JP A to Z: A is for Arboretum #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


A is for Arboretum

Our first day in Jamaica Plain for JP A to Z brings us to the Arnold Arboretum.  A link in the chain of green spaces that make up Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the “Ahbs” is part Harvard University tree museum.  Whether you’re studying trees (or the animals that inhabit them) or just going for a walk or bike ride, Arnold Arboretum is a place enjoyed by JP residents in all four seasons.

Post for “A” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.
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Book Review: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald


Author: Helen Macdonald
Title: H is for Hawk
Narrators: Helen Macdonald
Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2015)
Summary/Review:

After the death of her father, Macdonald works through her grief by adopting and training a young goshawk, Mabel whom she calls “Thirty Ounces of Death in a Feathered Jacket.” This lyrical book is part memoir and part reflections on nature. It also is informed by T.H. White’s The Goshawk. While I’ve never read that book The Once and Future King and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s biography are among my favorite books, so I appreciate the back door biography of White. And I can’t help but love Mabel. 

Recommended booksT. H. White: a biography by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell.
Rating: ***

Photopost: North River Wildlife Sanctuary


On Sunday, as a pre-birthday activity, my family & I visited the North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, MA.  While the kids weren’t so into out (excepting the nature play area which was a lot of fun), the scenery was quite beautiful on a mid-Autumn afternoon. There were two loops to walk: one through Woodlands and one that circled a meadow and lead throught the phragmites to the North River itself.  Here’s a sampling of my best photographs from the outing.

Photopost: Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary


Some photos from the beautiful Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, home to gorgeous woodlands, fields, and marshes that feel a 100-miles away from the city.

Related Posts:

Book Review: How To Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson


Author: Scott D. Sampson
TitleHow To Raise a Wild Child
Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Summary/Review:

Dr. Scott of Dinosaur Train fame wrote this book about how parents and other concerned adults can inspire children to “Get up, get outside, and get into nature.”  This grew from the concern over the increasing disconnect of children from nature – known as “nature deficit disorder” – that has negative consequences both for children’s development and for the environment.  Sampson writes of his philosophy and gives tips on how parents can share their love of nature, mentor them, and help them tell their own stories.  It’s a great book, probably worth a reread to distill the advice to practical everyday use.
Favorite Passages:

“Our present dysfunctional worldview is founded on an erroneous perception: the existence of humanity outside nature. Despite the fact that nature provides the raw materials for our economy and that we clearly live on a finite planet, economists continue to regard the natural world as a subset of the economy, and speak of limitless growth. Yet the opposite is clearly true: our economy is a part of nature, as evidenced by the dramatic economic effects caused by topping ecological limits. A second, closely related perception is human dominion over the natural world. Seeing ourselves as external and superior to nature, we feel entitled to exploit natural “resources” at will. Adrift in a sea of objects, we’re left without any meaningful home, let alone a desire to protect and nurture the places we live.”

 

“In this book, my use of the term wild child refers to something entirely different—a child sharing deep connections with nature and people. Both kinds of connections are literally impossible without healthy mentoring from adults. We are social beings and, as we’ll see, connections with the natural world are strongest when a youngster has multiple mentors. Nature connection thrives alongside people connection.”

 

“Among mammals, only the Norwegian rat even approaches the global range of humans, co-occurring with us on every continent except Antarctica (though, it must be added, rats accomplished this feat by hitching a ride on our ships).”

 

“When many people think about helping children to connect with nature, they imagine themselves striding purposefully out into the wild, child in tow, to teach the youngster how to chop wood or use a GPS or go fishing or whatever. Certainly some elements of mentoring entail exactly this kind of one-on-one instruction. But the vast majority of the time, it’s best to follow the child’s lead. Kids of every age have innate longings that manifest themselves outdoors. Your job is to determine what those longings are and feed them. So, difficult though it may be, the better option most of the time is to push gently from behind rather than to pull from in front. Take your cue from the original Mentor, guiding from the back of the boat. Your reward will be watching the child’s eyes light up with curiosity, propelling him to the next mystery.”

