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Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

magnolia tree tulips pink boston spring

I loved Ali Edwards’ post last week about 39 little things she’s thankful for right now. We are in the middle of a full, messy time of year – the end of the semester is approaching and there’s a lot going on, both at work and at home.

This is, as Ali noted, one of the best times to stop and take a look around. So here’s a snapshot of my life right now, with several snippets of gratitude thrown in.

Right now – in early May 2015 – I am:

  • walking around Harvard Square on my lunch breaks, enjoying the (sometimes chilly but no longer brutal) spring air.
  • sitting on the steps of Memorial Church and watching the world go by in Harvard Yard, when it’s warm enough.
  • snapping photo after photo of flowers and blooming trees. (See above.)
  • buying tulips twice a week (one bouquet for work, one for home) from my favorite florist in Brattle Square.

tulips

  • texting a friend or two about what is saving my life, what’s driving me crazy, and everything in between.
  • looking forward to (and soon, packing for) a trip to San Diego with the hubs!
  • still eating lots of soup, but mixing in some dishes that include spring veggies.
  • wearing dresses (most of them are striped) with black leggings and my jade green coat.
  • switching between silver ballet flats, black booties and the green loafers that match said coat.
  • reading a fantastic history of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon (out June 2), and all the cozy mysteries I can handle.
  • drinking David’s Cream of Earl Grey tea by the quart, and ginger steamers with honey and lemon from Crema (the best cure for a sore throat).

crema cup table pussy willow

  • fighting a lingering cough from that cold I caught a couple of weeks ago.
  • watching episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on some evenings, and Call the Midwife once a week.
  • blasting Taylor Swift while I cook dinner or clean.
  • celebrating my husband’s 31st birthday, which is tomorrow.
  • keeping up with the daily duties of church and work and home.
  • hanging out in the Public Garden about once a week – where the trees are blooming and the ducks are quacking up a storm.

public garden tulips may 2015

  • missing my Texas family and wondering when I can get down there next.
  • prepping for the end of the semester and the attendant Commencement craziness.
  • sorting through piles of review books, and curating a short stack of vacation reading.
  • sipping a glass of red wine (usually Cabernet) about once a week.
  • scribbling in my journal when I can.
  • stretching out at yoga class on Monday nights, and doing an occasional at-home session with the app.
  • thinking about making summer plans.

What does life look like for you right now?

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budding tree green blue sky

After what felt like the longest winter ever, the piles of dirty snow have (finally) disappeared. We’ve had quite a few brisk, chilly days and some damp, depressing gray ones, and a couple of unexpected torrential downpours. But spring is – finally! – here in Boston for real.

The trees are budding, clothed in red and white and even electric green. Last week, I was delighted to see the tulip magnolia trees burst into bloom. (I’d been watching a few of them for weeks, waiting for their lipstick-pink buds to open and reveal creamy petals.)

tulip magnolia tree

The crocuses and snowdrops are nearly done. The daffodils and the tiny blue scilla (an awful name for a lovely flower) are out in full force. I spotted a few pink hyacinth in a raised bed on Garden Street the other day. And soon, the flowerbeds in the Public Garden downtown will be a riot of tulips – my favorite. (A friend sent me a photo of the still-green buds this week, with the message, “Tulips are close to popping!”)

This is my third spring working in Cambridge, the beginning of my third year in this job, this building, this neighborhood. By now, I know not only where to find the best chai latte in Harvard Square (Darwin’s) or where to go for a French dip (Grendel’s Den), but where to find the first, faint, shy signs of spring.

I’ve built up a store of knowledge through observation on my frequent walks. And when the snow started to melt – or, let’s be honest, even before – I was watching for the crocuses to poke up through the earth. I knew exactly where to look: a triangular flowerbed in the yard of a house with a purple door. My vigilance was rewarded – those purple blooms made my day when they finally appeared.

purple crocuses flowers spring

There’s something lovely and gratifying about this ritual – a small, quiet reward of my constant attempts to pay attention to my everyday life. This time of year, you can almost see the trees budding, watch the leaves uncurling, measure the progress of a rising daffodil stem from day to day. Or – just as often – a tree or shrub will lie dormant for months, then burst into bloom overnight. In both cases, the joy is deeper, the colors brighter, if you know where to look.

red tulips flowerbed

I read a line from John O’Donohue years ago that always comes to mind in the spring: “beauty likes neglected places.” The damp earth under still-bare trees, untended corners of vacant lots – these places are splashed with new life and color, just as much as the carefully cultivated flowerbeds. Forsythia bushes are spraying their fountains of gold all over the neighborhood, seemingly out of nowhere. And even the dandelions are adding their cheerful note to spring’s symphony.

