Love Letter to the Arboretum

Every year, the grief I feel about the end of the summer becomes a little more soul crushing. My love for the sun was unrequited this summer, as I only made it to the beach twice.

Twice!

However, I did make it to one of my favorite places in Boston: the Arnold Arboretum.

Arnold Arboretum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I only seem to make it there a few times per year anymore. But its landscape never fails to welcome me like an old friend who has seen me at my best and my worst.

So many memories are entwined with its trees and its meandering pathways. Over the years, I’ve skipped along the pathways with a heart full of wonder. And I’ve stumbled down the same pathways with eyes full of tears.

I’m grateful for the peace and solace that the Arboretum’s trees and fields and flowers provide.

Arnold Arboretum

 

 

Arnold Arboretum

 

 

 

 

 

Arnold Arboretum

 

 

 

 

Arnold Arboretum

 

Arnold Arboretum

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Feeling Honored

A few months ago, I attended Chris Guillebeau‘s book reading at my local bookstore. He was promoting his new book about traveling to every country in the world, The Happiness of Pursuit.

The reading was great, and I left with a deep admiration for Chris and his work. I checked out his website and started reading profiles of the various members of his “Art of Non-Conformity” community. I thought, “These are my people!” Even though I haven’t done anything as bold and brave as many of the travelers and “quest-ers” profiled, I share in their spirit.

So when I noticed that he encouraged readers to submit their personal stories for travel or quest profiles, I decided to submit my birthday list idea. I’m not doing any too earth-shattering through the birthday list, but I do undertake a particular number of things in a finite amount of time. Every. Year. (For the last 11 years now. :))

I like to think that a “quest” in life can take any size. The point of a quest is to take on something new and in turn learn something new about yourself and the world in the process.

Chris and his crew accepted my idea and I am so honored to be profiled on his site! Thank you for the opportunity, Chris.

Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red

 

I hurriedly looked at some photos of Will and Kate at a beautiful installation at the Tower of London during a break at work the other day. The purpose of the installation didn’t register with me at the time. But then, a few days later, Abby sent me a link to photos on a different website. I read more about it and watched some videos about the installation.

And I found myself in tears.

The installation of 888, 246 ceramic red poppies commemorates the centenary of World War I. Artist Paul Cummins and his team are making every ceramic poppy by hand. And volunteers are helping “plant” them on the Tower of London’s grounds.

888, 246 poppies: one for each soldier in Britain and its empire who died in the first World War.

The poppies are for sale, with proceeds going to six charities. I was all set to buy a poppy until I realized that it would cost around $90 to have it shipped to the United States. It’s out of my price range at the moment. Even though I love Britain (those who know me know that is an understatement), I felt strange donating money to charities that are helping British vets when plenty of American vets need help.

*Light bulb appears above my head.* I would find a charity in the States that reunites soldiers with the animals they worked with or met while deployed.

Last month, I read this article about soldiers who are dog handlers, training and taking care of military working dogs who accompany them to sniff out IEDs. And a few weeks ago, I saw a TV news story about a soldier being reunited with a dog he worked with while deployed.

I’m a huge animal lover, so I CAN imagine how important these animals become to soldiers. Not only do the animals sometimes physically save the soldiers, but they also save them emotionally.

I also learned that some soldiers take strays under their wings during deployment. I just reserved this book from the library about a British marine who started a shelter for strays in Afghanistan. What an amazing story!

So I am making a small donation to Puppy Rescue Mission, in honor of all those who died in World War I. More than 30 million people.

I don’t believe that any of my relatives fought in this war. I found WWI draft cards for three of my great-grandfathers. One was 35 years old, one was 24, and one was 20. Did any of your relatives fight in World War I? How will you remember them?

Top 10: Part 2

 

So here is the long-awaited second segment of my top 10 birthday list items:

4. Age 36: Take a glassblowing class

There are a few standouts from this year. But in the end, I’m going with the glassblowing class, because it was the biggest surprise. Mary and I arrived at Diablo Glass School early on a Saturday morning, expecting to spend the morning sitting at a table with a blowtorch, making a small cat or flower.

I was not expecting to be Dale Chihuly. I was not expecting to put a long, heavy, metal rod into an oven that was a bazillion degrees and turn it for a length of time. And then sit down on a work bench made for right-handed people (I’m a lefty) and shape the glass into a circular shape with my right hand. (We made paperweights.)

We survived unscathed, which I still call a miracle. I have a nice albeit egg-shaped paperweight to display. Mary and I also walked away with a newfound appreciation for artists who work with glass. We eagerly watched Chihuly in the Hotshop afterward and visited his exhibit at the MFA, Boston, a few months later. The exhibit was phenomenal.

I’d like to try the blowtorch method someday. I think that’s more my style.

3. Age 37: Meet Andrew McCarthy

My friend Linda and I met Andrew McCarthy. He of Mannequin and Pretty in Pink and Weekend at Bernie’s. Did you know that he is a travel writer? I didn’t realize it either, until I saw that he was coming to the annual Boston Globe Travel Show.