 

“In the end, nature mentors take on three distinct roles. First is the Teacher, the person who conveys information. Second is the Questioner, the one always seeking to ask that next query to pique curiosity and engagement. Third is the Trickster, the clever Coyote who hides in plain sight, able to leverage a child’s longings to stretch edges. The most effective mentors limit their role as Teacher, focusing instead on embodying both Questioner and Trickster. The great news here is that you don’t need to be an expert. The bad news is that you’ll often need to stifle the urge to offer answers and think instead about how you can extend the learning experience with a provocative question.”

 

“But here’s the most important thing. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will spark your child’s passion for nature more than your own embodied passion for the natural world.”

 

“So if we continually exchange matter with the outside world and if each of us is a walking colony of trillions of largely symbiotic life forms, exactly what is this self that we view as separate? You’re more bipedal colony or superorganism than isolated being. Metaphorically, to follow current bias and think of your body as a machine is not only inaccurate but destructive. Each of us is far more akin to a whirlpool, a brief, ever-shifting concentration of energy in a vast river that’s been flowing for billions of years. You’re not merely connected to nature through the web of life. You’re interwoven with it, living in constant exchange with the natural world through your skin, your breath, your food, and the countless microbes on and in your body.”

 

“Consider this thought experiment. If you were tasked with designing the ideal learning environment for children, do you think you would ultimately opt for four-walled rooms where students are required to sit quietly for long periods, ingest streams of facts in one-hour gulps, and endure incessant testing in hopes of receiving good grades? Whatever your answer, I’m quite certain that few kids would vote for such a system.”

 

“In contrast to the careerism (“learn to earn”) model of schooling currently dominant, place-based education is grounded in values such as community, sustainability, and beauty—promoting exactly the kind of radical shift required if we are to renew the human-nature bond and preserve a viable planetary ecology and economy. Innovative educators have shown again and again that local surroundings provide an engaging context to communicate virtually any topic, from history and math to reading and science.”

 

“One of Sobel’s mantras is “No tragedies before fourth grade.” Too often we teach young children about climate change, species extinctions, and vanishing habitats before they’ve even had a chance to connect with the natural world. Rather than engagement, the result is often alienation, with children feeling a great sense of loss and pessimism about the future. So, before we burden kids with the crises of our time, let them establish a bond with nature. Once they care, protection will follow.”

 

“Seek out stories from the lore of indigenous peoples native to where you live. These tales are frequently grounded in local nature: plants, animals, and landforms. They often convey memorable narratives of how particular animals got their names, of plants used for medicinal purposes, and of places held sacred. And they typically embody a spirit of deep nature connection, with humans fully embedded in the web of life. One example is North American Indian Tales, by W. T. Larned. Think about using stories like these as an entry point to understanding the native peoples that lived in your region prior to the arrival of Europeans.”

 

“Several years ago, I received a phone call from an executive at the Hollywood-based Jim Henson Company. She told me that they were creating a new educational television series aimed at preschoolers, with dinosaurs as the main hook, and she asked if I’d like to get involved. The ensuing conversation went something like this: “What’s it going to be called?” I asked. “Dinosaur Train,” she replied. “What?” I stammered. “You can’t call it that.” “Why not?” she asked calmly. “Because dinosaur paleontologists like me have to remind people regularly that humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time. Sticking them together on a train just perpetuates the myth.” “No problem,” she said. “We’re only going to put dinosaurs on the train.” I paused, took a deep breath, and blurted out, “Well, that’s just brilliant.”

 

Recommended booksFifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca Cohen, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv,  Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Fifteen Minutes Outside by Rebecca P. Cohen


AuthorRebecca P. Cohen
TitleFifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids
Publication Info: Sourcebooks (2011)
Summary/Review:

This book exists because parent Rebecca Cohen asked herself: “What if I got outside every single day, and what if I could get my kids to come along? It would be easier to pull this off in the middle of summer, but what if we did it all year round, no matter what the weather was like?”

This book provides a different activity for children and parents to do outdoors for each day of the year.  The book presumes one has a large yard and a mild climate (the author lives in Virginia), so one may have to adapt a few things to one’s own circumstances.  Cohen is also really into gardening so probably about a quarter of the suggestion have to do with planting, weeding, and harvesting vegetables.  Nevertheless, this book is chock full of creative suggestions to make spending time outdoors a fun daily activity varying by season.  As a parent, it’s good to have a reference to help get started because sometimes you just can’t think of a convincing reason to go outside, especially when it’s too cold or too hot.

