This time of year there are a lot of decorated doors that are deservedly getting more attention getting than the ones I’m showing here. But I want to dedicate this blog to a dear departed friend: our Christmas snowman.
Another installment in a series of photo essays about Belmont, MA, my former hometown.
New England, where I used to live, is famous for its fall colors and “leaf peeping.” There were a few years that we went for a drive up north into New Hampshire, but mostly it was all right to stay put there in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, MA. Continue reading Fall Colors in my Backyard
Since moving to California, we have been trying to interest our middle-school-aged son in riding his bike to school. In Massachusetts, I’d been the Walk to School coordinator for years while my kids were in elementary school. I became familiar with International Walk to School Day in early October, when we would have major events. One year I guest-blogged on Free Range Kids about it: Non-Sanctimonious Blog about Today: WALK TO SCHOOL DAY! Even on regular days, I would walk with my kids, drop them off, and then catch the bus to work.
But biking has been another story. It’s been an uphill battle, metaphorically, if not literally (our area is quite flat). When we lived in Massachusetts, our kids never really took to cycling either, for various reasons. We lived on a hill, the streets around us weren’t all that quiet or car-free, it was cold and/or snowy a lot of the year, you had to find your helmet, and, most distressing to me, the culture around biking had changed.
As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s I remember riding my bike alone or with friends at a surprisingly young age. For example, when I was in elementary school, my next-door neighbor and I rode our bikes alone, without adults or helmets, to Carrols, a fast food restaurant a little less than a mile away and collected the Looney Tunes glasses that you could get with the purchase of a large Pepsi. Today’s eBay listings for these glasses say they were made and sold in 1973, which would have made me 7 or 8 years old when this was happening. Yes, at age 8, I helmetlessly rode my bike almost a mile each way with only a similar-aged friend for company, in order to purchase and consume a large sugary beverage in a commercial tie-in glass. The horror!
Even more horrifying to me is the fact that neither of my children, born in 1999 and 2003, respectively, have ever done anything like this.
When we first got here I had high hopes. California culture seems a lot more conducive to biking in many ways: there are bike lanes all over the place, the weather is always good, and the school district heavily promotes biking to school. In fact, just last Tuesday, I spent a half hour handing out raffle tickets to all the bikers, walkers, and skateboarders for “ABC: Anything But a Car” day at my son’s middle school. But that school is too far for our son to walk, and he was not enthusiastic about biking, at all.
He finally did it for the first time a few weeks ago when he had to get to school early and I had to go to work even earlier, so I couldn’t drive him. But it was not without a lot of foot-dragging and whining. He biked for ABC day last week, and now he has a new bike to replace the old one that he might have felt was too small and embarrassing to ride to 7th grade. At least the helmet is a non-issue: everyone wears them and he wouldn’t even be interested in trying to go without. The latest challenge is that it’s now so dark in the morning that the sun has barely risen by 7:20 when he has to leave for school. If we can just get through this week to the fall back, he’ll have some daylight again for biking.
I am trying to get used to using my own bike for errands too. Here we are in the land of the endless freeways, hopefully riding our bikes!
One of the things I miss most about my life in Belmont is the Philharmonic Society of Arlington. I was the creator and admin of the group’s Facebook page, so I can recite this by heart: “The Philharmonic Society of Arlington, Inc., established in 1933, consists of three performing groups, The Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra, The Arlington-Belmont Chorale, and The Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus.” Yes, you read that right: 1933, which makes it older than many professional symphony orchestras. The orchestra performed a mix of old favorites and premieres by local, living composers. We also provided playing opportunities for a diversity of musicians, from adult starters and re-starters, to professional music teachers, to up-and-coming Young Artists’ Competition winners.
I don’t feel up to recapping the last 8 years of my time there right here right now, but I blogged about a lot of it while it was happening, from the first rehearsal, to becoming concertmaster, to my first real solo with an orchestra in the Tchiakovsky “Mozartiana” suite, my stand partner who became a chamber music partner and one of my best friends, a fond farewell to a beloved senior conductor, and finally a new start with a fresh face on the podium.
I don’t think it really sank in until this morning, though–until I shed a few tears here at the computer–that that chapter of my life is over. Tonight, the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra has the first rehearsal of its 82nd season, and it will be without me.
When I told people that I was moving, I got plenty of recommendations for orchestras–so many, in fact, that I wasn’t sure what to do with them all. I felt overwhelmed. Many of the recommendations centered on the conductor, which I understand, since the tone that the conductor sets is very important. Names I don’t know, don’t recognize . . . I can google them and find out how many awards they’ve won and where they’ve studied, I can see which orchestras have recorded CDs, who has the best reviews, and who has the most professional-looking website. I can see where they rehearse and how far that is from my house. But none of that was helping.
