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Posts Tagged ‘exploring’

neponset river sky

Mostly we go as far as we dare down the Road that Leads to the End of the World, rounding every corner adventurously and expectantly, as if we were going to find Tomorrow behind it, while all the little evening green hills neatly nestle together in the distance.

—Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

Since we moved to Dorchester in late July, I’ve been exploring our new neighborhood: trying out the ice cream shop and a couple of restaurants, visiting the nail salon for a pedicure or two, buying potted herbs and cut flowers at the gorgeous garden center nearby. But my favorite thing about our new area might be the walking trail that’s only a block from our house. I’ve spent many weekend hours down there already, lacing up my sneakers and grabbing my earbuds, walking along the curving green path with the Wailin’ Jennys and my thoughts for company.

My first few walks on the trail were short ones: getting a feel for the route along the river, stopping to snap pictures of Queen Anne’s lace and weathered murals, or simply to take in the views. But a couple of weekends ago, I decided to see how far the trail went. I walked for over an hour, past two playgrounds and under several overpasses, enjoying the blue sky and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

That section of the trail stops at a small public dock that juts out over the river, and I walked out onto the dock and stood there, breathing in deeply, smelling the marshy salt air, watching a gull or two swing through the sky. And I thought of these words from Anne’s letter to Gilbert, which my friend Caroline mentioned on her blog a few years ago: “as far as we dare.”

katie river trail blue sky earbuds

My life, these days, requires more daring than I sometimes wish it did: I am learning every day, sometimes every hour, to face the vagaries of life by summoning my courage. Some of the challenges are what I call garden-variety chaos: the busyness of emails and meetings and work assignments, delayed trains and surprise thunderstorms, tricky schedules and missed deadlines. Those make me a little nuts, but I can handle them, and laugh them off at the end of the day. But I need more daring, more bravery, for the things I can’t possibly deal with in one fell swoop: the heartbreaking headlines, the complicated politics (both at work and in our nation at large), the daily (but far from everyday) deeper challenges of work and life and love.

It felt good, on that recent Sunday afternoon, to stretch both my legs and my courage, and go as far as I dared down the trail that led east – though I didn’t quite know where it went. But I followed it to its beautiful end, and then turned around and headed home, refreshed. I thought of this a few days later when a friend teased, “It’s always an odyssey,” and I replied, “That’s how you find your way back home.”

In Windy Poplars, Anne and her neighbor, Elizabeth Grayson, go for long evening walks (as mentioned above). They walk “as far as they dare” to escape Elizabeth’s tyrannical grandmother and the schoolwork that’s always waiting for Anne back at her house. But those walks, and each other’s company, help them dare more deeply and more often. They make each other more brave.

The people I love do that for me: they push me, by their loving presence, to dare a little farther, a little deeper. We walk “as far as we dare” side by side, and in so doing, we help each other find our way. But my solo walks on the river trail help me do this, too. Sometimes it’s good to test your own mettle, to find out how far you can go alone. To give a new meaning to “as far as you dare,” and to know that you can. That I can. That I dare.

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rocks nubble light maine

Last Saturday, I woke up to grey skies and spitting rain. The hubs was out of town on a work retreat, and my friend Adam and I had planned to drive up to Maine in search of fall colors and fresh air.

fall-color-maine-early-oct

We almost didn’t go. It had been a long week for both of us, and the howling wind made me want to hunker down and watch movies all day.

I knew I’d get cabin fever, though, and we hoped the skies would clear up if we drove north. So we hopped in my car and hit the road.

We stopped first at the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. It was cold (and crowded, despite the photo below), but gorgeous.

nubble light cape neddick maine

We wandered around and took photos of the light and the waves, then bought steaming bowls of soup from a nearby clam shack (chowder for me, lobster bisque for him) and ate them sitting in the car.

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park, up on Cape Elizabeth. Adam had been there before, but I never had. It is windswept and understated and quietly stunning.

rocks waves two lights state park

We climbed all around the rocky cliffs – which go right down to the water, great slabs piled on top of one another to form a sort of natural terrace.

adam two lights waves rocks

Ahead, we glimpsed the blue sky we’d been chasing (though we never quite reached it).

rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

The wind roared in our ears, frothing the waves into whitecaps and sending the clouds scudding across the sky.

It reminded me of being in Ireland, long ago: climbing up to an old ruined fort on the largest of the Aran Islands and letting the wind blow my hair straight back and pull the breath right out of my lungs.

katie two lights rocks

Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I remembered a favorite line from Anne of the Island:

Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.

Without consciously realizing it, that was exactly what we had done: left the city behind to come stand on the edge of the world, letting the wind – and each other’s company – blow the fog out of our souls.

It was a bracing antidote to the daily frustrations and larger struggles of the week. Just what we needed.

Our last stop was Bug Light – a glimpse of blue sky, a dramatic sunset, and the tiniest lighthouse I’d ever seen.

bug light sunset sky

We headed home (stopping for dinner in Portsmouth) – windblown and tired, but utterly at peace.

What are your best antidotes for soul fog?

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Scenes from a day out in Gloucester.

tea plates cafe table
Tea at the Pleasant Street Coffee Bar & Tea Company (with a raspberry jam turnover).

flip flops sidewalk
Enjoying flip-flop weather for as long as it lasts.

jer bookstore
The hubs did some reading while I browsed at the Bookstore of Gloucester.

guitar rug
And we found a super cool rug outside Mystery Train Records.

Hope you’re having a gorgeous weekend.

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Practically since we moved here, J and I have been intending to visit Newport, R.I. It’s only an hour south of our house, but for some reason we’d never made it there. Until a recent Saturday afternoon, when we decided to take advantage of the autumn sunshine and hopped in the car.

