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Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

harvard yard memorial church view

Here is part of the truth about working at Harvard: it took a little while for it to feel like mine.

I admit to being a little intimidated – as one might expect. Harvard is storied, prestigious and often complicated to navigate, geographically and otherwise. (Harvard comprises more than a dozen schools, which each function as semi-autonomous units, but there’s a lot of cross-pollination, and some policies and procedures are university-wide.)

memorial hall harvard

I was fortunate to find a “home base” right away: my office at the Ed School’s campus on Appian Way, two blocks from the heart of the Square. I had colleagues who made me feel welcome and tried to explain the ins and outs of working for a unit within Harvard, while still being part of Harvard as a whole. (Confused yet?)

blue sky appian way

That first winter, I set about exploring Harvard Square, starting with familiar ground: Crema Cafe, the Yard, Memorial Church, the Harvard Book Store. Gradually, I added to my store of knowledge: shops, cafes and restaurants; the bank, the post office, the florist. I peeked into Widener Library, daring to check out a few books and DVDs. I soaked up the bits of Harvard lore I heard from colleagues and student tour guides, and I memorized dozens of acronyms related to offices and units across campus. (Harvard loves an acronym.)

And yet.

For a long while, I stuck mostly to my small patch of the Square: my office, the Yard, my favorite cafes and bookstores. I was a little shy about going farther afield. This is a big place, and it’s easy to get lost, or to feel intimidated when you’re heading to a new part of campus. There is so much to absorb, so much to take in, about this place and how it works. It can be hard to feel like you really belong here.

katie memorial church green coat harvard yard

Two and a half years in, I still feel these things occasionally. But by now, Harvard also feels like mine.

My work this summer has taken me to parts of campus I’d never seen before: the Divinity School, the Graduate School of Design, the Center for Astrophysics, the brand-new Launch Lab over at the Business School. I’ve spent a few afternoons in Lamont Library and found my way to numerous new-to-me offices and buildings.

All the while, I’ve continued to frequent my favorite places: Harvard Yard, green and summer-lush; the Harvard Art Museums, full of objects both fascinating and beautiful; Appian Way, still my center of gravity here. And I have realized again what I already knew: I love this place, this landscape, this institution, down to my bones.

I never expected to work at Harvard, or to fall in love with it the way I have. But I am grateful to be here, retracing familiar paths and discovering new corners of campus. It can be complicated, sometimes maddeningly bureaucratic – and the intimidation hasn’t all disappeared. But my Harvard staff ID and my heart say the same thing: it’s mine.

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charles river light boston summer

This is the summer of yoga in the morning, unrolling my green mat in the dining room and going through my stretches and sun salutations as the sunshine slants across the wood floors.

This is the summer of tall daylilies and pale pink peonies, of vivid multicolored hydrangeas, of cheerful, leggy yellow sunflowers wrapped in burlap at the market or in a blue Mexican vase on my kitchen table.

sunflowers

This is the summer of warm evenings on the Charles River, sitting in the front of a bright pink kayak while my friend Adam sits in the back, finding our synchronized paddling rhythm and stopping to watch the geese and ducklings.

katie adam kayak

This is the summer of writing it all down – on the blog, in the journals splashed with my messy handwriting, in daily texts and occasional emails to friends.

This is the summer of mornings at Darwin’s, drinking chai or ginger peach tea amid the sunset-colored walls, nibbling on a scone or a breakfast sandwich, typing away on my laptop amid fellow solitary workers and groups of chattering friends.

darwins cafe cup

This is the summer of so many mysteries: Lady Georgie, Bess Crawford and Daisy Dalrymple. It is the summer of smart, engaging nonfiction, a little chick lit, a couple of powerful novels.

This is the summer of evenings on the front porch, sitting in a battered lawn chair with a book, sipping lemonade and admiring my red geraniums as the sunset sky changes from blue to pink to gold.

ana of california book geraniums front porch

This is the summer of Harper Lee: rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (again) before picking up Go Set a Watchman, tracing the evolution of the characters I thought I knew.

This is the summer of small adventures: trying a new restaurant in our neighborhood, driving up to Maine for a long weekend, seeing the sandcastles at Revere Beach (north of Boston) and tossing a Frisbee by the water afterward.

revere beach sandcastle

This is the summer of easy cooking: tossed salads, bruschetta, chicken burritos, shredded zucchini quesadillas, soft pitas filled with chicken and tomatoes, eaten with strips of bell pepper dipped in hummus.

