A few weeks ago a friend and his wife invited my husband and me to a tour of the Frederick Olmsted House in Brookline. We hadn’t seen this couple in a long time so it was nice to reconnect. We scored on getting a park ranger who knows his stuff and is passionate about his job. Before touring the home of the “the founder of American landscape architecture,” our ranger breaks down the philosophy behind Olmsted’s interest in designing outdoor spaces. Olmsted’s vision for reducing city living stress in the presence of nature resonates instantly. Listening to ideas, which extend to everyone’s access to this communication with nature, reflect civic and political implications of designing inclusive physical spaces for all. Central Park was Olmsted’s first major example of his vision but his touch expands to many other local green mere miles around where I live.
The house is impressive, and the archival work the National Historic Park Service is doing makes Olmsted’s work continue to live beyond the divisive times we’re currently experiencing.
But I buried the lede. It’s about nature. Visiting the historic park reaffirmed an uneasiness I’ve been having. I wanted to hit a giant pause. In my mind I designed a simple button, like the ones they have at Staples, that say “Easy.” Instead, my button would have a huge “Pause” icon on it. I’d press it and the whole world would freeze, kind of like in the Matrix. I just wanted a moment to get perspective and to hear an uninterrupted thought that helped me look forward. It had been a hellacious 3 years of non-stop life junk and I wanted a lifeline.
When a friend, who needed to leave her cabin in Vermont for a week, offered her home to us to use in her absence, I instantly said yes before looking at our calendar. I had missed out on the offer in previous years, because June happens to be a jerk of a month. It’s constantly battling me with its ultra-scheduling kung-fu and I alway lose. This time though, I made it work.
I’ve traveled to incredible places in my life, but I have to be honest with you here: I’ve never been so excited about any vacation before. When my friend, also a writer, described her log cabin in the woods, the land around it and – wait for it… a waterfall in the back yard – I knew I’d found my pause button. When I say waterfall, I am not talking Koi-pond waterfall. I mean, a nature-built-it type of beauty that soothes any brain and boy did my poor brain need soothing.
I packed every book I could imagine would fit into one tote. All of the titles, half started, not started, not looked at, ordered but not thought about in a couple of years or used as a coffee cup coaster instead, are here with me now. I have simple goals for this vacation: write something, read something, meditate using one of the many meditation apps I’ve download so far, and enjoy downtime with my family. So far so good.
On my second day here, I am writing this post. Not too bad! I’ve taken a long drive with my husband in search of perfect tomatoes on a roadside farm stand, but no luck there. Somehow the farms were all closed. We wound up instead at a cool health food store in Montpelier and got them there. During our long ride with our windows open, looking at the expanse of land, my breathing opened up and softened. We stopped off to the side of the road and picked up bunches of Queen Anne’s lace and placed them gently between my husband and me. He kept saying how happy I seemed. I was and I am. Thanks, nature.
I grew up in an island where there’s no shortage of communing with nature. Ocean breeze, bright night skies dotted with clear stars, salt water, exotic plants and fruits, were just every day of the week occurrences. People say that Dominicans are on “island time” which is true. I wonder if it’s because they live around so much natural beauty there might never be a need to press pause.