Posts Tagged ‘sunshine’

If you read my recent newsletter, you know: the first week of January here was dreary and grey, with mornings shrouded in mist and afternoons that looked just like the mornings. It wasn’t particularly cold (at least, for New England), but it was gloomy as a Yorkshire moor, and not in the romantic way. By Thursday I was mopey, and by Friday I was downright cranky. And on Saturday morning, I nearly squealed – or wept, I couldn’t decide which – when I woke to bright sunshine.

There’s a sharpness to the light this time of year, a sudden urgency, as though the daylight itself is trying to make the most of its limited hours. The sun’s low angle bounces off the harbor and arrows straight into my kitchen window, nearly blinding me, but its golden warmth is welcome.

My houseplants stretch toward the light, and so do I – making sure to bundle up and get out for walks as often as I can. If it’s too cold or I’ve just come back inside, sometimes I stand in the kitchen window and let the sunlight flood my cells, my shadow stretching long on the floorboards behind me, lighting up the ordinary objects that crowd my shelves. Even my silverware drawer looks ethereal, bathed in that kind of light.

For the grey days, I still have my happy lamp and vitamin D pills – and you can bet I’m outside every day, whether walking or running or simply commuting the few blocks to my office. The fresh air helps, no matter what color the skies are. But the sunlight – blazing or shy, intense or elusive – is its own particular gift. Especially on these short, dark days, I’m making the effort to soak it up as much as I can. (I’m also thinking of dipping back into Horatio Clare’s lovely memoir, aptly titled The Light in the Dark.)

How do you find light in the middle of winter?


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Hello, friends. It’s February, which is always a long month, even though it’s a short one. (See also: endless pandemic fatigue, etc.)

We’ve had some snow and will have more, and I keep thinking of E.B. White’s words about cold weather: “firm, business-like cold that stalked in and took charge […] as a brisk housewife might take charge of someone else’s kitchen in an emergency.” My kitchen, thank goodness, is full of tea and flowers, but I can see White’s point.

Last week, my friend Anne Bogel shared, as she does every winter, the surprising daily things that are saving her life right now. (This year, it’s laundry.) I am a whole week behind in sharing my own winter lifesavers, but I wanted to do it because I believe the practice is important, even in this pandemic year.

I am still job hunting, still missing my people, still spending a lot of time alone in my apartment. But here are the things getting me through these midwinter days:

  • Strong black tea, forever and always. I mostly drink MEM teas from Somerville, but have also been enjoying David’s Cream of Earl Grey lately.
  • Clementines by the handful (I say this every winter) – tart, sweet and cheery.
  • Nina’s writing class on Tuesday mornings – best Zoom of all, by far.
  • Daffodils! So cheerful and bright. Spotted at the florist and at Trader Joe’s.
  • Mini peanut-butter-filled pretzels, also from Trader Joe’s.
  • Morning runs and daily walks in the neighborhood, even when it’s frigid. (I’m still aiming to leave the house at least twice a day.)
  • Some really good books: New Yorkers by Craig Taylor, Wintering by Katherine May, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey.
  • Good pens and my Wingardium Leviosa Moleskine journal.
  • Vitamin D pills, my happy lamp, and (best of all) real sunshine, some days.
  • Daily check-ins with my guy, my friend Allison in California, and a couple of other dear ones.
  • Martina McBride, whose music I have loved for years – but I’m rediscovering her badass-women anthems and sweet love songs, and they are saving me.
  • Yoga – on Zoom for now, and maybe back in the studio soon.
  • The knowledge that we have a competent administration in Washington working to combat this virus and other problems.

What’s saving your life these days? I’d love to know.

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Harvard yard November light trees fall blue sky

It has been (yet) another stretch of challenge and change here – though the new job is making a little more sense these days. And despite some heartening headlines from last week’s election (more women, more diversity, higher voter turnout), it’s been (another) hellishly hard week or two to be in the world.

That’s how it seems to go these days, isn’t it? Back and forth. But a few small lifesavers are bearing me up. On some days they feel like just enough. Even that, I recognize, is a gift. Here they are:

  • My short rain boots, which are getting me through the fall storms.
  • Related: my newish belted raincoat, lined with a hood.
  • Chatter with my colleagues: music, books, tea, punctuation. (Yes, we are nerds.)
  • Tart, crisp Empire apples from the farmers’ market.
  • The In the Heights soundtrack, especially the first few numbers.
  • Yoga on Tuesday nights, and Gina’s smile.
  • Standing at the kitchen sink washing piles of dishes.
  • The tiny, sparkly We See Stars earrings I bought in the West Village this summer.
  • This song from The Annual, a yearlong music project from St Aldates, my beloved church in Oxford.
  • Morning bike rides across the river after prayers at Mem Church.
  • Related: trips to Darwin’s before prayers, for chai and community.
  • Mums and late roses and black-eyed Susans.
  • The autumn light that turns leaves to stained glass.
  • The feeling when I’m running of finally being warm to my fingertips.
  • Early sunrises out my kitchen window.
  • Related: my vitamin D pills and my happy lamp.