It was lunchtime when we arrived, and after wandering a bit, we settled on lunch at the Gas Lamp Grille, which was clearly still in the Halloween spirit:

gas lamp grille pumpkin newport rhode island

Our meal began with cups of delicious clam chowder, spiked with cayenne pepper:

gas lamp grille clam chowder newport rhode island

Mmmm. I could have eaten a tureen of the stuff. (Not pictured: warm pear salad with cranberries, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette, J’s burger, and my spinach and garlic pizza. Amazing.)

Needing to walk off our lunch, we decided to hike up to the famous mansions on Bellevue Avenue, and we passed this darling place on the way:

flower cottage gate roses newport rhode island

(It’s currently on the market, but I’m sure it’s still way out of my price range.)

We toured the first mansion we came to, which happened to be the stunning Chateau-sur-Mer:

chateau sur mer newport rhode island mansion tour

No photos allowed inside, sadly, but the house is full of hand-carved Italian woodwork, lovely old books in leather bindings, hand-painted walls and ceilings, ornate furniture, valuable silver and china…it’s like Downton Abbey, the American version (and dates from roughly the same era).

We walked back downtown after that, and saw this funny (and rather unfortunate!) sculpture:

waves feet sculpture ocean newport rhode island

It was growing dark (and chilly) by then, so we ended our afternoon with cups of chai at the People’s Cafe, and drove home tired, but happy.

I love our jaunts to New England towns, but it had been a while since we’d played tourist in our own neighborhood, so to speak. I so enjoyed hitting the road with my love and seeing a new, interesting place together.

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The little girls of Avonlea school always pooled their lunches, and to eat three raspberry tarts all alone or even to share them only with one’s best chum would have forever and ever branded as “awful mean” the girl who did it. And yet, when the tarts were divided among ten girls you just got enough to tantalize you.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

I didn’t eat raspberry tarts last weekend, but this quote sums up how I feel about my three days in New York. It is, of course, impossible to see all the things I want to see in one weekend – and Allison did her level best to make sure I saw as much as I could. But I just got enough of so many things to tantalize me. I only had a couple of hours at the Met (enough to get about half of a quick overview – the place is HUGE); an all-too-brief browsing stop at the Strand (partly because I knew I could have stayed all day); a short (if leisurely) stroll through Central Park; a tour of the Upper West Side cut short by heavy rain (though we braved it as long as we could).

Don’t mistake me – I enjoyed every moment, and tried my best to soak it all up. I loved seeing the knights at the Met:

And visiting Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park (as well as the other stops on my children’s literature tour):

I loved wandering through Manhattan, admiring the beautiful brownstones and wondering about the stories held in each one:

And, of course, I had to visit Cafe Lalo, site of the rose-and-a-book, he-knows-something-she-doesn’t-know scene in You’ve Got Mail:

There were so many other lovely moments: eating pie with my friend Beth on a bench in Brooklyn; a brief solo stroll around Prospect Park; hanging out in Bryant Park as I waited to meet Allison after work; watching Ramona and Beezus in Allison’s cute little Queens apartment and talking for hours; munching apple cider doughnuts at the Union Square farmers’ market. But all these moments only served to underline my already firm conviction:

I have to go back. And soon. (And bring Jeremiah with me this time.)

Because, really, who wouldn’t want more time in this beautiful city, with this lovely tour guide?

Thanks for a fabulous weekend, Allison. I’ll be back before too long.

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Being a landlocked girl from West Texas, I’ve spent very little of my life on coastlines. I live on one now, of course, but the beach near our house is a city beach, and the view includes the skyline of Boston. It’s a lovely view, but it doesn’t quite give you the feeling of being on the coast, indeed on the edge of our continent.

But last Sunday, I found myself in Rockport, tramping through a state park with my husband and a few dear friends. And we walked to the cliffs, big chunks of granite leading down to rough rocky beaches, with red seaweed growing on the stones. The water was gray and so was the sky, with glimmers of light and the occasional duck paddling around. And it was literally impossible to tell where sea ended and sky began.

I’ve only had that feeling a few other times – standing on the shore of the North Sea in Whitby; walking along the beach or standing on Diamond Head on Oahu, Hawaii; and standing on the cliffs of the Aran Islands, watching the sunlight glitter on the sea, the wind so strong it literally pulled my breath out of my lungs. Sunday’s breeze was a little gentler, the light softer, the weather cooler. But as I stood there I remembered what it felt like to stand on the other edge of the Atlantic. And in both cases, I felt like an explorer, standing on the edge of the world, looking out to endless new horizons and possibilities.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time at the library lately. This will surprise none of you who know my bookish tendencies, but just let me SHOW you our library. You won’t believe it:

Doesn’t it look like a castle, or a fortress, or something out of Lord of the Rings? And yet I assure you it’s set on a very ordinary downtown street, near City Hall and an apartment complex and various municipal offices. (That’s the spire of Bethany Congregational Church in the background.)

Even the font over the door looks Elvish:

I love the sign above the door proclaiming “Free to All.” Getting a library card was one of the first things I did on arrival – after all, what is life without being able to browse good books?

Most of the library is modern inside, well-stocked rows of shelves filled with fiction and biography and mystery and so much more. The children’s room, decorated right now in a Lorax theme, is a dream (unfortunately I have no photos). And the DVD selection is great. But the restored Richardson Building, the west wing, is truly breathtaking:

It’s the periodicals section now, but boasts some lovely stained-glass windows and a quiet, reverent atmosphere. Reminds me of Oxford, unmistakably. A perfect place to study or write.

We have three other library branches in Quincy, and our libraries are part of a network of libraries south of Boston, so we can get books and resources from those too. I feel so lucky! An embarrassment of literary riches.

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