I listed some of my favorite suggestions below.  One may also download  “50 Outdoor Activities for Busy Families” from Cohen’s website (email required).

Cohen also provides a number of websites to go to for more ideas:

Favorite Passages:

“While your kids are outside enjoying sunshine and physical exercise, why not have them exercise their imaginations as well? Encourage them to climb a hill and pretend it’s Mount Everest, build a fort with tree branches, or prepare a pretend feast using leaves as plates and wild berries as the main course. Ask them about stories they are reading at school and at home, and join them in acting out their favorite parts. Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series is perfect for this, but there are hundreds—even thousands—of great children’s books (and movies and even video games) to draw on. Folk tales like “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and “The Gingerbread Man,” or children’s favorite board books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury are a great place to start.”

“Close your eyes and have your child lead you to a tree. Use your senses—touch, smell, and hearing—to learn all you can about your tree. The bark will have its own texture, tiny buds may be forming on branches, and the trunk will be easy or hard to get your arms around. With your eyes still closed, have your child lead you back to where you started. Open your eyes and try to find your tree. Now it’s your child’s turn!”

“A female entrepreneur once told me that when she was a kid, her mom would tell her to sit under a small tree and have small thoughts, and then sit under a big tree and think big thoughts. Try it with your kids, and have fun discovering what each of you thinks about.”

“Some days are so dreary, you find yourself wishing for even a little brightness and beauty. Trust me, even in February, it’s out there—but sometimes your family has to work together to find it. Bring in everyone’s perspectives and head out to find something that is beautiful. Each person’s job is to look until they find something in nature that they like and to share why.”

“Red-tailed hawks mate in March and April and usually make their nests in the tallest trees, and they might even take over a nest that a great horned owl used in January and February. I learned this tip from David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. And sure enough, for several days in March I heard loud and unusual birdcalls. When I looked up, there were hawks locking talons in flight. Find out from your local nature center when to look for hawks.”

“As the leaves fill the trees, it may not be as obvious that there are large sections or large branches that have fallen from trees. As you walk, notice fallen branches; see if your child (perhaps with your help) can find which tree a specific branch fell from by looking.”

“A cousin in France once said that she did a sociology experiment in college and asked people to purposefully look up and around for a day. What she found was that it not only opened people’s perspective to the physical beauty around them, but also to a more psychological openness of possibilities. Take this idea into play with your child when you walk outside and start looking at what is above your eye level, and take turns pointing out what you see.”

“This one is adapted from a tennis camp game, and it works whether you have two people or ten. The “coach” throws a tennis ball across an imaginary line to each person standing and lined up in a row facing the coach. If you do not catch the ball each time the coach throws it to you, you lose a limb (e.g., put an arm behind your back, then stand on one foot or sit down, until finally you have no limbs left and are out). The last person left wins and becomes the coach.”

“Pick a day every week to go out to the same spot with a notepad and pencil and write about or draw the changes you notice that are taking place in nature. Or keep a notepad and colored pencils in the car for your child to sketch the changing landscape as you travel around. Have them present their art to you, and write down their story beside their art if they can’t do it themselves.”

Recommended booksGet Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland
Rating: **

Photopost: Wachusett Meadow


For Father’s Day this year, we once again visited one of the most beautiful places on earth, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA.  I guess it’s a tradition now.

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Frog on a log. Far fewer than we saw last year.
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We had no idea what these red bumps were so we showed this picture to the naturalist. He believes it’s the remains of a slime mold.
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Looking out over the Beaver Pond.
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Daisy in the meadow.
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The Meadow changes with every step as the contours shift with a new perspective.
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Purple flowers (I’m an archivist, not a botanist, all right!)
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More wildflowers.
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The stone wall, a New England tradition.
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Frog on a lily pad.

Previously: Photopost: Wachusett Meadow (2012)

Book Review: Cape Cod by Henry David Thoureau


Author: Henry David Thoureau
TitleCape Cod
Publication Info: New York, NY : Penguin Books, 1987 [originally published in 1865]
ISBN: 0140170022
Summary/Review:

This book collects essays Thoreau wrote on several trips to Cape Cod and was published after his death.  Thoreau’s great journeys were rarely far from his home in Concord, and yet the descriptions of every day detail are as if he’d traveled around the world.  No more so than his writing about Cape Cod which after a century and a half of time passed sounds like it could’ve been a journey to Mars.  The writing is beautiful whether he’s describing a shipwreck, beachcombing, or the people who populate the sand-covered villages.