This is the summer of Modern Family, sitting beside J on the couch under the window, howling with laughter at Cam’s antics and Phil’s corny jokes, me imitating Gloria’s thick Colombian accent while I sympathize with type-A Claire.

This is the summer of all the stripes: dresses, skirts, T-shirts, sandal tan lines on my feet.

stripes silver flats

This is the summer of lunch at the farmers’ market, piping hot tamales made by a fellow Texan from Corpus Christi, topped with fiery salsa and eaten off a sheet of tinfoil at a table in the shade.

This is the summer of all the berries: red and blue, crimson and black, tart and sweet and juicy, eaten straight from the blue cardboard pints bought at the same farmers’ market.

strawberries

This is the summer of lots of ice cream: tart fro-yo from Berryline, mint-chip gelato from the freezer at home, a batch of Ryan’s homemade vanilla ice cream in the backyard a few weeks ago.

berryline froyo sprinkles strawberries

This is the summer that marks five years in Boston – an adventure I could not have predicted, which is still in full glorious swing.

This is the summer of being awake, trying (always trying) to pay attention. To notice these hot, humid, lovely days, to be grateful for their gifts and challenges. To be brave and gentle at the same time, and to be here now.

brave stripes

What does life look like for you this summer?

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august break 2015

It’s already August (how can that be?) and Susannah Conway is hosting her beautiful August Break. I’ve loved playing along the last two years, and I’m excited to participate again.

First up: a red-and-blue weekend breakfast.

cherries toast breakfast

Blackberry sage tea in my favorite mug, toast with butter and blueberry jam, and fresh cherries.

Happy August, friends.

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pink hydrangeas flowers

The hydrangeas are everywhere this summer.

I love watching the seasonal progression of flowers in New England every year – from crocuses to tulips and daffodils, then on to iris, peonies, roses and sunflowers. But I’ve never noticed so many hydrangeas as I have this year. We are in the thick of summer – hot, languid, blue-sky days that end with hazy pink and gold sunsets – and the daylilies and hydrangeas, vivid splashes of color, seem to pop up on every corner.

I read a long time ago on Lindsey’s blog that the color of hydrangeas is determined by the pH composition of their soil. This fascinates me, especially since there are often multicolored flowers on one plant. How does the same soil – or slight variations of it – produce so many shades of beauty? (On a walk to the beach the other night, I spotted four hydrangea plants growing in one yard – all of them sporting different-colored flowers.)

blue hydrangeas purple door

The hydrangeas also fascinate me as a metaphor. I believe place has a strong influence on who we are, and who we become. I’m a native Texan who has lived in Oxford and now in Boston, and all three places have powerfully shaped who I am. The particular terrain of each season of my life – the beautiful and difficult elements alike – also has its effect on me. Like the hydrangeas, I must draw on the gifts (and the trials, and the weather) of my environment to create something rich and beautiful. The hydrangeas can’t choose what color their flowers will be, but I can choose what I make of my life.

This summer, despite its many delights, has been a difficult season in some ways. I’m turning back to my tried-and-true comforts: tea in the morning from my favorite mug, lunches and coffee dates with friends, the words of Julia Cameron (in The Sound of Paper) about self-care and building a creative life.

As I walk through my town on Boston’s South Shore and my work neighborhood in Harvard Square, I keep noticing the hydrangeas. I love them for their beauty, but I’m coming to love them for their resilience too.

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pool view lounge chairs

When I was a kid, summer meant long, sun-soaked, chlorine-scented days at the local pool, where my mother flipped through magazines on a lounge chair and my sister and I turned flips and did handstands and tried all kinds of tricks off the diving board. (I never did learn to dive properly, but I could do cannonballs and jackknifes with the best of them.)

We slathered on sunscreen and let our toes get pruney from staying in the water for hours, usually until Mom called us out to eat lunch or an afternoon snack. On the weekends, my dad would go with us too, and we’d take turns riding on his shoulders or playing keep-away with a squishy Koosh ball. Once or twice, my sister’s blonde hair developed grass-green streaks from all the chlorine, and we all sported serious tan lines, despite all that sunscreen.

