At the end of our first day in the Berkshires, we turned on Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, just in time to see our home team’s last-minute comeback over the Bruins to clinch the trophy. “You can put it to rest,” I kept saying to the set while Chicago trailed. “It’ll all be over if you can just get a goal.” Suddenly it was, as the Hawks surprised everyone by scoring two.
The Bruins, their fans, the announcers fell quiet. The jubilant Hawks lifted the gleaming Cup high. We whooped with delight, naughty as children, conscious of being in Bruins’ territory.
When it comes to flying, the return to earth is what I like best.
Then, the fretfulness I’ve struggled to subdue during my flight is buried in curiosity. An eagerness to be reunited with my planet takes over. As a detailed view of human life crystallizes, feelings of gratitude, relief, and wonder prevail.
I love seeing the earth from this godlike perspective. Far from making me feel all-powerful, seeing the earth from a plane is atomizing: I feel tiny and powerless, but in a true way. My appreciation for the land and all that humans have created on it intensifies. All their works are marvelous to perceive. From the air, evils are harder to see, and what order we’ve built up over time looks pure and lovely.
Today, the waters that define Boston were peaceful under a bright summer haze. Workers had already left their work. Making the best of a beautiful Friday afternoon, they were already sailing their boats or hurrying out of town for a getaway.
From on high, the boats were like small herds of flimsy origami. Up close, their substance appeared, cruising along the Charles and other waterways.
Over the centuries, painters have painted many scenes like these: the escape from the confines of land to the radiant openness of skies and seas.
Taxiing along past a placid seascape: Boston, hello.
Taped up on one of our kitchen cabinets is a postcard I once received from the Friends organization, acknowledging a memorial contribution I had made.
I look at it because it quells my contentious spirit. Like everyone else, I sometimes find it difficult to let go of my point of view. But it’s good to let go, because then I can connect with other people more fully, go through the days more peaceably.
I look at the children’s faces: at the shyness, fear, and uncertainty they express, along with a simple innocence and beauty. The viewer looks into their faces, at their strange garb, their powerless hands. And they look back at us, neither party at all sure of the situation.
As for the words, I like them because they are not an injunction. They are a simple assertion about the nature of life, about what life should be about, about our human duty. And that purpose—to love and help one another while withholding judgment—is expressed in just a few, clear, calm lines.
Looking at the Quaker meditation in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing comforts me. How different this world would be if we tried to live in the manner Isaac Penington suggests. The murderous rage pulsing through everyday life calls us to renew our quest for peace in our hearts and in the world.
May the souls of those killed in Boston by an unknown assailant rest in peace.
About a year ago, I was in Boston and visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the first time. It’s an amazing house museum crammed with stuff that Mrs Gardner collected throughout her life. The house itself is an impressive replica of a Venetian palace built to Mrs Gardner‘s specifications. Since her death in the first part of the 20th century, the house has been kept pretty much the way it was when she lived. I believe she specified in her will, for instance, that much of the artwork on the walls is not to be moved.
I found it a revelation to see this house. On the one hand, it was something unique to the Gilded Age that could never be replicated. Mrs Gardner was very wealthy, and she traveled all over the world and had people to buy her the best of everything—all kinds of art, antiques, and furnishings; decorative objects, statuary, religious relics, you name it.
On the other hand, I was most struck by Gardner’s offhand, almost modern sensibility, which was most evident in the spontaneous way the rooms were decorated, as in the blue room above, where various silks are hung in various ways on the walls, and paintings and mirrors hung atop them—not at all willy-nilly, but nonetheless in a distinctive way not often seen now. In one of the upper rooms of the house were hung many different types of lace window curtains and other examples of fine lace (much prized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).
The museum prohibits photography, so I bought this postcard, which I keep in my desk to look at when I need to be inspired.
Mrs Gardner went further with her re-purposing. The house itself incorporates many structural and decorative elements that she found and salvaged in various parts of the world. The elements of the house are global and include tiles, wrought iron, stone carving, and old wood from many historical epochs and countries. For a nineteenth-century woman, Isabella Gardner was unusually cosmopolitan and forward-looking, and much of what she was aiming for in her house is still cutting-edge now.
Have you ever been to her house? If so, I would very much like to hear what you thought. I would visit it very often if I lived nearby.
PS The museum was the scene of an infamous, unsolved 1990 art heist.