Rating: ***1/2

Photopost: Wachusett Meadows


We celebrated Father’s Day with a hike around the beautiful Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA.

Related Posts:

Book Review: Get Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland


Author:  Judy Molland
Title: Get Out!: 150 Easy Ways for Kids & Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future by Judy Molland
Publication Info:  Minneapolis, MN : Free Spirit Pub., 2009.
ISBN: 9781575423357
Summary/Review:  This book is a short reference book with a list of 150 suggestions of what children and families can do to experience nature and participate in environmental conservation.  I was a bit disappointed that the book is literally a list with just a few paragraphs per item and that it is less about “what kids can do outdoors” than “things you can do to save the Earth.”   Not that that is a bad thing, it’s just there are many other books on that topic.  Still, this could be a good reference to keep on hand for parenting ideas regarding nature and the environment.
Rating: **

Lilac Sunday


Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum.  We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals.  Here are a few photos.

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Photopost: Franklin Park Zoo


A few animal portraits from a holiday Monday visit to Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo.

It was completely unexpected to see a Black Swan at the zoo.
Crowd of Budgie birds at the new Aussie Aviary.
An attractive blue Budgie.
Another attractively colored Budgie.

FREE Tour of Jamaica Pond on Saturday!


Saturday June 19th at 11 am, meet at the Jamaica Pond Bandstand near the intersection of Pond Street and Jamaicaway for a 90-minute tour around Jamaica Pond.   Yours truly will be one of the guides for this Jamaica Plain Historical Society walking tour.

Official description of the tour from the JPHS website:

Once a gathering point for Boston’s elite, the Pond had previously been put to   industrial use as tons of ice were harvested there each winter. Learn about the movers and shakers such as Francis Parkman who made their homes on the Pond’s shores. Discover how the Pond was transformed from private estates and warehouses into the parkland we know today.
Leaves from the Bandstand, Pond Street and Jamaicaway.

Come join us for a fun and informative tour.  Last year I lead this tour for 27 people and 4 dogs.  It should be a nice escape on a hot day.  Don’t forget that the price of this tour is FREE, although you may want to sign up for a JPHS membership starting at $15.

Audubon Nature Festival


Today we attended the 13th Annual Audubon Nature Festival at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, MA.  It was a great family event with a great number of activities for young children.  Not that my young child took much interest in a lot of the activities, but that’s okay.  Sometimes it’s just as fun to run up and down the path.

The highlight of the festival were the presentation by Eyes on Owls.  The wife-husband team of Marcia and Mark Wilson brought their menagerie of live owls for display and discussion.  It was a very interactive program and many audience members came up to practice their owl calls.

The video below shows the Wilsons at work in a program very similar to what we saw today.  My owl photos follow:

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Related post:

Book Review: Central Park in the Dark by Marie Winn


Author: Marie Winn
Title: Central Park in the Dark
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
ISBN: 9780374120115 

Summary/Review:

This series of essays follows Winn and her cohorts over a decade spent observing the wildlife of an urban place, New York City’s Central Park.  Winn tells of encounters with red-tailed hawks, grackles, moths, slugs, robins, and owls and brings to life the excitement of waiting patiently to be there for the fly out of your favorite bird.  The title comes from the need to be in the park before dawn or after sunset to observe the natural goings-on, something that is perceived as a dangerous thing to do.  There are a lot of elements to this book that make is natural for me to like – New York, Central Park, quirky people with unusual hobbies, discovering the unexpected in a very accessible place – and yet I didn’t like the book as much as I want to.  Perhaps its the heavy detail offered by one who’s into intensive scrutiny whereas I just want a general overview or perhaps its the bad jokes that get less funny with repetition.  One things for sure, this book is best read like birding – slowly and with great patience over many days, not rushed through.

Recommended books: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, Outside Lies Magic by John Stilgoe, and Pigeons by Andrew Blechman
Rating: **1/2

FREE Tour of Jamaica Pond on Saturday!


The Jamaica Plain Historical Society debuts its newest neighborhood tour of Jamaica Pond this Saturday, June 27th at 11 am.  The 90-minute walking tour will discuss the residential, industrial, and recreational history of this scenic gem.  The tour departs from the bandstand near the intersection of Pond Street and Jamaicaway, and yours truly will be one of the guides.

