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Often as I’ve driven back home from New York or Connecticut, I’ve notice that the last exit on I-84 in Connecticut, just feet from the Massachusetts border, is for the town of Union and the Massachusetts town of Holland. As this was one I’d never been to before, and I had a little time on my way home from a weekend in the New York Berkshire Hills town of Pawling with a friend, I decided that this would be the next town to check off my list of the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge.
Holland is interesting as it’s one of the few towns in the Commonwealth that doesn’t have a numbered state highway that goes through it. The exit off of I-84 turns into a town road, that quickly skirts the Hamilton Reservoir, which has houses all around it’s banks. It looks like the type of place that would be very popular in the summer with a lot of water skiers and speed boats going up and down its length. No chance of that right now as there was still snow on the ground there (which was surprising as there wasn’t any snow in Hartford or Boston). I got to the town center, which seems to be just the main intersection. There I saw the town hall, library (very cute), the Holland Elementary School, and in walking a little further, I saw a house with a windmill on it. This was Holland after all!
So, is there something that you’ve always seen, but have been itching to experience, even if it’s not something really momentous?
As I stated in an earlier post, I knew that the first few towns to meditate in would be relatively easy. I would be hitting the towns around me, and I could do them while I was on the way of doing other things. Today, being Presidents Day and a holiday, I had the opportunity to get a massage (highly recommended to anyone who’s never treated themselves well!) and I knew I had only one more town in the Greater Boston area that I normally go through but hadn’t made it to yet. So, my mission for the day was clear: I needed to stop in Watertown.
Many years ago, I used to live just over the border of Watertown in the Waverly section of Waltham (which confused everyone as it’s on the Belmont-Watertown border, but I lived in a little tiny section of Waltham that peeks in there), and when I lived in Cambridge, I used to go to the grocers in East Watertown all the time. While Watertown is one of the oldest towns in Massachusetts (founded in 1630), it’s probably most known now as having one of the largest Armenian populations outside of Armenia. I stopped by the Armenian Library and Museum of America (it was closed for the holiday), but I am more likely to go for the food. I still remember the great bakeries and other food stores where you could get all sorts of Armenian/Middle Eastern type food. Given my celiac diagnosis, I have to be much more careful about that, but hope to make my way to these places again.
So, when have you returned to a place you remember from your past, and what triggers your memories?
We are in the middle of February now, and winter has still not decided to stay with us. We’ve had short visits, but nothing that we New Englanders would really call a real winter. It’s like North Carolina’s winter has decided to visit us instead. We’ve had many days in the 40′s and 50′s, and it’s just disconcerting for us. We keep wondering when we’re really going to get wholloped.
I was out and doing some errands, and realized that I hadn’t yet done a meditation in Medford. As this is one of the closest towns to my house, it seems strange. I go through there at least weekly, as it’s on a major route if I’ve to get out to I-93 into Boston. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I figured I’d take the opportunity.
I walked along the Mystic River, which starts up in Winchester and flows down to Boston Harbor. Most people know if from the movie, but did you also know that this is the same river mentioned in the Thanksgiving song “Over the River and Through the Woods“? Lydia Child wrote the poem that became the song, and her Grandfather’s House is right on the Mystic River, opposite the Lydia Child Bandshell that you see in the picture here. Shows that there’re new things to learn every day, even in places that you pass by all the time.
So, have you looked at something close by to make new discoveries about it?
Yesterday, I had a relatively quite Saturday, and I had a bunch of errands to run, and was out and looked around the see if I had some time to meditation in a new town, and I was near enough to Lincoln that I decided to make that number 17!
I’ve been through Lincoln many times in my past, as it’s on one of my routes from my father’s house to mine. It’s known as one of the wealthiest towns in the Commonwealth, and for some place that is so close to many major routes and business centers, it’s really rural. People can afford to have very large houses and a lot of space. I wondered around the town center and even went into the town library, which was really nice and quaint. It’s a very quiet place, but it has usually been a place that I’ve driven through instead of walked around. That again is the power of this challenge.
I made a video of my time there, as I was thinking about a workshop I’d been in the past. You’ll see my thoughts on that shortly.
So, where’s something or someplace that you’ve been in many times but never stopped to notice?
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I actually visited in Needham on January 29th, but because of a number of reasons, it’s taken me over a week to actually get this posted.
I was at the winter meeting of Healthy Villi, which is the celiac support and advocacy group in the Boston area, which was held at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley, and I had a little time before I went to my father’s house in Maynard. As is the impetus of this project, I thought that I had a little time to snag another town. Upon looking at my map to see which town would be best for me to go to, I settled on Needham as it was pretty close and it was also one that I didn’t normally go through. While I could have gone to other towns more on the way, I figured I could get them later.
I’ve been to Needham many times in my life: I’ve done road races there and been to other events, but I had never really spent some quiet time in the town center. It’s got a good amount of businesses and it’s got an MBTA train line that goes right into Boston. It’s not the oldest town in the area (founded in 1717) and I don’t know that it’s particularly famous for anything in particular. The overall feeling that I had about it was that it was a nice place to live. The buildings were nice and it had an orderly town center with a cute sculpture of children playing. It just seemed not average, but very homey. You don’t need flashy all the time, and it was nice to appreciate the good.
So, are you noticing the good, steady things in your life?
This post is about a week old, but after returning from my vacation in the Bahamas, I got caught with the bad cold that’s been racing through most of the communities that I belong to. Therefore, I’ve been spending the last few days just trying to get back into health.