I don’t get much time by the pool these days, for various reasons – chiefly the demands of work and other obligations. But earlier this week, I drove out west of Boston to visit a friend who works at a health club. Its campus boasts two large, beautiful outdoor pools, and I lounged by one of them (in the shade) until she was free to join me for lunch.

book magazine poolside reading

I’d brought plenty of reading material: in addition to the novel and magazine above, I’ve been rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (again). Mid-morning, I bought a plastic cup of lemonade from the snack bar, sipping it as hazy clouds drifted across a pale blue sky. I listened to the splashes and squeals of kids playing, the rhythmic sloshing of adults swimming laps. I remembered those long-ago carefree days, when summer stretched out before us, sparkling like the summer sunlight on the water.

Just for a few hours, I had nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. It was a rare, quintessentially summery treat.

Do you get to hang out by the pool in the summertime?

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strawberry popsicle

The long, lazy summer days are finally here – but they’re slipping away alarmingly fast. It’s been a while since my last “right now” post, so I wanted to take stock of what’s happening around here in this season.

Right now, in mid-July 2015, I am:

  • starting many mornings with the Yoga Studio app and then a cup of ginger peach (or blackberry sage) tea in my favorite cobalt blue mug, a souvenir from the Ground Floor many summers ago.
  • listening to the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack (still so good), construction noise outside my apartment windows, and lots of Taylor Swift.
  • hanging out at Darwin’s a few times a week, writing and people-watching and drinking (more) ginger peach tea.

darwins cafe cup

  • making anything for dinner that doesn’t involve turning on the oven: pasta with fresh veggies, pita wraps with hummus, chicken burritos, zucchini quesadillas, a few salads.
  • eating all the summer fruits I can handle. (The berries are back at the farmers’ market, and I am one happy girl.)

strawberries

  • scheduling “coffee” dates which are really lemonade or fro-yo dates. (It’s hot!)
  • spending Sunday nights in Ryan and Amy’s backyard, where we grill various meats (and pineapple), eat guacamole and fruit and ice cream, watch the kids run around, and pet Telly, the world’s sweetest dog.

sunday night backyard

  • snuggling my friends’ new baby, Evie, whenever I get a chance.
  • loving the flowers of summer – peonies, Gerbera daisies, sunflowers. (My friend Kate says you can chart the seasons by the most popular flowers on Instagram. It’s true!)

peonies

  • walking along the Charles River Esplanade about once a week. It’s green and gorgeous down there, and I am always watching for ducklings.
  • wearing dresses and skirts during the day, shorts on the weekends, sandals and comfy flats all the time.

stripes silver flats

  • watching a little Modern Family with J and an occasional episode of Veronica Mars by myself.
  • reading lots of great nonfiction – Mission High, Consider the Fork, Between You & Me – and a stack of mysteries.
  • drinking gallons of lemonade.
  • savoring lots of ice cream. We are recently obsessed with Talenti gelato.
  • thinking about another getaway with the hubs, maybe in August.

What are you up to right now?

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strawberry book breakfast

After a hot, humid end to May and a truly frigid beginning to June (two days of April-like chilly drizzle and occasional downpours), the weather is behaving a little more like summer. I’m already drinking my favorite summer teas and eating strawberries with my breakfast – but there are a hundred other things I love about summer. So here are a few I’d like to indulge in:

  • Eat all the summer fruits (rhubarb, peaches, tomatoes and every kind of berry I can find)
  • Related: go to the farmers’ market at Harvard and maybe the one over at Copley Square
  • Wear skirts and shorts as often as possible
  • Get a pedicure (or two)
  • Snuggle my friends’ baby, Evie, whom I met last week (isn’t she precious?)

katie baby evie

  • Go visit my family in Texas
  • Laugh and laugh with J at episodes of Modern Family (we’re newly hooked)
  • Go kayaking on the Charles River (I went for the first time recently, and it was fantastic)

charles river view boston sailboat

  • Drink lemonade and sangria
  • Eat lots of ice cream (and fro-yo)
  • Take lots of long walks (to counterbalance the ice cream)
  • Soak up every bit of summer sunshine – summer in New England is lovely but fleeting.

What’s on your list for this summer?

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