Jamaica Pond Panorama, copyright Steve Garfield.  From Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Jamaica Pond Panorama, copyright Steve Garfield. From Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Official description from the JPHS website:

Once a gathering point for Boston’s elite, the Pond had previously been put to industrial use as tons of ice were harvested there each winter. Learn about the movers and shakers such as Francis Parkman who made their homes on the Pond’s shores. Discover how the Pond was transformed from private estates and warehouses into the parkland we know today.

Come one come all and get some fresh air after being cooped up inside all these days.  Don’t forget that the price of this tour is FREE, although you may want to sign up for a JPHS membership starting at $15.

Boston Walking Tours 2009


Last year I posted a list of walking tours in the Boston area in hopes of encouraging people to get out and explore the history, architecture, culture, topography, and nature of the area.  I’ve updated the list and links for 2009, once again giving primacy of place to the two organizations in which I volunteer to lead tours.

Boston By Foot – Boston’s premier walking tour organization is well worth becoming a member to take advantage of free tours, discounted special tours, and members-only events.  Check out the Boston By Foot Meetup Group as well for unique tour announcements.  I’ve highlighted the tours that I guide in bold below, although many other wonderful guides also lead these tours.

Seven classic tours take you around historic Boston:

  • Beacon Hill
  • Boston By Little Feet
  • Boston Underfoot
  • Heart of the Freedom Trail
  • Literary Landmarks
  • North End
  • Victorian Back Bay

Make sure to check out special Boston Harborfest tours offered June 30-July 5:

And don’t miss the special Tours of the Month offered on the last Sunday of each month at 2 pm:

Jamaica Plain Historical Society – 1 hour tours every Saturday morning at 11 am (Jamaica Pond tour is 90 minutes).  Again, the tours in bold will be led by yours truly.

Tour Date Location Tour Date Location
June 20 Woodbourne August 22 Jamaica Pond
June 27 Jamaica Pond August 29 Monument Sq
July 11 Monument Sq Sept 12 Sumner Hill
July 18 Sumner Hill Sept 19 Stony Brook
July 25 Stony Brook Sept 26 Hyde Square
August 1 Hyde Square October 3 Green Street
August 8 Green Street October 17 Woodbourne
August 15 Woodbourne October 24 Jamaica Pond


In alphabetical order below are a number of other walking tours I’ve heard about by word of mouth or web search.  I only have personal experience with a few of these organizations so don’t consider making the list an endorsement. If you know of any good walking tours in Boston not listed below, I’d love to add them to the list, so please post in the comments.

