What is it? Which is it: Art? Commentary? Joke? Warning? Invitation?
Some years it’s weather that prompts us to tarry longer than we planned before making the 280-ish mile trek to coastal New Jersey. Other years, a dip in health. Some, friends’ invitations to holiday engagements. Others, energy (or severe lack there of.)
This December, check ‘D.’ All of the above.
Christmas Day, instead of opening gifts in David’s parents’ ocean-edge, cliff-top home, D and I took a stroll in the record-setting warmth. The sunlight was gorgeous, so naturally I wandered with my camera.
We weren’t the only ones out and about. (Close, though.)
We were among the few seated for a treat at one of our favorite Jamaica Plain restaurants, Cafe Beirut. Ah, well. More for us.
Eight straight years of intensive writing instruction in high school and college make me shy of writing exercises. I’ve been there, wrote that.
However, on the occasion a member of my writer’s group suggests an exercise, I put on my big girl pants and I make good.
Below is a dot of fiction, based on a song (Deb Talan’s “The Gladdest Things“), which follows a poem (Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Afternoon on a Hill“). Fast on the heels, and interspersed, I’ve included photos of the location I had in mind while working on the exercise. Turns out, this a piece I quite like, so thank you Megan.
For a Song, for a Poem
He touched my hand. It wasn’t to make a statement. The touch felt light, as though he was attempting to tell me, without disrupting the moment with the sound of his voice: hey, this is where we’ve been.
On the hill we biked up, we sat not on the boulders placed for lounging, sharp edges that jabbed into your hip. Instead on the grass, trodden and pokey with sticks and branches torn down by the same late summer winds that kept the trees on the hill growing only-so-tall.
In the far distance, our city. In the near distance, hazy and harder to make out, our neighborhood. Houses that fit well in either city or town; where we grew up being some sweet in-between.
In less than two weeks, the two of us would leave. No longer come to this spot where tussling dogs forced their owners to interact. The crab apples dropping, and rotting, without us. Each chipmunk feeling that much safer with two fewer humans.
I to my West Coast college, and my friend to the Navy. We laughed about his new white suit. How hot he was going to be when he came to shore on the occasion like a sea-mammal up for air. The girls passing by who would turn their heads without realizing they’d looked. Some boys, too.
We used up our laughs, and smiles. Just tears left that neither of us felt brave enough to spend, so we stood, dusted our butts, and started down.
Late November is one of my favorite times to bike commute.
There’s something about starting out crisp; covered from head to toe in wool and sporty synthetics. Just one layer to start, before December and January demand more.
And fellow commuters, they’re still out there. Not yet chased to public transit.
I’ve long loved trees.
Well, deciduous are great because they sprout tiny leaves that grow into bigger leaves, change from green to gold or red or brown, and then fall to regrow in just a few (not that short) months.
But conifer. Conifer remain. Sun. Rain. Sleet. Wind. They are Always. Smell so good against a bright, clean expanse of snow. And pinecones! Who doesn’t love pinecones?
Aside from some weird seemingly in-betweens (looking at you, juniper; what ARE you, yew?) for which I couldn’t always identify the correct team (scientists could tell you, I bet, should you distract ’em long enough from the argument about camels), I decided deciduous and conifer had a pretty good competition going on. Satisfying in that winless way.
All these years later, I haven’t truly picked a side. Though I have favorites, like a pin oak at the edge of a church parking lot near where I live, and the Arboretum pines.
They take twenty minutes to a half hour to reach, walking, but worth it! The pines, and firs, and weird in-betweens can be found just over Bussey Hill. A collection of big, stout, expansive, narrow, prickly, soft, smooth and otherwise not-yet-discovered (by me). When I have the spare hour, I wander to see what’s new, to smell sap and tar and soil. To discover what I’d forgotten since my previous visit.
Some eleven or twelve years into my Boston life, I discovered what I’ve dubbed the Dance Underground. Not clubs. Not classes. Not weddings or any other official-type events. More like dancing in someone’s living room with a whole host of new friends. Or biking down the Southwest Corridor path and discovering a free dance night hosted in a converted garage. That kind of underground.
From the annual Cambridge City Dance Party to the Holi Color Festival, there are just so many low (and no!) cost ways to shake your groove thing. Including one frighteningly wonderful offering in my own backyard.
Modeled after Cambridge’s Dance Freedom and Dance Friday weekly events, Dance JP is the child of two well-organized, tune-toting members of the Boston community. On the third Saturday of each month these ladies and accompanying volunteers rent and set up a function room at the First Baptist Church on Centre Street. There’s food, pillows on which to lounge when not dancing, hoola-hoops, and string lights. And the crowd. Wow, the crowd. Age 0+, age 60+, age everybody-in-between. The smiles and bare feet. The moves and grooves. The leaps and laughter. It’s not something to miss.
See you there?
When I was a kid, my mother used to take my brother and me driving to see Christmas light displays around Coastal New Jersey. We especially enjoyed those surprise cul-de-sacs where it was obvious the neighbors engaged in friendly competition.
Bostonside (not surprisingly, I suppose), I don’t see much evidence of this love for the bright and twinkly, for those gaudy challenges to stake as many leaping plastic deer on the lawn as possible. Bostonside, subtley reigns.
I guess some might consider these simple strands stodgy, but I rather consider the situation: different folks, different strokes of light.
The bad news: Below is the only photo I have from the October 31st ride.
The good news: It was our third year taking part in the ride and I was blown away. Hundreds of people turned out, so many I couldn’t keep up with the costumes. Unicorns and a school of sharks and elephants and a lightning bug and zombies and tigers and several boombox trailers blasting James Brown and Loki and lighthouses and a CFL lightbulb and police officers (not official) and bacon and snack cakes and a harem of zebras and Captain America and a bumblebee riding a lobster bike and . . . wow.
Our group meet up at Green Street MBTA station in Jamaica Plain and traveled into Boston proper, where we met the second group and lit up the streets around Mass. College of Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. Then through Fenway and over to Cambridge; Central Square, Harvard Square; ’round to Allston and through Brookline; back to JP. My favorite moment was riding through the Cambridge Street tunnel in Harvard Square, bikes-only, everyone hooping and hollering and shouting their hearts out in the cavernous, echo-y space.
Even if you don’t ride, you gotta see this thing and cheer us on. Next year, friends!