What’s saving your life these days? Please share, if you like.

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Yesterday was a changeable day: morning haze, bright sunshine, an afternoon downpour. I spent it crisscrossing the Square, and snapped this photo walking by Memorial Hall after the rain.

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heart neponset trail

Snapped this morning on the river trail: one of my favorite patches of ground, which helps ground me.

In case you missed it: I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break project this month.

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yellow crocuses light leaves flowers

March blew in like a lion with two wild, wet nor’easters back to back, and no lack of responsibilities at work and at home. As I navigate these blustery days, here’s a handful of tiny things, like bits of glitter, that are saving my life now:

  • That first sip of Darwin’s chai in the morning, after I lift the cup off the bar and before I put the lid on. It’s hot, spicy and life-giving.
  • Catching the trolley or the Red Line without having to wait.
  • The first (!) golden crocuses, spotted in the yard of a pink house on Cambridge St. (The man who lives there cut some of his roses for me last summer.)
  • Good pens, and ink-stained fingers.
  • Letting the sunlight flood full into my face as I look out the kitchen window, step outside my office building or sink into my favorite pew at Mem Church.
  • Brian Doyle’s rambling rollicking jubilant heartbreaking sentences in Mink River. They read like the Irishman he was: tender and clear-eyed, vivid and joyous.
  • The first scent of spring on an evening run last week: not just damp earth, which I also love, but the distinct smell of fresh blooming things.
  • The chalk heart that someone draws over and over again on the river trail.
  • Seeing my work in Shelf Awareness, which never fails to thrill me. If you love books, you should subscribe – it’s free, fun and informative.
  • A few places in my life where I am sure of a welcome: my florist’s shop, my boss’ office, my Thursday-morning haunt on the sixth floor. And – say it with me now – Darwin’s. (Though that’s not such a small thing at all.)

Some of these lifesavers are tiny indeed. But they anchor me and bring me joy, over and over again.

What’s saving your life these days? I’d love to know.

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katie memorial church green coat harvard yard

Last year, in the middle of my fourth Northeastern winter, I decided my one little word for 2014 would be light.

blue sky appian way

I chased that word through the dark, cold months – snapping photos of bold, blue winter skies (see above) and escaping to San Diego with the hubs when I couldn’t take it any more. We soaked in the sun for four glorious days, and I’m convinced it got me through the rest of the winter.

paris to die for beach book

As the days lengthened into spring and summer, I stopped pursuing my word quite so consciously – though it was always there when I looked for it again.

The autumn light in Harvard Square is particularly lovely, and I snapped dozens of photos this fall, trying to pay attention and soak up the clear golden days.

harvard yard autumn light leaves

During a hectic December, I confess I didn’t think about my word much – until I glanced out the window at work one afternoon and saw that the sun had finally come out after two grey, misty days in a row.

blue sky radcliffe yard

I didn’t hesitate. I threw on my green coat and headed outside, standing on the back steps of my building with my hands shoved deep into my pockets, soaking in the sunshine and the blue sky. I snapped the photo above, then simply stood there, head thrown back, letting the light flood over me.

I was out there for less than ten minutes, but it saved my entire day. And I realized: I’d been pursuing my word all along.

Every time I light a candle, every time I watch a sunset, every time I throw my head back and gaze at the sky, the light is there, waiting for me. I’m always seeking it out, snapping photos of it, watching how it highlights some things and throws others into shadow. I love what it does to faces, how it illuminates and reflects and beckons, how it’s never still, always changing. I did not do particularly well with the metaphorical aspects of my word this year, but the literal one, the visible one, is woven into my psyche.

I’m easing into 2015 with a new word, gentle (about which more soon). But I will continue to chase the light. If you’re looking for me on a sunny day this winter, there’s a good chance you’ll find me outside, soaking up any scrap of light I can find.

If you chose a word for 2014, how did it go? Or if you chose a word for 2015, how’s it going so far?

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Summer joys

sunset blue mussel cafe pei

I write some version of this post every year, from long lists of my summer pleasures to more coherent rhapsodies about the season. I adore fall and I have a soft spot for spring (winter and I are sometimes barely on speaking terms), but my years in the Northeast have taught me to embrace this fleeting season.

After a slow start (which nearly killed my poor, vulnerable basil plants), this summer has been golden and glorious. And I’m soaking it up.

berries red farmers market

I am walking over to the Harvard farmers’ market every Tuesday, wandering among the stalls and buying copious amounts of fresh berries, bell peppers and tomatoes. There’s even a tamale stand on occasion – a rare, authentic Tex-Mex treat. A couple of weeks ago, I tried a strawberry-basil popsicle – light, sweet and delicious.