Appalachian Mountain Club – The Boston Chapter has a Local Walks Committee offering hikes to condition oneself for the mountains, nature walks, and social walks.
Arnold Arboretum – Boston’s tree museum offers regular highlight tours and special theme tours. Come back again because the tour changes depending on the season.
Audissey Guides – Download a tour narrated by local personalities for your mp3 player.
Black Heritage Trail – A tour of African-American history in Boston led by National Park Service guides, or you can take a self-guided tour.
Evening Walkers – A Meetup.com group for people who like walking. No narration, just scenery and a chance to meet people.
Friends of the Blue Hills – Group hikes and nature walks in the Blue Hills Reservation.
Brookline Food Tour – The way to Brookline’s heart is through your stomach.
Boston Athenæum – Art and architecture tours of this respected independent library. They also offer tours for members should you be so fortunate.
Boston Harborfest – Walking tours are among the many events of Boston’s Independence Day celebration, including special Boston By Foot offerings.
Boston Harborwalk – A self-guided walk along Boston’s waterfront. Check the calendar for tours and  special events in the spring and summer.
Boston Movie Tours – Tinseltown comes to the Hub in this tour of film locations.
Boston National Historical Park – Tours of the Freedom Trail and Charlestown Navy Yard led by National Park Service Rangers.
Boston Nature Center – Birding tours, nature walks, and hikes in the heart of the city.
Boston Public Library – Regular art and architecture tours of the oldest municipal library in the US.
The Boston Spirits Walking Tour – A spooky walking tour focusing on Boston’s ghost stories.
Boston Town Crier – Freedom Trail tours led by character interpreters of James Otis and Benjamin Franklin.
Boston Women’s Heritage Trail – Nine self-guided walks exploring women’s history in Boston.
Boston Your Way – Hire a private guide for a customizable tour (I wonder if they’re hiring).
Cambridge Historical Society – The CHS events calendar currently includes a garden tour and historic house tours.
Discover Roxbury – Tours and events highlight the diversity of this historic neighborhood.
Fenway Park – Go behind the scenes at the home of the Boston Red Sox, the oldest and smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
Forest Hills Cemetery – Boston’s hidden gem is full of history, art, and architecture, all of which is illuminated by a good tour guide (read about a great tour we took in 2007).
Franklin Park Coalition – A self-guided tour, trails, and special events throughout the year in the “gem” of the Emerald Necklace.
Freedom Trail Tours – You can follow the red line on your own or let a costumed guide show you the way with 3 different 90-minute tours provided by the Freedom Trail Foundation.
Gibson House Museum – If you’re admiring the Victorian architecture of Back Bay and want to see a house interior, stop in here for a tour.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Society – Explore the new public space replacing the elevated Central Artery with special tours supported by Boston By Foot and other special events.
Harvard Campus Tour – Free student-led tours of the Harvard University campus.
Haunted Boston – 90 minute ghost tours of Boston.  Ask for Gretchen.
Historic New England – The HNE calendar offers neighborhood and historic property tours in Boston and throughout New England.
Irish Heritage Trail – A self-guided walk with guided tours in the works.
Learn English in Boston – Art and architecture tours of Boston for ESL students.
Lessons on Liberty – Costumed historical interpreters teach about Revolutionary Boston history along the Freedom Trail
Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts – Quarry to wharf tours of the remains of the granite railway in Quincy and Milton (part van, part walking tour).
MIT Campus Tour – Learn about the innovative architecture by world-renown architects that speckle the MIT campus.
Middlesex Fells – Check the calendar for special hikes or join the regular Babes in the Woods walks for parents and children.
Museum of Fine Arts – Regular free guided tours of the galleries (with museum admission) plus art & architecture tours outside of the museum.
The Nichols House Museum – If you’re admiring the Federal architecture of Beacon Hill and want to see a house interior, stop in here for a tour.
North End Secret Tour – Tours of Boston’s oldest neighborhood lead by a local resident.
The Path to Independence – Character interpreters offer a first-person historical perspective of the Freedom Trail.
Phantoms of Olde Cambridge -The ghosties of Harvard Square get their own tour.
Photowalks – Walking tours combined with instruction in photography on four different routes.
Paul Revere’s North End Walking Tour – An experienced guide from the Paul Revere House leads tours of the North End in early July.
South End Historical Society – An Annual House Tour is offered in October.
Unofficial Tours Present Harvard University – Fun tours of America’s first college.

Urban Adventours – Okay not a walking tour, but still cool environmentally-friendly and exciting bicycle tours of Boston.
Victorian Society in America/New England Chapter – Tours and talks of the Victorian heritage in Boston and its suburbs
WalkBoston – Boston’s walking advocacy group offers regular walks around the city.
Walking Tours of Historic Boston – Families and groups can book tours of Boston’s historic center lead by a children’s book author.
Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunts – A unique spin on the walking tour where participants gather together in teams to solve questions and puzzles.

Photopost: Boston Nature Center


Did you know that Boston has a nature center?  I didn’t until I moved to Jamaica Plain and saw that  it was fairly close to our house as the crow flies.  Despite this knowledge it’s taken me a year and a half to finally make the 1.5-mile walk to Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary located on what once was the grounds of the Boston State Hospital in Mattapan.  Peter, Susan, and I walked over on a lovely Memorial Day passing through several cemeteries – Forest Hills, St. Michael’s, and Mt. Hope – which were appropriately bustling with visitors.  There are also several garden shops along the way which I expect have a symbiotic relationship with cemetary visitation.

The Boston Nature Center itself is quite lovely.  We took the Snail Trail and the Fox Trail which led us through the woods, along a creek, over a boardwalk, and past a wide wetland marsh.  Sadly Peter was not in the mood to walk nor to be carried, nor anything much else that day so our visit was abbreviated.  Still I’m glad we finally made it out.  Now I can check something off my Mission: Boston list and more importantly I know another great green space within walking distance of Jamaica Plain.

