November 2014


Christmas tree and Custom House clock-tower

These days it gets dark in New England by 5 pm, and I find myself cherishing every bit of brightness. When I lived in Keene, I’d leave my porch light on when I left for campus so I wouldn’t have to come home to a dark house, and when I moved to Newton but continued teaching in Keene, I’d spend much of my evening commute looking for houses with Christmas lights, candles in the windows, or lit porch lights: spots of cheering brightness on a long, dark drive home.

Christmas tree with Black Friday shoppers

December is a festive time for some but a gloomy time for others. For years I lived with someone who suffered severe seasonal affective disorder, so the period between November and March was volatile, with spells of despair interrupted by anger and upheaval. When I see lit Christmas lights, my inner eight-year-old relishes the brightness and sparkle…but my adult self remembers the loneliness and despair the season brings for far too many. When I see a lit Christmas tree, part of me hopes that at least one lost soul might see it as a beacon of hope in a dark time: a light left on to guide each one of us home to a place both festive and warm.

This is my final, Day Thirty contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Little Liam wins "Fan of the Game"

Earlier this month, a video made the rounds of an adorable moppet in Bruins gear fist-bumping the entire team as they left the ice after their pre-game warmups. (If you haven’t already seen the video, do your mood a favor and watch it…or, if like me, you’ve watched it countless times, take a minute to watch it again. It’s impossible not to smile when you see the obvious joy on the kid’s face as each player acknowledges him.)

Liam fist-bumps the team

The adorable moppet in that viral video is eight-year-old Liam Fitzgerald, and he was in attendance at yesterday’s Black Friday matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Winnipeg Jets. Little Liam, who was born with Down’s syndrome, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age four, and now endures daily injections of growth hormones, has become an unofficial Bruins mascot. Hockey players pride themselves for their mental and physical toughness, and you have to admire the toughness of eight-year-old who has beat cancer, continues to face medical challenges, and still finds unbridled joy in something as simple as meeting his favorite hockey players.

During the third period of every home Bruins game, fans vote for the “Fan of the Game.” While three candidates are shown on the scoreboard screen, fans cheer and applaud for their favorite. At yesterday’s game, the matchup between the Bruins and the Jets was a nail-biter that went into overtime. But when it came to voting for the “Fan of the Game,” there was no contest, fans going absolutely wild when little Liam was shown on the big screen, his dad holding him on his shoulder like a modern-day Tiny Tim.

This is my Day Twenty-Nine contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Face off

There is a long-standing tradition in Boston for the TD Garden to host both a Bruins and a Celtics game on Black Friday. J and I have gone to Black Friday Bruins games in the past, with the above photo coming from 2009. But today for the first time, we went to both games, watching the Celtics lose in the afternoon and the Bruins clinch a sudden-death overtime win in the evening. In between games, while the Garden crew scrambled to pull up the basketball parquet and prep the ice beneath, J and I walked to Quincy Market, where we had dinner and admired Christmas lights with throngs of Black Friday shoppers.

This is my (belated) Day Twenty-Eight contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Two pumpkins

Thanksgiving Day is one of the few times you can say that downtown Boston has ample free parking. On a typical weekend, it’s easier to take the T than to drive into the city from the suburbs, but today J and I chose to drive down Beacon Street from Newton into the Back Bay, where we knew we’d easily find a (free) metered parking space.

Albania soccer scarf

On Thanksgiving, downtown residents tend to head elsewhere for the holiday, so it’s a rare opportunity to wander the usual sites without having to face throngs of traffic, pedestrian or otherwise. On the Commonwealth Mall, only a few locals were walking dogs; at the Public Garden, only a few tourists posed on the bridge for pictures. On Boston Common, one woman encouraged a squirrel to climb onto her lap while her friend snapped pictures; nearby, a mother photographed her daughter feeding a writhing throng of pigeons, including two that landed directly on her hand.

Central Burying Ground

“This is the emptiest you’ll ever see Newbury Street,” I remarked as J and I crossed an almost-empty street, only a handful of people strolling down the typically packed sidewalks. Only at the Central Burying Ground, a historic cemetery at one corner of Boston Common, did the deserted vibe seem natural, not atypical. Whereas I’m used to Boston being bustling, things are always quiet at the Central Burying Ground, regardless of whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other day.

This is my Day Twenty-Seven contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Scooby and Groucho

We’re in the midst of a winter storm, so the sky has been spitting all day: sometimes rain, sometimes sleet, and sometimes wet snow, a combination New Englanders call wintry mix. Now that it’s dark, I gauge the precipitation by the sound it makes on the windowpane: rain is a patter of mice feet, sleet is a tinkling chandelier, and freezing rain is a sizzle. Snow, of course, falls silently, but so far, we haven’t gotten many fluffy flakes, just a sludgy slop that falls like rain then congeals into clumps.

This is my Day Twenty-Six contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Dwight Hall with turkeys

Today is my last day of teaching before Thanksgiving break, and at both Curry College yesterday and Framingham State today, it’s clear that many students and faculty alike have already headed home, either literally or figuratively. There are fewer cars in the parking lot, fewer students strolling outside, and an influx of emails from apologetic students explaining they won’t be in class because they’re leaving early to head home.