We’re not quite in the full glory of spring just yet – lots of branches are still bare, and the nights still have a nip in them. But I am savoring every bud and leaf and scrap of color. I’m giving thanks for every flower, like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. And I am watching – always watching – for more signs of spring.

How is spring showing up where you live?

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bright bowls mugs anthro

We are (it’s hardly news) buried in white and gray over here. Dingy snowbanks edged in dirty, blackened ice. White skies blanketed in clouds that foil the sun’s feeble attempts to shine through. Road salt stains on my (black) snow boots. This week had a three-day stretch where we didn’t see the sun. (Though the blue skies are on their way back – I hope.)

blue sky bare branches

Until then, I’m seeking out color wherever I can find it – like this bright display at Anthropologie. Sometimes I drop in on my lunch break just to feast my eyes on the vibrant housewares. It’s food for the eyes and the soul, even if I don’t buy anything (and I rarely do, though I’m coveting one of those London mugs).

I walk by the local flower shop all the time, drinking in the rainbow of color there. Sometimes I buy tulips for my desk, in whatever shade strikes my fancy, but lately, I’m all about the daffodils. They’re so cheerful and sunny, and they remind me of spring in Oxford.

daffodils book desk

I’m wearing a lot of black these days (it goes with everything). But I wear a deep red scarf at least twice a week, sometimes with a slash of red lipstick. When it’s warm enough, I shrug out of my down jacket and don my favorite jade-green wool coat.

katie hot cocoa red cup green coat

I’m knitting myself a bright pink cowl, after finishing that purple wrap. I wear a favorite pink dress about once a week. I use colored Sharpies to make to-do lists at work. And I slip away to Darwin’s whenever I can, sipping my chai amid the walls painted the glorious oranges and pinks of a Texas sunset.

darwins cafe interior cambridge ma

I’m itching for my annual reread of Jane of Lantern Hill, which describes Prince Edward Island in glorious summer color. And I’m waiting for spring, which will bring crocuses and budding trees and blue skies – some day. Until then, I’m getting my color fix however I can.

Where do you find color during the long gray winter?

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purple tulips

Last month, I posted a list of fun ideas to get me through the winter. We’ve had plenty of snow (so much snow) and frigid temps, but I’ve been working on the list anyway. Here’s an update:

  • Fill up the journal I started in early January.* Working on it (though my handwriting is truly atrocious these days).
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. I’m going over there once a week, and exploring a new gallery each time.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats.
  • Invite friends over for dinner. We’ve hosted three sets of friends for spinach enchiladas and spicy chicken soup.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my college roommate and our husbands. We had a fabulous time, though bad weather delayed our flight home.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I finished that cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. J and I finished Veronica Mars and are loving Grantchester, and I’m still watching Downton solo. (Also Castle, but I have to admit I am not loving this season.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve crossed off four categories already: a book I’ve been meaning to read (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace), a book published this year (the newest Flavia de Luce mystery), a book from my childhood (The Long Winter), and a book by a favorite author (Wearing God by Lauren Winner).
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. No sweat. I am on a serious Earl Grey kick.

Things that were not on my list but are happening anyway: lots of snow shoveling; many batches of Molly’s scones; several snow days; all the tulips; and fervent prayers for spring.

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harvard yard snow blue sky

The air bit her cheeks and scorched the inside of her nose with cold. The sky was coldly blue and the whole world was white. Every blade of grass was furry with frost, the path was frosted, the boards of the well were streaked with thick frost, and frost had crept up the walls of the shanty, along the narrow battens that held the black tar-paper on.

Then the sun peeped over the edge of the prairie and the whole world glittered. Every tiniest thing glowed rosy toward the sun and pale blue toward the sky, and all along every blade of grass ran rainbow sparkles.