Way back when we were first talking about moving, I just looked on the web for orchestras that rehearsed in the general area of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. I found one called the Nova Vista Symphony. I liked the name immediately: I pictured standing on a mountain and looking out into one of the many valleys around here with their green (or brown) rolling hills. I also liked the fact that they played with a chorale sometimes and had a Young Artists’ Competition. They had the right number of concerts–not too many, not too few–and a mix of repertoire, both familiar and new, with different types of challenges. The website said they had auditions, and when I inquired I was told I should prepare 1 fast piece, 1 slow piece, and a 2-octave scale. I took this seriously and started preparing. I figured a 3-octave scale would be fine too.
Not sure which instrument I wanted to play, I thought about viola again. I brought my viola with me on the plane and shipped my violin, because I couldn’t carry on both instruments. I practiced the viola in the guest apartment we were staying in while we waited for our furniture to arrive so we could move into the house. I played the 3rd movement to the Anton Stamitz viola concerto in D, and recorded it for the Adult Starter and Restarter Facebook group. I wrote about my viola as a cherished object for a blogfest that I was trying out. I met up with a buddy from the Facebook group, and we tried to play some chamber music, as well as sight-read the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia and the Barber Adagio in his large fencing studio in Redwood City with You Tube accompaniment projected on the wall.
The furniture, and the violin, finally arrived, and life kept accelerating. Our kids started school already on August 17. My daughter was asked to switch to viola in school orchestra and she has taken up the challenge. She needed a viola to practice at home, and so I loaned her mine. I also volunteered to be an assistant soccer coach to get my 12-yo son a spot on a team. Team practice schedules reduced the number of hours available for violin and viola, and conflicted with rehearsals of the South Bay Philharmonic, another group I had been considering, Through all of this, I heard no more about an audition, until last week. I got an email from the personnel manager of the Nova Vista Symphony saying that I had enough experience they didn’t need to audition me, and the first rehearsal was a week from then, i.e. last night. They included a list of the repertoire, which included both the William Tell Overture, and Eroica, two of my favorite pieces of all time.
I could interpret this in different ways–after all, not everyone wants to always be playing old favorites that they’ve played before–but in this time and place, it felt right. In this strange and wonderful and horrible season where everything is slippery, and is changing too fast, and I’m grieving one too many losses and goodbyes, it felt like coming home to see and hear and be part of these pieces again. I brought my violin and my little folding stand, and parked it there in the back of the firsts, shook the rust out of my fingers, and said hello to my old friends.
A little over 4 years ago, our son, then 7 years old, hid a geocache. He was a fan of an online game called Wizard 101, and his character was named Blake Winterforge. He decided to make that game the theme of this geocache, which we hid at the end of winter, under a bridge in a local park, Beaver Brook Reservation. Recently the cache was reported missing, so we went out to see whether it needed to be repaired or replaced.
The hiding may have been a father-son-only bonding activity, though, because when we got there I had no memory of the place. We walked through tall grass beside a meadow to get to a bridge in the woods, under which, supposedly, a Fire Troll lives.The bridge connects parks in two different towns: Rock Meadow in Belmont and Beaver Brook in Waltham, and it lets you know when you’re leaving one and crossing into the other.
It turned out, though, my husband didn’t really remember the bridge either. He thought they may have entirely rebuilt it. That would explain the cache’s disappearance. We waited for some muggles to finish wading in the stream and replaced the container.
I have lots of pictures of Belmont in the other 3 seasons: fall, winter, and spring, but summer stumps me a bit. It may be because most of my summer pictures are taken on trips and are of other locales. In our shady yard, most of the flowers are either gone by now or not blooming yet, and the plants either die or get overgrown with weeds. Either way, they don’t seem picture-worthy anymore. It reminds me a bit of our house, which right now seems both inactive and overrun with clutter, as we prepare to pack it up and move out. The woods are an antidote to this feeling. Just let it be. Let nature do its thing.
I have lived in Belmont, Massachusetts since 2003, for over 12 years. We bought this house and moved in right before my son was born, because we needed more space. It’s the only place he has ever lived. Now that I am moving across the country, I want to post and commemorate some of my favorite spots around Belmont.
I try to be regular about taking a walk every day, especially now that I don’t walk my kids to school anymore. It helps me get 10,000 pedometer steps in a day, and it’s easy on summer mornings.These walks have helped me to get to know my immediate neighborhood, too,
There is a lovely church on the corner that I pass every time I walk. I don’t attend this church, but it has facilities, such as a kitchen and a gym, that the community uses for scout meetings and parties. It also has this tree, which I hadn’t really looked at quite like this before. I used to use the panorama function on my camera quite a lot, but I forgot about it once I got the iPhone. Not anymore. From the roots to the top branches, this tree is special. It looks like it should have a treehouse.