I had noticed his name in the National Geographic Traveler magazine’s masthead, but hadn’t thought anything of it. It’s a common enough name.

Being a child of the ’80s I naturally love the man, so I counted down the days till the show. At the show, he gave an engaging talk about his new career in travel writing. Afterward, he was signing a new book that he had edited, but the line was daunting. So Linda and I walked around and visited some booths for maybe an hour. We headed back to where he had been signing books, and there he was. He had finished signing and was standing and chatting with people. Linda bought his book, and then there we were, talking with Andrew McCarthy. I don’t remember what I said, but it was something about his travel writing. He was very nice and seemed down-to-earth. Whenever I see his byline on a story in Nat Geo Traveler, I smile.

 

andrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Age 38: Geeked out on genealogy

This was another toughie, but I have three genealogy-related items on the list. And through them, I started a new lifelong hobby. I had dabbled in genealogy but embraced it full force last year. I attended an all-day genealogy workshop, became a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and had my DNA analyzed.

I’ve found out some very interesting things about my ancestors and have endless mysteries to solve. I have 408 people in my family tree on ancestry.com. People who have been researching for decades have thousands of people in their trees. Genealogy research could be a full-time job. It’s a job that seemingly never ends. I remember my shock at hearing a presenter at the workshop say that she’s been researching for 20+ years and still has family mysteries to solve.

I need to carve out more time for this research! I am determined to find out more about my mother’s maternal side, which is Italian. Everyone in the family is long gone, so it’s all about finding and combing through records…

1. Age 39: Three-way tie?

This year is difficult because I went to England and New York City. So I saw an absolutely amazing cathedral in Winchester, England…but I also went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island…

And if I had to choose something that I did at home, it would be HOLI!!! My friend Abby and I went to a Holi party and had no idea what to expect. It ended up being incredibly fun and I can’t wait to go again next year.

BONUS—————

I need a bonus because starting at age 31, I’ve traveled to a place I’ve never been every year. My favorite trip was the one I took to Aruba before my 31st birthday. It was my first time visiting the Caribbean. I went on a wonderful tour of the island, laid out on the beach for hours every day, explored Orenjestad, ate good meals, got a massage on the beach…blissful.

So that’s it, friends. I’ve done 345 new things over the past 10 years. Thanks to all who have accompanied me on this journey.

40 has to be a complete blowout…start sending your suggestions now! I do have my trip destination figured out already. Pretty sure that I am going to Hawaii because I have enough frequent flyer miles. Aloha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High School Daze

 

I’ve been visiting my high school years via memory lane this month, due to two recent and random events.

1. I went to a DIY framing shop to frame some posters a few weeks ago—one of which I had been holding onto for 20 years. I was a member of my high school chorus, and we went on a singing tour right after I graduated. It was a great experience. We had all fundraised for years, parking cars in parking lots and collecting cans and bottles from our neighbors. As we traveled around Austria and the Czech Republic, we sang in churches, we sang in public squares…we sang everywhere. We sang in a festival in Cesky Krumlov, and I brought a poster home with me.

DSC04236

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days after I framed said poster, a Facebook friend posted a photo taken during the trip. Can we say spooky? I hadn’t thought about or talked about this trip in years. Maybe a decade? Who knows.

2. Around the same time that I was framing the poster, I received an e-newsletter from the Humanist Community at Harvard. Last year, the organization gave its annual award to comedian/actor Eddie Izzard, whom I love. I attended the event, having never heard of humanism. I was just there for Eddie. During the program, I learned a bit about what humanism is and was intrigued. I signed up for the email newsletter as I left the event.

I receive its e-newsletters once in a while. I read them and think that I should attend an event. But I hadn’t gotten around to it. Until…

So the e-newsletter that appeared in my inbox a few weeks ago listed a few speakers that would be speaking at upcoming Sunday afternoon programs. I skimmed the content and came to an abrupt stop at the name “Sunny Jain.” I went to high school with a Sunny Jain, I thought. I read on: he is a leader of a world fusion band. Sunny was a great drummer in high school, I thought.

I headed to Google and searched for the band’s name, Red Baraat. Looked at the band’s photo and said to myself, yep, that was the Sunny I went to high school with. I attended his talk last weekend and spoke with him afterward. It was almost impossible to believe that I hadn’t seen him in 20 YEARS. He looked the same and he was just as friendly and easygoing as I remembered him to be.

These events have made me feel (a) much older than I usually feel and (b) grateful that I had an awesome high school experience. I’m sure I’m forgetting poignant episodes of teenage angst, but 20 years on, I remember those years fondly. I had many great friends, classmates, and teachers; I loved being a member of the high school chorus and rocking the props department for the school’s theater productions with my best bud, Dais. I got a job at Wegmans so I could afford to go to Italy with the Latin club, and went on the aforementioned trip with the chorus—which led to a lifelong love-bordering-on-obsession affair with travel.

I wouldn’t call myself a wildly lucky person, but I do feel lucky to have attended R-H. Do you have fond memories of high school?

 

 

 

 

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

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