Laura loved the beautiful world.

—The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder

I reread this book every winter, when the snow comes and we settle in for the long, hard slog before spring. I love Laura’s stick-to-it pioneer spirit and Pa’s fiddle music, and the depictions of that terrible winter in De Smet remind me that it could always be worse. (Though after three feet of snow in the past week, I am dying for a getaway to somewhere warm – an option the Ingalls family certainly didn’t have.)

This scene comes before the hard winter begins, when Laura goes to draw water from the well on the morning of the first frost. Even though the frost has killed the garden, and Laura knows that prairie winters are long and dark, she can’t help but catch her breath at its beauty.

As I fight my way through the ice and slush over here, I’m taking every glimpse of beauty I can get – including the glint of sunlight on snow. Even though it’s frigid today, scraps of blue sky like the ones above (spotted in Harvard Yard last week) are saving my life.

Like Laura, I love the beautiful world. (Though I’m ready for it to be a little warmer.)

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katie green coat black ink

A couple of years ago, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s gorgeous book An Altar in the World and was particularly struck by a question in the introduction: What is saving your life now? Since then, I have asked it of myself over and over again, as a kind of reset button for my life and also as a way of giving thanks.

Winter is always a tough season for me, especially in New England where the frigid temps and biting winds make it hard to get through the day sometimes. But this winter, I’ve been employing a few coping mechanisms that are saving my life. (At least until the next blizzard hits.)

yellow tulips desk

I bought myself two bunches of tulips this week: one for the kitchen table, one for my desk at work (above). They make me smile, and they’re having the same effect on my colleagues.

I finally went back to Monday night yoga, after an absence of several months. My favorite instructor’s face lit up when she saw me, and the familiar poses – cat/cow, pigeon, downward facing dog – felt like coming home.

While on the mat, I had a chance to enjoy the bright pink pedicure I got last Saturday. Catching up at the nail salon and then over brunch with my friend Kristin was a real treat – even if it was 16 degrees outside. (Hence another of my little lifesavers: fleece-lined tights.)

In the mornings, before work, I’m flipping on my light box – I’ve started carrying it into the bathroom so I can switch it on the moment I step out of the shower. I move it around the apartment as needed, so I can get as much extra light as possible. That extra hit of light, and my Vitamin D pills, make a real difference on gray days.

I am (it’s no secret) a dedicated tea drinker, and I always go on an Earl Grey kick in the winter. This month, I’m drinking the Earl Grey I bought in Montreal last year, out of my favorite cobalt blue mug, every morning.

I’m wearing cozy cardigans and dresses with my favorite green coat (pictured above), including a few new-to-me pieces culled from my sister’s closet over Christmas. Having a trendy – and generous – sister is such a bonus. (We’ve also been having long conversations via text message about Downton Abbey – she’s been catching up in preparation for the new season.)

Winter can be so isolating, but this year I am making a real effort to schedule coffee dates or excursions like the above brunch-and-pedicure date with Kristin. (It’s also on my winter list to invite people over for dinner – bowls of soup or spicy Mexican food.)

IMG_1521

During the workday, I’m making a real effort to slip away for some chai and writing when things get crazy. Even 20 minutes of scribbling can clear my head and make a real difference in my day.

I’m reading and watching all the good stories I can: Downton, Castle, the brand-new series Grantchester, the newest Flavia de Luce mystery, Lauren Winner’s latest book (out in March).

blue sky bare branches

Finally and always: I am soaking up every bit of blue sky, whenever I can get it – and rejoicing that it’s not quite dark when I leave work now.

What is saving your life this winter?

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stripes tea bare feet red scarf

I love a good list, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I’m also battling the winter blues over here (already), so here’s a list of fun ideas to help me get through my least favorite season.

  • Fill up the journal I started earlier this month. (Related: keep writing by hand.)
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. They’re finally open again after a multi-year renovation, and my Harvard staff ID means I get in for free.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats. Mine are falling apart, and I know I’ll want some new ones come spring.
  • Invite some friends over for dinner.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my sweet college roommate and our husbands.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I’m working on a cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. (Currently watching new episodes of Downton Abbey and Castle, and season 3 of Veronica Mars.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. (Join us?)
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. (Obviously.)

What’s on your list for this winter?

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