Saturday, March 1, 2014

Wonder and Tranquility: Star Island in Winter

For me, the Peaceful Places Boston research phase was an exciting time of discovery and reconnection. One of my most beguiling discoveries was Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, which lies just seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire. I was so captivated that I've been back twice, both times participating in one of the Star Island Corporation's many workshops: Star Harmony. On my most recent visit last September, I spent quite a bit of time in the bookstore, lingering over Small Island, Big Picture: Winters of Solitude Teach an Artist to See, Alexandra de Steiguer's book of photographs of the island in winter. (She has spent the past 16 winters there, mostly alone, working as the island's winter caretaker.)

De Steiguer's photographs all in black and white, are stunning -- illuminating the power of nature and the beauty of a place where the modern world has no way to intrude. I was particularly moved by her powerful writing, as she attempts to capture what it's like to spend winter after winter alone in this special place. (I was lucky enough to ask for -- and receive --  her book for Christmas!)

She writes:
    "Wandering through the shifting light that paints the features of this place, I see that each new moment presents its subtle differences, and I have come to realize that the sights never truly end, that being open to what is really here always reveals more than the expected. These nine small islands offer a valuable lesson; that the ability to see and to experience is limited only by what I think I know of a place – by my expectations. Wandering through the shifting light that paints the features of this place, I see that each new moment presents its subtle differences, and I have come to realize that the sights never truly end, that being open to what is really here always reveals more than the expected. These nine small islands offer a valuable lesson; that the ability to see and to experience is limited only by what I think I know of a place – by my expectations."

New Hampshire Chronicle recently did a segment on de Steiguer and her book. Here is a link to that piece, by Cindy Jones, producer, videographer, and editor:  It's a marvelous introduction to a wonderful artist and a magical place.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tickle Those Ivories!

Uploaded by Maria Rubio (New England Conservatory, Huntington Ave/Gainsborough St)
Don't know if you've heard about "Play Me, I’m Yours", an art project by artist Luke Jerram. Since 2008, over 1000 street pianos have been installed in 37 cities across the globe, bearing the simple invitation to Play Me, I’m Yours! The Celebrity Series of Boston is sponsoring the event here, running through October 14th.

75 pianos located in public spaces in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline are available for anyone to play and enjoy. All day today, the NE Conservatory's piano, located at the corner of Huntington and Gainsborough, will be played by the school's students, faculty, and staff -- rumor has it, there might even be free lessons for interested spectators.

Tonight, from 6:30 to 7:30,  Skye Schulte, the artist who painted the Prudential Center piano, will host a concert there.   Should be fun.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Two Peaceful Places Are Among the APA's 2013 Great Places

Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Springtime         All photos ©Lynn Schweikart 

Cambridge's Mt. Auburn Cemetery and the Norman B. Leventhal Park in Boston's Post Office Square have long been two of my favorite "peaceful places".  This year, both were recognized as Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association (APA). This designation is part of the APA's "Great Places in America" program, which according the their website, "celebrates places of exemplary character, quality, and planning". In my opinion, both Mt. Auburn and Post Office Square Park are perfectly wonderful examples of this.

Another view of Mt. Auburn Cemetery

As I describe the former in Peaceful Places Boston:

"The natural beauty of Mount Auburn--with its hills, dells, knolls, and ponds--inspires contemplative wandering. There are nearly 6,000 trees—600 varieties of 75 genera, most labeled and recorded—as well as some 250 species of shrubs and groundcovers. Awalk along Indian Ridge in spring is an olfactory delight as scents of magnolia, viburnum, lilac, and crab apple blossoms mingle in the air."

The fountain at Post Office 

Post Office Square is also a delight:

"The park’s 0.5-acre lawn is so lush that the groundskeeper at Fenway Park must be green with envy. Not only are you welcome to sit on the grass, but if you do, one of the helpful park attendants is also likely to hand you a cushion so you don’t stain your clothes. Someone was even thoughtful enough to install Wi-Fi! I haven’t experience such a meeting myself, but the scuttlebutt is that the park is a great place for single 24- to 32-year-old professionals to meet. Apparently more than flowers blossom here in Post Office Square." 

In 2010, another one of my Peaceful Places, Boston's Riverway, was honored with the "Great Places" designation.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Peaceful Stroll Through Convergence 2013

"Arabesque" by Eric Sealine                                      All Photos  ©Lynn Schweikart
Since early May, Boston's Christian Science Center Plaza has been the setting for Convergence 2013,  Boston's first outdoor exhibition of monumental, site-specific sculpture, co-sponsored by the Boston Sculptors Gallery (BSG) and The First Church of Christ, Scientist. The exhibit gets its name from the convergence of imagination and civic pride that inspired the more two dozen pieces created by BSG members. 

"Byzantium Gates" by Murray Dewart  
The Christian Science Center Plaza, with its gardens, fountain, and 670' long reflecting pool, has long been one of my go-to places to spend a few tranquil moments. It's also the perfect setting to pause and reflect on the remarkable artwork displayed here.  Some pieces peek out from between colonnades; others are playfully arranged near the fountain. Some exert a commanding presence; others must be searched for, like Easter eggs hidden in the landscape. 
"Poised" by Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein

"Poised", one of my favorite pieces, is a stunning 20-foot-high great blue heron, made of saplings  and wire by artists Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein. The day I was there, a variety of bird song burbled from deep inside the piece. "How clever!" I thought. Then I saw that songster was in fact a real live bird--a mockingbird--that was perched on one of the saplings that make up the heron's head.

If you're looking for a great opportunity to learn more about Convergence 2013, sculptors Eric Sealine and Michelle Lougee will host "Poetic Gestures and Material Surprises", a guided tour of the installations on Saturday, October 5th at 11 a.m. They will also give a talk about how the challenges of adapting their materials and practices to the scale of the plaza.   

The tour is free and open to the public. Just meet at the entrance to The Mary Baker Eddy Library, 200 Massachusetts Avenue in the Back Bay. Convergence 2013 will be on view through October 31.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Peace of Quiet.

One of my favorite peaceful (and quiet) places: the Moss Steps at Tower Hill --  ©Lynn Schweikart

As I write this, I hear the sound of a jet coming in low overhead. My great-grandmother's clock is ticking in the next room. The refrigerator and air conditioner are humming away. There are jet skis on Sagamore Creek. Quiet, it is not.

So naturally, a blog piece by acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton, who will be the guest this week on On Being with Krista Tippett, has me yearning for silence.

He writes:

"Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything...It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.
Silence is a sound, many, many sounds. I’ve heard more than I can count. Silence is the moonlit song of the coyote signing the air, and the answer of its mate. It is the falling whisper of snow that will later melt with an astonishing reggae rhythm so crisp that you will want to dance to it. It is the sound of pollinating winged insects vibrating soft tunes as they defensively dart in and out of the pine boughs to temporarily escape the breeze, a mix of insect hum and pine sigh that will stick with you all day. Silence is the passing flock of chestnut-backed chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, chirping and fluttering, reminding you of your own curiosity."

I'm looking forward to listening to his conversation with Krista this Sunday morning:  The Last Quiet Places: Silence and the Presence of Everything.  As for today, it's the 4th of July. I'm sure it will be anything but quiet.