Friday, August 10, 2012

Mindful = Peaceful = Good for You.

The Garden at the Gropius House, Lincoln, MA              Copyright Lynn Schweikart
When I began doing the research for my book, Peaceful Places Boston, I noticed that I'd often come away from my excursions feeling calmer, yet more alive. I was so focused on experiencing every place I visited on a deeper level than normal -- paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells, as well as to the physical sensations I was feeling: the warmth of the sun, the softness of a sea breeze, the taste of salt air, the coolness of the grass beneath my feet. It was like I slipped into a heightened sense of awareness.  Of course, it was a different kind of awareness; it was mindfulness.

I've been reading a great deal about mindfulness recently. How mindful eating can help you with weight control. How mindful meditation can change the structure of your brain and reduce stress and increase well-being. And I've become more convinced than ever of the connection between being mindful and feeling peaceful. So next time you find yourself needing a little calm and tranquility, find a place where you can escape from the hustle/bustle and open yourself to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of the place, even for just 10 minutes or so. (My book can help you find more than 100 of them in the Boston area!) I think you'll find it can be very rewarding.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pastel Demonstration: Tomorrow Copley Society of Boston

On the Cusp Jeanne Rosier Smith (Image Detail)
The Copley Society of Art Gallery on Newbury Street is one of my favorite Back Bay Galleries. It offers a peaceful respite from the craziness that can envelop that section of Newbury Street, especially in the summer tourist season. There are two main galleries, as well as the somewhat secret "red room", which right now is hosting Nancy Colella’s summer solo exhibition Beach Peeks. (How I wish to Co|So, as it's affectionately called, would install a bench or a couple of seats to settle into while you admire the art!)

In reality, Co|So is more than just a gallery. It's actually the oldest (1879!) non-profit art association in the United States. Today, it has more than 500 artist members, from students to nationally-recognized artists, representing every just about every style of art, from traditional and academic realists to contemporary and abstract painters, photographers, and sculptors.

Tomorrow is a great time to get acquainted or reacquainted with the Copley Society of Art. From 1 to 3 p.m., Artist Jeanne Rosier Smith will give a demonstration on how to paint a wave in pastel. (Her pastel On the Cusp, shown above, won fourth place in in the Co|So's Summer Members' Show: New England Perceived, juried by Fuller Craft Museum Director Jonathan L. Fairbanks.) To see more of her work, click here.

The Copley Society
158 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Complex Questions of Existence...Quietly Dressed in Feathers and Flight"

Snowy Egret -- Great Marsh, Rowley, MA      Copyright: Lynn Schweikart 2011
Birding is one of my favorite peaceful activities. Whether it's an early May morning at Mount Auburn cemetery or just about anytime in the vicinity of Plum Island, I can't think of anything more relaxing and rejuvenating than wandering about with binoculars and bird book in hand.  Best of all, birding is something you can do anywhere -- in my garden on Marlborough Street in the Back Bay, I've seen chickadees, robins, cardinals, goldfinches, warblers, thrushes, even a red-tailed hawk. 

So it was with great pleasure that I started reading Laura Jacobs' wonderful article, "Knowing a Hawk From a Handsaw" on the online version of The Wall Street Journal. Jacobs provides a valuable service in reviewing the pros and cons of the six primary field guides to North American birds, including the venerable  "A Field Guide to the Birds" published in 1934 by Roger Tory Peterson, which she likens to Emily Post's "Etiquette" and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in that all three "opened the door to a rarefied world of patterns and facts, inviting the ignorant and the ambitious alike to take part in something that had previously seemed impenetrable or academic—or the province of a leisured class."

But more than just a guide to the guides, Jacobs has written a homage to birding itself. and provided some powerful insights as to why this has become such a popular pastime: "the cyclical nature of birding, its concentration on the horizon and the sky, its unanswered questions about migration, speak to unknowns, to the unthinkables in life: time and loss and life span. Birds bring us these complex questions of existence, but quietly, dressed in feathers and flight." 

I found myself nodding in agreement with her conclusion: "Deep beneath the social, competitive, aesthetic and poetic attractions of birding is a longing, not for Eden, where nothing was yet named and knowledge was unnecessary, but for a role in nature's mystery play, where to tell a hawk from a handsaw is a matter of life and death."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Can't We Give Peace a Chance?

If ever there was an incentive to wish for peace in the world, this sad, yet moving sight provides it. In commemoration of Memorial Day, 33,000 flags were planted on Boston Common; one for every soldier from Massachusetts who died in service of our country, from the Civil War to the present day.

Families and friends of the fallen are encouraged to visit during the weekend and place mementoes and photos beside their loved one's flag, adding a personal dimension to this stirring memorial. More than 200 volunteers from the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund spent most of last Wednesday putting the flags in place.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Garden Spot in Copley Square

St. Francis Garden, Trinity Church  ©Lynn Schweikart
On my way home from a meeting, I paused for a few moments to savor one of my favorite peaceful places: the St. Francis Garden at Trinity Church.

I sat on the low stone wall at the garden's edge and watched the sparrows cavorting in the birdbath -- lots of chattering and splashing! The garden itself is a dazzling display of green and white. The roses are in bloom, the hostas and hydrangeas, in full bud, are getting ready to join the show.

This tiny oasis is planted and lovingly cared for by members of the congregation and the church's facilities staff. It's been regularly honored in the city's annual garden contest.

A few moments of quiet refreshment: listening to the fountain, delighting in the gentle breeze, and the coolness of the granite beneath me.