Some of the best photos are below, while the rest are at my online photo album.

Daisies!
Daisies!
A babbling brook
A babbling brook
A redwing blackbird
A redwing blackbird
One of the garden centers appears to still accept credit cards from the 1970s.
One of the garden centers appears to still accept credit cards from the 1970s.

Arnold Arboretum’s Lilac Sunday


I hesistate to put “Lilac Sunday” into the title of this post since I didn’t see any lilacs on my visit.  Susan, Peter & I took a lovely Mother’s Day walk on a sunny, blustery day and arrived at Arnold Arboretum fairly early in the morning.  This is a good time to get there on Lilac Sunday before approximately 3.25 kajillion people descend on the Arbortetum.  Peter received a lovely tatoo of the Earth with flowers and a recycling logo and immediately set to work on removing it with his teeth.

Next we joined Arnold Arboretum curator Michael Dosmann lead an excellent tour to the lilacs (“just to the lilacs, not of the lilacs” he specified).  We learned fascinating things about maples, lindens and tulip trees.  After the tour I chose to luxuriate in the grass while Susan chased Peter up and down the hill to the lilacs.  So my family saw the lilacs on Lilac Sunday while I lay splayed in the grass photographing buttercups.

I will have to return on a less-crowded day this week to visit the lilacs.  Until then, here are my photos from Sunday, 100% lilac-free.

Previously: Lilac Sunday, YEAH!

Book Review: Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson


In my childhood, I enjoyed National Geographic specials about a slight English woman who would sit in the Tanzanian forest by the Gombe River and observe chimpanzees.  In college I read one of her books, Through a Window: My Thirty Years With the Chimpanzees of Gombe and became even more deeply enamored with the woman and her works.  When Jane Goodall received an honorary degree from the College of William & Mary on Charter Day in 1993, my roommate Hal joked that they would need security to keep me from swooping in from the rafters and abducting her.  Thus it was natural for me to read the comprehensive biography Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man (2006) by Dale Peterson.

Peterson relies on a wealth of source material including interviews with Goodall, her family, colleagues and researchers; a huge volume of Goodall’s correspondence; and Goodall’s voluminous notes and published writings.  From early childhood, Jane Goodall seemed to be fated to her future work by observing farm animals, starting science clubs with her friends, and studying the behavior of her many family pets.  At times, the detail of Goodall’s childhood seems a bit too much.  I swear there’s an entire chapter that just lists the names of young men who fancied the teenage Jane.

The strength of this biography is the portion of Jane’s life from the late-1950’s to the mid-1970’s.  Starting with her affiliation with Louis Leakey anthropological & archaeological works in Africa, Jane set off on a new bold path with her quiet observation of the chimpanzees of Gombe, recognizing the chimps as individuals, and building up a detailed record of behavior over time. Her methods were considered unscientific by some, yet at the same time she recieved pressure from her sponsors at National Geographic to make her writing less scientific (National Geographic doesn’t come off well in this book due to a often tempestuous relationship with Goodall and the Gombe Stream reserve.)  Goodall’s family life is fascinating as well, including her mother Vanne and sister Judy who both accompanied Jane to Gombe at times, her two husbands – photographer Hugo and Tanzanian politician Derek, and son Grub who grew up at the research station.  Most of the biography is related in a strict chronological manner although there are some artistic details such as a chapter where the regime changes among Gombe’s alpha male chimpanzees are intertwined with the changes of administration from National Geographic support to a more independent Jane Goodall Institute.

For the excess of detail in the early part of the book, the last portion of the book from the mid-1970’s to the present feels rushed.  The death of Goodall’s second husband seems to be just a few paragraphs tacked onto a chapter about Idi Amin’s invasion of Tanzania and inexplicably long passages about the family dogs.  Thirty years of Goodall’s life – during a period when she became a traveling activist for both wild and captive chimpanzees – seems to be nothing more than a list of awards, appearances, and accomplishments.  I like this book because I love Jane Goodall for her remarkable accomplishments as a scientist, teacher and educator, but Peterson’s writing can be plodding and uneven at times.  I’ve added Goodall’s own book Reason For Hope; A Spiritual Journey to my reading list for 2009 to learn even more.

In the meantime, check out The Jane Goodall Institute website for lots of neat resources.

Jane Goodall : the woman who redefined man by Dale Peterson.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006.