Monthly Archives: August 2016

Excursion to Blithewold

I was longing to go on an outing, and at this time of year it would have to be to the water. Usually I go north, but last Saturday I decided to go south instead, to Bristol, Rhode Island and Blithewold, a beautiful summer house on Narragansett Bay. I had visited years ago and remembered liking the house very much. It was an easy drive from Boston, just over an hour, which included crossing two bridges in Rhode Island, one of them the long and lovely Mount Hope Bridge.

Blithewold 8-20-2016_small

from upper left: the view from the sleeping porch off the master bedroom, the view from the terrace, fish pond in the garden, waterfront looking north toward the town of Bristol, waterfront looking south, steps leading from the North Porch to the garden

Blithewold was built in 1908, to replace the Van Wickle family’s 1896 house, which burned down. It is considered to be one of the most authentic and intact examples of the Country Place Era in the U.S.  It was a time when wealthy Americans, who had not inherited country manors, built their own.  The architects, Kilham and Hopkins of Boston, were influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement in England. Continue reading


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Refuge at the Boston Public Library

August is one of my least favorite months every year. The heat gets very tiresome by now; the humidity takes all the wind out of my sails.  We had that fabulous cool June, and then Peter and I  were fortunate to be in Maine during the worst heat waves in July, although even Maine was hotter than I would have liked some of the time. Now August is being difficult, and I just want summer to be over and crispness to return to the air. I want the freedom to move around outside and live my life without being dominated by the oppressive weather.

Boston Public Library_McKim Building

Today I decided to escape to the library in Copley Square. We have only two air conditioned rooms at home, and I get tired of being cooped up in there; I realized I could take advantage of the library’s air conditioning and spend the day there instead. Shortly after a small breakfast, I took the air conditioned bus to Copley Square and went right into the library, where it was cool and quiet still in the morning.  First stop was the café, for second breakfast, a cup of iced tea and a cheese Danish (Friday treat).  While sipping the tea very slowly, I read my current library book, Diana Athill’s Alive, Alive Oh!, reflections of a 97-year-old English writer on what seems important as she looks back on her life–my kind of book.  I looked through the Globe on my phone, wrote an email to a former colleague who is still working while I’m blissfully retired, and looked at photos on the 365 Project, which I’ve recently started, all while luxuriating in having the whole day ahead of me to spend in the library in whatever way I wished–a play day!
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A Lovely Garden on a Rainy Day

Today I walked a few blocks to the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain to see the garden just after it had rained. They recently won a first prize in the Mayor’s Annual Garden Contest  in the category for organizations.*

Loring Greenough House Garden 2

It was a pleasure to stroll along the two long beds extending from the back door of the house and take pictures of the flowers with rain drops on them in the cool gray light. We’ve needed the rain so badly, although what we got wasn’t nearly enough. I worry about the farmers in Massachusetts in this drought, especially since I know some of them from the farmers markets where I’ve bought my produce for many years.

The Greenough House garden was looking green and lush, though, and most of the flowers were in the pink-lavender-purple range which is my favorite. I wish I knew the names of all the flowers, but alas… I don’t.

It’s nice that in recent years the Tuesday Club, which owns the house, has invited the public in to enjoy the grounds. There are chairs placed under the old apple trees, and it’s a delightful place to sit a spell and relax among the greenery and flowers right in the busy center of Jamaica Plain.

Chairs under the Trees

 * It must be mentioned that Andrew Hatcher, a board member, is the one who devotes countless hours to this garden, and I believe he has made it what it is. I heard him speak movingly about gardening at an event at the house last spring.

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Bayside, Maine

Carmel CottageWe spent two mid-July weeks in Bayside, our ninth year renting a cottage in this 19th century Methodist campground, now cottage colony, on Penobscot Bay just south of Belfast.  This year, after six straight years in Cameo Cottage, we switched to Carmel Cottage in Auditorium Park,  which was originally the location of the auditorium where the worship services took place. The cottages in this area are named after the Maine towns whose church members shared them in the summer: South Thomaston, Unity, Union, Rockport…

Carmel Cottage was the fourth cottage from the water and had a lovely view of  the bay, although not as spectacular as the 180 degree view we had at Cameo.

My favorite thing about Carmel Cottage was the porch, which had two classic New England rocking chairs at the corner where the most breezes could be caught. It was heavenly sitting and rocking and reading early in the morning or at sunset or any time of day. The porch was shady most of the day. Sometimes I listened to sacred music in my headphones as I rocked, which I guess was quite appropriate in this old Methodist campground.

View from Porch
I brought along a folding café table and two chairs so that we could have our meals on the porch.  I always bring a selection of blue-and-white dishes and some fine china and nice linens along to the cottages we rent, as they give me so much pleasure, and I wouldn’t enjoy eating on ordinary dishes. Breakfast in the fresh air at our little table was one of the best times of every day.

Several years ago I read a study of retirement from the Gerontology Department at U. Mass/Boston, and I remember that not everyone was happy about all aspects of being retired, but the one thing almost all retirees liked was a leisurely breakfast.  I have not had trouble with any aspect of retirement, unlike some of the people studied, but I agree that a leisurely breakfast is one of the nicest things. Every day is a gift, truly, and at breakfast the new day stretches out before me so luxuriously….  I refuse to hurry, after all those years of having to watch the clock and rush to get to work at 9:00. These days I seldom have to be anywhere at any particular time in the morning, and I can drink a pot of tea and talk with Peter about the day ahead or any other thing that comes to mind. In Bayside there was the fabulous cool morning air and the view of the water in addition to all the usual blessings.

Breakfast on Porch
We had many lunches on the porch too, on the days when we weren’t out and about.  The food tasted so good outside, and the iced tea was so refreshing. I do love black unsweetened iced tea when it’s hot.

Lunch on the Porch

I had a small tea most afternoons if I was home at the cottage. One day just before our time at the cottage was up, I finally got Peter to join me for tea and scones. Actually, he doesn’t drink tea, but he likes scones with cream and jam!

Tea Table on the Porch.jpg

The little streets of Bayside are lined with sweet cottages, all with porches. My dream house would definitely have a front porch. I wish I had been lucky enough to have one of these cottages passed down in my family. Many of the people in Bayside have been coming for decades, if not for generations, to their beloved cottages.

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