Turkey trio

On days like today, I remember something Zen Master Dae Kwang, who was born and raised in Nebraska, once said. Every Nebraskan farmer knows you can’t steer a horse that’s headed back to the barn. Once even the most obedient beast is intent on returning to his feed trough, there’s nothing either a carrot or stick can do to dissuade him.

On days like today, I realize both students and faculty alike are already headed (literally or figuratively) toward a barn called Thanksgiving, which offers troughs of tasty food, days without alarm clocks, and the hope (for faculty at least) of catching up with grading. If this morning’s class is any indication, my afternoon class will be small and we’ll end early. There’s no use wasting either a carrot or stick on a herd of obedient beasts whose minds are so obviously elsewhere.

This is my Day Twenty-Five contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Buddha and houseplant

Last night I went to evening practice at the Cambridge Zen Center, even though I still haven’t fully recovered my voice from the cold-turned-bronchitis I’ve been fighting all month. My voice is mostly better when I’m simply talking…but chanting was a whole other story, with my voice squeaking, croaking, or falling silence whenever the melody varied from the middle-monotone. It will take a while before my vocal cords are back in shape for either chanting or singing, but in the meantime, it was good to squeak by with roomful of other practitioners who filled in the melodic gaps when my voice wasn’t able to rise to the occasion.

This is my Day Twenty-Four contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Public Garden with Boston skyline

Today J and I took the T into Boston to check out the Beacon Hill Art Walk Holiday Show, which featured participants from this year’s Beacon Hill Art Walk. This weekend’s holiday show was housed in the Hill House, a historic firehouse featured in the 1997 MTV reality show “The Real World: Boston” that now houses a nonprofit community center.

A Statehouse on the hill

I never watched “The Real World” when it was set in Boston, but in the early ’90s I did live in Beacon Hill a few blocks away from the Hill House. When I lived in Beacon Hill, my Real World was a juggling act of graduate classes, teaching obligations, a part-time retail job, and the compromises of living with my then-husband in a tiny basement apartment. It was a cramped and harried existence that felt very Real but not very Worldly.

Commonwealth Mall in autumn

Today’s T trip to Boston felt much more relaxing than my days living in Boston. J and I had lunch at the Prudential Center then walked down the Commonwealth Mall (where J once owned a bachelor-pad condo) to the Public Garden, where we cut across to Charles Street. In the course of an afternoon stroll, in other words, J and I revisited the streets and sidewalks where we once lived separately, years before we met.

Pilgrim monument

At the Hill House, J and I chatted with an artist whose work we’d first encountered in June, and we bought several pieces as Christmas presents for ourselves and others. Back when I was a starving grad student living underground in Beacon Hill, I never would have imagined I’d one day live out in the suburbs and could afford to buy gifts at an art show rather than simply window-shopping. The Real World I lived in then seems very far removed from the Real World where I find myself now.

This is my Day Twenty-Three contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Happiness is...

Earlier this afternoon, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for almost a month: I brewed a mug of tea and wrote in my journal. Between being sick and being buried in the usual mid-semester flood of student papers, I hadn’t written in my journal since November 3, an entry that chiefly chronicled the cold-turned-bronchitis I caught near the end of October:

I slept yesterday, a day-long nap in an attempt to make up for nights riddled with coughing. I sometimes think I’ll never get better–never regain my strength. How is it that something as simple as a cold or flu bug can lay me out so irrevocably, and for so long?

Moleskine

Blogging counts as a kind of journaling, but for me, no amount of blogging can replace the longhand pages I’m in the habit of keeping. For me, blogging is where I think out loud for a live audience, and writing in my paper journal is where I think solely for myself. For me, the strength and authenticity of my outer, public voice is rooted in this more personal, internal dialogue. My daily scribbles are where I figure things out for myself, and my blog reflects the end-result of such ruminations.

Blogging when I haven’t been journaling feels like performing without practicing: yes, a veteran musician or singer can perform for an audience without devoting private hours to her or his craft, but after a while, those public performances can become rote and shallow. My journal is where I find and strengthen my writerly voice. Blogging when Iā€™m not journaling feels precarious and ungrounded, like growing a tree without roots.

This is my Day Twenty-Two contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Dead or only sleeping?

This time last year, I blogged several photos of Laura Ford’s “Armour Boys,” an outdoor installation at the DeCordova Sculpture Park featuring five bronze knights crumpled in a grove of pine trees. Ford’s work is one that looks better as it ages, a subtle patina of neglect adding to the poignancy of slain soldiers lying among fallen leaves.

Pine Sharks

Because I’ve been going to the DeCordova for years, I remember another piece that was previously on display in this same grove: Kitty Wales’ “Pine Sharks,” which featured three circling sharks welded together from the rusted hulls of castoff appliances. As coincidence would have it, I blogged that installation back in 2009, the last time Photo Friday featured the theme, Metal.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Metal, as well as my Day Twenty-One contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

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