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Travels in Massachusetts

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My first task on coming to Cambridge is to visit Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to meet with my editor and the new book’s designer about proofing the color of the book’s 500+ paintings. I thoroughly enjoy meeting with Lisa and Martha, and leave HMH with an armload of proofs to take home and pore over. I have the originals at home, so it’s me who will be doing the proofing. Yikes. I hope I can deliver as good a result as the pro's at Houghton. Well, I know my colors, and I have the originals right here, so I should get close.

I tromp through Harvard Yard carrying my proofs and come out on the plaza by the Science Center. Since I was in school here, Harvard has repaved the large dark asphalt plaza with white granite, which has proven to be a perfectly horrid choice. When the sun’s out, the granite reflects it upward,  to blinding effect. So anyone who wants to linger there has to be under a shelter, tent, or umbrella lest they be simultaneously blinded and roasted alive. I think it's the kind of thing you don't think about until it's all installed and you go, "Hey. I can't stand being out here."

Under some makeshift tents, I am delighted to find a farmer’s market in full swing. I drool over fresh-picked produce and wish I could buy it all. I can hardly believe my eyes. A farmer's market. In Cambridge. At Harvard.

Man, those are gorgeous eggplants.

Ohh Massachusetts blueberries. Wow. It's all I can do not to buy them, but I am on foot, heavily laden with color proofs.

Earlier in the day, I have delivered Liam to my niece Karen's care. He will spend the week in Rhode Island, hanging out with my two sweet and energetic grand-nephews. Giving Karen a little break.

Max considers his cousin Liam something of a god who walks the earth. Liam's coming to Boston was a surprise. Here, Liam is showing Max his Charlie card, for the public transit system. Max still can't believe his eyes. They would spend several magic days together, bonding as only boy cousins can.

On Tuesday evening, I gave my talk, "Situational Awareness and the Art of Disappearing," to a small but warm and wonderful crowd at Story Chapel in Mt. Auburn Cemetery. I composed a little poem to Mt. Auburn, and shared some of my photos of its many wonders before launching into the talk. 

I sold lots of books and notecards, and had a wonderful time. I like to end my talks with a song when I can, and the privilege of singing in that space was worth the flight to New England, worth driving in Boston traffic. 

When we came out of Story Chapel, the sky was doing this. 

Look at the light of this hour!

Much more on Mt. Auburn Cemetery's joys to come.

From there, on Wednesday July 22 I hied me to Harvard MA, about an hour west of town, where my dear sister Barbara lives. I gave a talk based on Letters from Eden for the Fruitlands Museum, a Shaker village nestled in the rolling orchard country of Harvard. Man, is it beautiful there. Once again, a small but devoted crowd, a beautiful space, a song, and best of all my two sisters Micky and Barbara there to cheer me up and on.  I don't have a photo of that because I had a show to do, and book signing afterward, and it just didn't happen. Dang it! I took this in the calm before the talk.

The next morning, July 23, I had to be in Topsfield MA at the fairgrounds by 9:30 AM to set up for a talk on bird gardening for the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscapers Association. Three in a row, all different talks, and all fresh and new. If you haven't heard as much from me lately, that's how come.

Another small crowd, great people, gorgeous weather, even a kingbird smacking a redtail circling in the sky overhead. I took a pretty difficult plant ID quiz along with all the professional landscapers and nurserypeople and got a respectable 79, which I'm told is enough to pass my Master Gardener's exam. Whee! I finished up there, and had a three-hour tooth and nail stop and start fight through Boston traffic to get down to Canton by dinnertime, to meet with some artist friends for dinner. Overnight in Canton, and on Friday morning July 24 I met with Amy Montague, Director of the Museum of American Bird Art about mounting an exhibition of my work. 

Hanging there now is a show of Don Eckelberry's paintings. This small museum is making quite a name for itself in the quality and variety of its shows. Amy is just the greatest, so knowledgeable, caring, energetic and a true visionary. I'm honored to be considered for a show there. It's been awhile since I've had one. Stay tuned for next spring!

After meeting with Amy Friday morning, I was leaving the museum grounds when I heard a robin scolding incessently. There was a red-tailed hawk perched smack in front of me in a dead tree. I couldn't have missed him if I'd tried. I know it doesn't look like much more than a white dot in this bad iPhone photo, but trust me. He was there, with a bullet.

Well, we all know that's my Dad visiting on my birthday morning. 

A redtail perches 
a robin cussing him out
The least observant
among us could not miss this.
I'm accompanied
Watched over with love
flown on summer-ragged wings
from the Great Beyond.


sounds like you had a great visit here in Boston. I didn't realize you came out here to talk, but I'll be watching your schedule from now on. I'd love to have seen you at Fruitlands - several of the attorneys in my office donate regularly to that Museum. I'm learning so much from your blog - I now watch the sides of the road on my commute from Boston to New Hampshire and I've spied tansy, wild chicory and other flowers you point out - I never knew their names before! Hope your son and his cousins had a great time.

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