Trinity Church ~ A Back Bay Treasure

While my son was visiting colleges in the Boston area, I took some time to explore the Back Bay area.  Wonderful shops, dining, and history; a mix of old and new.

Trinity Church, Back Bay of Boston

Trinity Church is one of the old treasures of the Back Bay. On a quiet weekday afternoon, I took a self-guided tour of this sacred space, and enjoyed some quiet reflection time, alone in the sanctuary.

If you are in the Boston area, take an hour or so, and savor the beauty of Trinity Church.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Exploring Boston: Another Public Library Gem

Given the interest in my post on New York’s Public Library, I thought some of you also may be interested in another public library of equal magnificence — the Boston Public Library, located in Boston, Massachusetts.  Boston’s library has the honor of being the first large public library in the United States, constructed and open to the public at its current location on Copley Square in 1895, after residing in smaller quarters elsewhere for its first 40 years.

The exterior of Boston's Public Library
The exterior of Boston’s Public Library

From the moment we walked up the marble steps and glanced through the large bronze doors, we were aware this building held many treasures, with the building itself a treasure and piece of stunning architecture designed to reflect the significance of this public resource.

Boston Public Library main entrance

We visited the library during Boston’s “First Night” activities on New Year’s Eve several years ago.  The library offered art and architecture tours as part of the city’s day-long arts and cultural festival.  Free tours are offered throughout the year, and the library’s website provides a convenient self-guided walking tour, from which I obtained many of the historical facts outlined in this post.

Marble mosaic in the entrance hall

Gracing the arched ceiling of the grand entrance hall were extensive marble mosaics, featuring the names of famous Bostonians. Walking toward the main staircase, arches and columns of yellow Siena marble framed beautiful murals in the upper hallway by the French painter Puvis de Chavannes.  He painted to depict the four great expressions of the human mind: poetry, philosophy, history and science.  An extensive recounting of the history behind this artwork can be found on the website for the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation.

Puvis de Chavannes mural in the hallway above the main staircase
Puvis de Chavannes mural, The Inspiring Muses Acclaim Genius, Messenger of Light, above the main staircase

I was fascinated by the marble lions, sculpted from unpolished Siena marble, sitting in contrast to the beautifully-veined yellow Siena marble lining the walls and banisters of the main staircase.  Each of the lions was erected as a memorial to a Massachusetts Civil War volunteer infantry regiment, one in honor and memory of the Second Regiment and the other in honor and memory of the Twentieth Regiment.

Marble lion memorial in honor of the Second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Marble lion memorial in honor of the Second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Marble lion memorial in honor of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Marble lion memorial in honor of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Our tour guide encouraged us to touch the tail of the lion honoring the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  While the lions were sculpted from unpolished marble, we could observe the result of thousands of hands “petting” the lion over the years, wearing its rough coat to the smooth, polished marble, a soft gold with striations of darker marble emerging from the rough outer coat.

One of the marble lions gracing Boston Public Library's main staircase
Veined marble shines through after innumerable hands have worn down the unpolished outer coating of the lion sculpture

I could not help but feel a sense of awe and wonder as we walked into Bates Hall, and I experienced a similar feeling as we walked into New York Public Library’s main reading room.  Boston Public Library’s Bates Hall was named after the original major contributor to the library:

Joshua Bates was born in 1788 in Weymouth,        Massachusetts. As a youngster growing up in Boston he spent as much time as the proprietors of the Hastings, Etheridge & Bliss’s bookstore would allow educating himself by reading books. Mr. Bates went on to become the senior partner of the great banking house of Baring Brothers and Company.

On October 1, 1852, after reading the first Annual Report published by the Trustees of the Boston Public Library, he wrote a letter to the Mayor of the City of Boston offering to donate the sum of $50,000 for the purpose of purchasing books for the new library. The only condition was that “the building shall be such as to be an ornament to the City, that there shall be a room for one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons to sit at reading tables, and that it be perfectly free to all.”

How can one not be inspired by such a tale of altruism and benevolence?!  Reflecting back through history, we are indebted to so many forward-thinking people such as Mr. Bates, who shared a portion of his wealth to invest in the greater good and future of his community.  In the words of Andrew Carnegie, a man who most people would agree left the legacy of the public library system in small cities and towns throughout the United States:

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Boston Public Library's Bates Hall
Boston Public Library’s Bates Hall

The stunning interior of the Boston Public Library did not end with its reading room.  The Sargent Gallery featured a mural painted by John Singer Sargent, titled Triumph of Religion.  It is a rather imposing work, reflecting the development of world religions.