One my first day back, I was doing a number of errands and realized that I wasn’t going to be far from Newton, and taking advantage of the time I had (and the 15 degree temperatures!) I did a walking meditation. I knew that the sight I had to use was the statue of Johnny Kelley that stands near the top of Heartbreak Hill on Commonwealth Avenue across the street from City Hall near Newton Center. Most people know of Newton as it is on the Boston Marathon route and has been the scene of many an exciting exchange of leads in the race. After going downhill for the first 16 miles from the start in Hopkinton, there are three hills in Newton that really challenge the runners just when they are starting to fade. This is where you can make a big move in the race!
I did the marathon in 1998, and race walked it in 5:07:26. It’s my one and only marathon, and it was a great experience. I had to train for months to prepare for this, and it was a great effort and I was quite tired by the end, but I felt a sense of elation as I had accomplished a big goal.
So, what big goals are you planning for 2012? How are you stretching yourself?
Today, we had a very atypical January day for Eastern Massachusetts: highs in the mid to upper 50′s and sunny. It was a beautiful day, and as I had a party to go to at a former colleague’s house, I decided to walk there, and then I thought “I haven’t done a meditation in Somerville yet!”
I go through Somerville, and particularly Davis Square, almost every day. The Square is sort of the cool place to go now in the area after Harvard Square got so commercial. There’s a bunch of funky stuff, like the Somerville Theater, Johnny D’s, cool statues, and numerous other places. There are also great statues that everyone thinks about when they think of Davis Square. It’s the most densely populated place in New England, and is the home of Marshmallow Fluff! In 1997, Davis Square was listed by the Utne Reader as one of the fifteen “hippest places to live” in the United States.
It was quite bustling, and there were many people out in shorts and T-shirts (but usually not both, this is January!). It was just nice to have this warm up. I was just happy to be outside on a great day. I tried to be as meditative as I could on a beautiful day, but realized that I needed to just be present and observant when there’s so much action.
So, can you be present when there’s a lot going on? What do you do to help you keep present?
As I mentioned in my last post, I was doing my walking mediation through the fields of Rock Meadow in Belmont, when the landscape changed from meadow to woods, and I soon saw a bridge up ahead on the path. As I got to it, I found that this was Beaver Brook and that the bridge went from the Rock Meadow Reservation to the Beaver Brook Reservation in Waltham. My little brief walking meditation was all of a sudden going to get longer. I could get two municipalities in in one day! Score!
I have a history in Waltham. My mother was born there, and I lived there for two years myself, not far from the Beaver Brook Reservation, but I hadn’t investigated it. It was striking that it became wooded quite quickly after crossing the bridge from Belmont, and it had your classic New England topography with drumlins and eskers. There were a number of mountain bikers on the trails, and all the trails were rocky (as is usual for New England). As there was no snow on the ground, it was easy to find footing.
Also surprising was to find a fully decorated Christmas tree in the middle of the woods! Someone had extra time on their hands. It brought a smile to my face!
I worked at breathing and trying to watch, listen, and just be present to what was around me. Waltham is technically a city, but this area was as rural as you can get, which is a nice little gem to know about so close to my house. The sun was going down and I had to take about 30 pictures of me laying down on the bridge to try to get my face and the words etched in the bridge in the same shot.
So, have you changed your plans to take advantage of an opportunity, or do you always stay on schedule?
Today has been a recovery day for me. I spent most of the day inside, as it’s been a bit chilly outside, and I’m just working at integrating myself after my retreat back into my day-to-day life here. I’ve still got a lot of laundry to do, but I’ve also done my breathwork, yoga, morning pages, and I’ve gone out for some walks. We have had a very mild start to winter, and there has been hardly any snow that’s fallen, and none that’s stuck to the ground. I know that our municipalities are happy to save money on plowing!
I did decide that I should take this opportunity to get out and add to my list of towns for the Challenge. As this Challenge is evolving, I am finding that I want to use this opportunity to not only go to new towns and cities that I’ve never visited, but to also go to new places in towns where I’ve known for a long time. By the time I decided to do it this afternoon, I didn’t have too much time to travel, so I decided to go to Rock Meadow in Belmont, which is the next town over from me. I had always seen it from the road while driving, but had never been there myself.
I learn upon starting my walking meditation there that it used to be a farm, was owned by McLean Hospital, and was the site of victory gardens during World War II so that people could grow food. The are still victory gardens there, although they are dormant at this time of year, but I was surprised at how big it was. Most of the area is an open meadow, and it makes you think of places that you would see in an Jane Eyre movie of the English countryside.
After meditating and walking for a while, I came upon a surprise. (See the next post to find out what!)
So, have you made room in your life for surprises to happen to you?
Today feels like winter has finally come to New England after a very mild November and December. The high temperature should still be below the freezing point, and while it’s very sunny out, it’s the type of day you want to just stay inside. I’ve been cleaning and cooking in preparation for a gathering at my place this afternoon, but wanted to at least get out for a little bit.
One of the reasons for this challenge is to push myself to go to places that I wouldn’t otherwise. This was a great opportunity, so I went to the Mystic Lakes Reservation in Winchester, which is a short ride from my house, but would be nice a quite and give me the chance to be out in nature. I decided that this should be a walking meditation, as it’s really cold out! It was nice and there weren’t many other people outside. By moving and meditating, I focused on what was around me, my falling footsteps, and what I could see. I’m still working on it and distracted by too many thoughts but this was a nice respite from my planned day.
So, what new things are you trying today?