grown used to dropping in there a few times a week for snacks and essentials, and I miss it, these days.)

My guy works at the newest TJ’s, in the seaport district, across the water from where I live in Eastie. It’s comforting, on the days when I know he’s working a morning shift, to look out my kitchen windows and know he’s there on the other side of the harbor.

Grocery shopping looks different these days: the line to get into the store stretches down the block, with customers standing in ones and twos, six to eight feet apart on the sidewalk. There is still no toilet paper (I’ve been getting mine from the bodega near my house). This week, the employees and many of the customers wore masks.

When I moved to Boston, I hadn’t spent much time at Trader Joe’s (they still haven’t made it to West Texas). My friend Fei Ying, who lived near the big TJ’s store in Brookline, used to rave about everything from their potstickers to their produce, and I teased her about her “addiction.” I get it now: the selection is good, the prices are fair, the employees are friendly, and the products are delicious. (My sister is obsessed with their Marcona truffle almonds; I’m partial to their crumbly English cheddar and their dark chocolate peanut butter cups.)

I came home yesterday with a backpack and two bags full of produce, baking staples and other essentials – plus two bunches of purple tulips, which are now split among three different vases in my apartment. In these strange days, grocery shopping feels both normal and decidedly off-kilter. But I’m grateful for a store that has what I need, that’s relatively easy to get to without a car, and where I am sure of a welcome from someone I love. And I owe – we all owe – the staff and managers a deep debt of gratitude.

How are you grocery shopping (or not) in these times?

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I live in the middle of a bustling city: home to nearly four centuries of colonial history, more than 60 colleges and universities, thousands of residents from all over the world. Boston is a geographically compact city by American standards, but it’s still bigger and louder and more diverse than the West Texas towns where I grew up and spent my young adulthood. My neighborhood of Eastie is home to more than 40,000 people, and the airport lies a mere half mile from my front door.

When I moved here, I had to get used to the planes: normally they fly overhead so frequently that they form a kind of constant background noise. There are also buses and cars, delivery trucks rumbling through the shipyard, families out for a walk or scooter ride, parents walking their children to school. My neighborhood has a lot of dogs, and some days it’s like the Twilight Bark in the park near my house: one of them has something to say, and the others take it up like a canine game of telephone.

One of the most noticeable changes from the quarantine, so far, is the quiet.

The planes are still flying, but there are so few of them now that I can hear each one distinctly, as it flies overhead. There are no school buses, no kids walking to school in the mornings (though the afternoon walks and scooter rides are still happening, to save the parents’ sanity). The city buses and car traffic have settled down considerably. And sometimes, it’s so quiet that you can hear the church bells.

There are other sounds, both inside and out: the ticking clock in my kitchen, the crackle and hiss of the old radiators in my apartment, the tall white masts clanking gently in the shipyard down the hill. Sometimes I can hear the wind howling through the tree branches, whipping around corners. If I’m lucky, I hear children’s laughter and those barking dogs from the parks on either side of my house: a reminder that we’re all still here, even now. And the birds – blissfully unaware of everything except the springtime – are holding their own conversations, which are particularly noticeable these days.

In the absence of so much city noise, we can hear some things more clearly, and although the quiet also unnerves me a little, I’m trying to listen.

What are you hearing these days, where you are? I’d love to know, if you’d like to share.

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Hello, friends. It’s April – though, to be honest, the days are all starting to run together a bit.

Like many of you, I’m still adjusting to the new not-quite-normal, sometimes multiple times a day. I woke up so sad this morning that I couldn’t just walk into the office and see my coworkers, or go hang out at Darwin’s, or buy armfuls of flowers from my florist in Brattle Square. (Though you can bet I will do all those and more when this is over.)

Stuck at home, there are lots of things I can’t do: go to the library, take a yoga class at my local studio, sit in my friend Chrissy’s living room and work on a puzzle together. But I am a storyteller, and I can still tell stories. So, every day this month, that’s what I’m going to do.

I need your help: please tell me, in the comments, what kind of stories you’d like to hear. And even leaving a comment at all helps: it lets me know that you’re out there, listening and reading.

Here’s today’s story:

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I started watching this magnolia tree last spring, when I was spending several weeks at a time in East Boston, walking Phoenix the doodle around the neighborhood in the mornings before work. I would wake up to filtered morning light and his furry face at the foot of my bed (sometimes closer if he had already decided it was time to get up). After a shower and my morning ablutions, I’d grab a banana and clip on his red leash, and we’d head out the door. (On the weekends, I grew really comfortable walking him in my pajamas.)

At the time, I’d lived in Boston for almost nine years, but had never spent much time in Eastie, this neighborhood tucked between the airport and the harbor, suspended between water and sky. I’d met Phoenix and his owner through a longtime friend of mine, and those first weekends at her house turned into two long stretches that spring while Carolyn was traveling and needed a dog-sitter. If I’m honest, I needed those weeks in Eastie as much as Phoenix needed those walks: I was sifting, agonizing, thinking and worrying, trying to decide whether to stay in my marriage or whether – though it seemed barely possible – I could walk away and start again.

The magnolia tree stands near the end of our morning walks, in the yard of a house that sits catty-corner from where I live now. I did not know, then, as I glanced up at it on our way to the park and back home, that I would be watching it bloom this spring, waiting for the fuzzy buds to open up and unfurl their white and lipstick-pink petals. I didn’t know I would pass it every time I went for a run, pausing to snap photos of its budding branches and the purple crocuses that share its yard. I did not know, yet, that Eastie would become my new home.

I’ve been watching the magnolia and its neighbors for nearly a year: the forsythia bush down the street, the budding maples with their red flowers, the unexpected patch of tulips in the shipyard, are all dear and familiar now. I’ve only officially lived in Eastie since the end of July, but it feels more like a year, and this spring feels like an anniversary. And I am grateful.

I’ll be back tomorrow, friends. Hope you’re staying well and safe.

 

 

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We haven’t had a lot of snow (yet) this winter (though I hesitate to discount March, having lived in Boston this long). It’ll be a while yet before everything is green, but I’ve been noticing the colors of early spring on my walks lately. In addition to the browns of mud and tree trunks, and the grey of misty skies, here are a few…

The witch hazel (hamamelis) is out in the Public Garden, and I snapped a few shots of its neon yellow blooms last week.

Along Commonwealth Avenue, the hellebores (also known as Lenten roses) are out. They come in white, pale pink, deep purple and even green, but I’d never seen this mauve shade before.

I’m used to seeing snowdrops poking through the snow – but these white beauties make a lovely contrast to the brown leaf mold. They always make me think of The Secret Garden.

And finally, I spotted the first crocuses on Comm Ave the other day, during a lunchtime run. I love their cheerful little faces and splash of purple. I’ve seen more sprouting in both my work and home neighborhoods.

What are the colors of early spring where you are?

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