I am wearing sandals every single day, dresses or skirts most days, and have even found two maxidresses that don’t drag on the ground (I’m petite). I’m sporting tanned arms and legs and crisscrossing sandal tan lines on my feet. (But I am also wearing sunscreen.)

I am spending my lunch breaks in Harvard Yard with a book whenever possible. Often concurrently, I’m indulging in flavored seasonal limeade from Crema for as long as it lasts.

book limeade harvard yard summer

I’m watering the basil on my wee balcony, plucking leaves to sprinkle on pasta, scrambled eggs, homemade pizza. I am eating the occasional plate of fried calamari or fish & chips from the local clam shack, with help from the hubs.

clam box dinner quincy ma

I’m watching the sunlight move across the dining room table as I drink my morning tea – ginger peach or blackberry sage. I’m delighting in sunsets, pink and purple and gold, seen from our living-room windows and occasionally from our beach.

sunset beach boston ma

I’m delighting in houseguests and weekend trips to Rockport, then indulging in a bit of hibernation to balance it out.

rockport ma boats harbor

I’m reading like a madwoman (because when am I not?) and enjoying light fare like a beachy Greek travel memoir and a stack of mysteries.

hibernation books

I’m crossing items off my Summer Manifesto, and making a new list for August.

I’m reveling in the warm air, the wide blue skies, the green grass and blooming flowers, the feeling of ease and relaxation that only comes in these full, long, golden days.

What joys are you savoring this summer?

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The bitter cold continues. I have reminded my husband at least a dozen times this week that I never want to live anywhere colder than Boston. Then I turn around and remind my concerned relatives in Texas that yes, I have to get out when it’s seven degrees, because I have to go to work. Which means standing on frigid subway platforms, hurrying across the wind-whipped Common with my hood up, and tramping down frozen streets white with salt.

Jan 2013 009

Yesterday, I made myself get outside after eating lunch at my desk (because I get cranky if I don’t leave my building at least once during the day, no matter how frigid it is). After a trip to the bank, and a bit of shopping for a friend’s birthday, I gave in and headed to Starbucks for that proven pair of pick-me-ups: a chai latte and half an hour with my journal.

I snagged my favorite round table in the back corner, next to a huge picture window through which the sun streamed, warming the wide wooden sill and the tabletop and even my hair. I pulled out my colorful journal and one of my favorite pens, sipped my warm, spicy drink, and scribbled down a few thoughts and worries and blog post ideas. I doubt I’ll find any great insight in reading back over that entry, but it was enough to sit there, to write, to breathe, to be.

starbucks chai table journal sunshine

On my way back to work, I walked along the western edge of the Common, bounded by leafless trees and dead grass, dotted with a few other hardy walkers. My boots crunched through a mixture of sand and gravel and rock salt, scattered there by some city employee who spends far more time in the cold than I do. As I walked, a few chunks of salt caught the light, sparkling like crystals escaped from a geode, or like fallen stars.

It’s amazing what half an hour of sunshine, and chai, can do for your perspective. (But I still hope the mercury rises soon.)

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We’re in that strange transitional season – the calendar says it’s spring; Daylight Savings Time has begun (hallelujah!), and every store window is full of bright, breezy apparel and accessories.

However, this is Boston. Ergo, the mercury still drops below freezing at least once a week; we had hours of snow-rain yesterday; lots of spring rains are imminent; and it’s not nearly warm enough to step out in sandals, sport bare legs, go without a scarf or shed my jacket. Last week, when I wore a spring skirt to church (albeit with tights, boots, a cardigan and a black turtleneck), I heard a cautionary tale from my friend Bob involving his wife, a sundress in March, and pneumonia. (They’ve lived in the Northeast for 43 years. She is, obviously, wiser now.)

I know, I know. It’s not really spring yet, despite the teasing beams of sunshine on Boston Common and the proliferation of spring apparel. What’s a sick-of-all-her-sweaters Texas girl to do?

One answer: Buy orange tulips.

This little bouquet, bought from the nice Asian man who sells flowers at Downtown Crossing, made me SO happy last week.

Answer #2: Incorporate a few springy pieces into the it’s-still-winter wardrobe. (See spring skirt with winter layers, above.) Also: browse the consignment shop for colorful pieces that won’t break the bank. Such as a bright melon scarf, and a sweater the color of tender, new leaves.

Answer #3: Paint my toenails bright pink, even though, as McKay says, no one will see them under my tights and boots. Still, I know they’re pink and that’s what counts.

Answer #4: Soak up every bit of sunshine, whenever I can. Even if it means squinting into the light while I eat my breakfast. (I actually love the mornings I have to squint – the sunshine spilling in the windows is such a gift.)

Anyone else? Color therapy tricks to share?

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