Boston Public Library's Sargent Gallery

Boston Public Library's Sargent Gallery

As we descended from the Sargent Gallery on the 3rd floor, I enjoyed the views of the interior courtyard.  I am certain that on a warm, sunny day this peaceful courtyard practically insists that one sit and enjoy a book along its graceful perimeter.

The interior courtyard at the Boston Public Library

The interior courtyard at the Boston Public Library

Later that evening, as First Night activities continued throughout the city, the Public Library was the stage and backdrop for a festive light show, with snowflakes dancing on the exterior walls while colorful lights showcased the ice sculptures elsewhere in Copley Square.

Boston Public Library during "First Night" activities

The Boston Public Library is located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, on Copley Square, convenient to many other popular Boston sights.  It may not be an attraction that is on the tourist’s radar screen, but for anyone interested in art and architecture, or the historical significance of the country’s first major public library, the Boston Public Library is a worthwhile stop.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Unhappy Holidays? Focus on the “Stuff” that Matters

‘Tis the season for Martha Stewart-esque images of perfectly decorated homes, elaborate craft ideas shared on Pinterest, and a pervasive pressure to create the ideal holiday memory for your family.  Has the holiday to-do list already grown three heads and taken over your life as we countdown to Christmas over the next 30 days?  Have you asked yourself why you are doing each task and who really cares about it?  Not knocking it, as I certainly enjoy hauling down my bins of holiday decor, putting on the Christmas tunes, bringing in the fresh Christmas tree that fills the house with a wonderful aroma of pine, and fa-la-la’ing for an evening as the house is transformed into holiday central.  But, if I don’t watch myself, I certainly can turn into the monster with at least two heads at various points of the season, as “mom the martyr” emerges when the other members of the family (coincidentally, all other members of my household being of the testosterone variety) fail to get as giddy about some of the traditions as I do.

Christmas in Revere Park with Old North Church ~ Boston
From a Christmas we enjoyed away from the traditions of home ~ a serene evening scene in Boston’s Revere Park with Old North Church in the background.

Over time, I have tried to let go of that disappointment and modify expectations, which provides for a much happier household all season long.  Some things I do for myself and the pleasure I get from them, and that is enough.  By letting go of expectations and “must do” traditions occasionally, though, sometimes the most delightful doors open to new traditions and experiences.  As John Lennon said, Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  Don’t let those plans and to-do lists overshadow the potential happiness of the holiday season — it can be such a special time, and there is a certain magic in the air if we open ourselves to it.

Christmas Tree ~  A Special Present
A special present remained under the tree . . . notice the lack of ornaments on the lower part of the tree (life with two cats).

Speaking of holiday happiness, though, not everyone meets the season with glee.  For some, the season reminds them of family members gone or fractured relationships; for others, the increasing expectations of the season coincide with the shorter, darker days, culminating into the perfect “SAD” (Seasonal Affective Disorder) storm; and for yet others, the daily struggles they have do not diminish with the gaiety forced upon them from all sides, perhaps deepening their frustration with the hardships life has handed them.  I viewed this video today and felt compelled to share this moving story.  Whether you are struggling with health concerns, personal relationships, a fitness goal, or are just having a bad day, I dare say all of us can find a spark of inspiration in Arthur’s journey:

Be mindful of the things that matter during this holiday season.  If you fall off the happy wagon (I can assure you that I do at least once a day, just ask my husband and my teens . . . ), brush yourself off and hop back on (knowing you are not alone in these seasonal “bah, humbug” moments).  If you overindulged, rather than depriving yourself of the enjoyment or beating yourself up with guilt, simply hit the reset button, go for a nice long walk or run to help balance things out if you are able to do so, or start anew in whatever way you can (so says the blogger who ate way too much cheesecake this weekend).  If you are facing a goal or burden that seems overwhelming, and many days are two steps forward, one step back, then think of Arthur and his transformation, and take each day as it comes, one at a time.

I leave you with this thought as we countdown to Christmas, just a small excerpt from a classic Dr. Seuss tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Dear Santa . . . I will like the gifts I will get . . .
Dear Santa . . . I will like the gifts I will get . . .

The Grinch was wise indeed in recognizing that the true meaning of the holiday season comes from focusing on the “stuff” that matters — and that many gifts come already opened.  Isn’t that true of life throughout the year?

Ciao! ~ Kat