On Wednesday, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts for this year’s (belated) birthday trip, just as I did last year. While I was there, I read the journal entry I’d written but never blogged last year:


It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m having lunch at the MFA: my belated birthday trip. I’ve spent the past almost-hour wandering the galleries, not looking at anything in particular: just looking.


Several years ago, before the pandemic, A (not her real initial) and I coined the term “museum bathing” for this activity of wandering a museum, soaking up the space. They say spending time in the woods–what the Japanese call “forest bathing”–has a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical health–and I’d argue the same is true of museums and other sacred spaces. The act of being in a space devoted to beauty has a healthful effect. I can feel the outside world and its worries falling away.


You could even go so far as to say a museum is like a forest–an indoor, curated one, with paintings and sculptures and tapestries instead of trees and rocks and streams. A museum is a kind of ecosystem: the individual galleries are microhabitats, and they all work together in a harmonious whole.


The challenge when you visit a large museum is seeing the forest for the trees. Usually when I visit the MFA, I have a specific exhibit I want to see, so I zip through galleries to get to that particular thing. Today, though, there isn’t anything in particular I’m here to see, so I am free to wander without destination, turning this way or that depending on what looks interesting at the moment.


I can wander from Greek statues to Egyptian mummies to Buddhas being restored to contemporary posters to postcards to Regency interiors and back. When you don’t have a destination, there is no hurry; instead of making good time, you can take your time, stopping to look when something looks good.


One of the delights of the MFA, like any good forest, is the abundance of places to sit–benches in front of individual art works, and tables, chairs, and occasional couches in visually interesting corners–and in a museum like a forest, every corner is interesting if you take the time to look.

Map paintings

So that is today’s task: to wander and watch, letting my inner eye guide me. There is no need to see everything, just a chance to find a secret, interesting vantage point to watch and wait.



Although I wrote the text of today’s post last year, today’s photos are from Frank Bowling’s Americas, which is currently on view at the MFA.