“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
John Keats was onto something.
My morning excursions take me through some of the loveliest byways that any urban thoroughfare could possibly offer. And yes, even me, the un-lover of spring, has been finding these April and May weeks intoxicating. Petals, blooms, glorious aromas, and bursts of color, at every turn. The warm sun on my skin. The trills of new birds passing through, migrants whose tunes I don’t remember from spring to spring, beyond that I know their songs are not the usual ones. Days that start early, and stay lighter, longer. I am feeling more awake, more attentive, more alive, and I have spring to thank for it. Well, spring, plus an end to chemo, and the relatively passive healing that comes with radiation.
I mentioned my zig-zag journey from home to treatment in my last post. I didn’t think of it until now, how my love of my meandering path is a complete contradiction to my desire to find the shortcut, the diagonal, the zippiest path from point A to point B. I’m both people, simultaneously—the one who is impatiently looking forward to what comes next and getting there, lickety split, and the one who is forever just plain looking—not forward or back, but here and there, fixated only on finding the good parts in the details that others pass by, unaware. I’m the one who walked home from my high school with my head down, spotting four leaf clovers with alarming frequency. I was also the downhill ski racer. I guess I’ve been at this for longer than I know.
Anyhow, these days, and particularly on my walks back home from treatments, I find myself more and more willing to slow down and pay close attention. I love that I can drink it all in, then pull out my phone and snap a photo, to share my little wonders with those near and dear to me.
Here you go.
This is an homage to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I love that he’s from both my homes–the one I’ve lived in for my entire adult life, as well as the state of Maine, where I was born and raised. The yellow house with the chimney in the background was his home for many years. This artful commemorative comes part way between the Longfellow homestead and the Charles River–a remarkable expanse of green that is, in fact, the only open space that stretches from Brattle Street to the riverbank. I love that this parkway was preserved. I’m guessing that when it was carved out as public space, it didn’t seem so extraordinary. It surely is today.
Tough light in the mornings, but you get the idea. I like the glint off Henry’s nose. That’s The Village Smithy behind and to the left, and The Spanish Student to the right. The light being lousy, I couldn’t get a good shot of the whole of his poetic subjects rendered in bas relief. Daniel Chester French designed and created this memorial–he of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, and also he of the Concord Minuteman at the Old North Bridge, the one with his hand on his plow. The man was talented.
Tough light indeed, but you get the picture. Ahem. That’s Evangeline and Hiawatha. Love his foxy belt.
From the Wadsworth memorial, I do some zigging and zagging until I get to the end of this little dead end. Which, lucky for me, connects to a secret passageway. Long ago, this portal transported me from midterms and dorm life and dining hall food, to the home of a friend who had cats and a cozy sofa and a kitchen for baking spice cookies. Oh, and a typewriter. Remember typewriters? That, and an endless supply of white-out.
Bless you, Stephanie, for letting me share your world with you, back in the day.
I love that there’s a lamppost along the way. No idea who pays that electric bill.
I only recently discovered that one secret path connects to another. This one gets me around the far edge of the American Repertory Theater, on the lobby side, where people hang out at intermission. Again, I’m not sure what entity maintains this little shade garden, but I surely am glad that someone does.
Back to regular streets. This honor system tabletop bookshop is a sunny day bonus. Five bucks gets you any hardcover book you like. Paperbacks go for considerably less. I love that the payment box also gives instructions for donating books. Just leave ’em under the table, of course! It’s like my tiny sidewalk library, with slightly higher fees.
Almost home. This is the foliage of my beloved Dawn Redwood, off the end of Memorial Church. It’s a tree covered with tiny little ferns. So unexpectedly delicate.
One last pathway. This winds around my back door neighbors’ house. When my boys were little guys, they had great adventures along this red brick road. These tulips are an annual treat for all of us who live on our little dead end, or park off it, as I do. Thank you, John and Sue, for this yearly riot of loveliness.
Back to John Keats. Here’s how that poem ends:
“And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.”