Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A few weekends ago, I found myself with an afternoon to kill in Boston. I had rehearsal with AIT Boston until noon in the city, and then had practice with TOI Boston that night at 7. Commuting all the way home just to turn around and come back was out of the question, plus it was going to be a beautiful Boston Saturday afternoon, so I started brainstorming ways to use the time.

While on our hike, Kelsie came up with the great idea to check out a museum, and recommended I check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now, for someone who's lived not even 2 hours from the city her entire life, I haven't actually done a lot of typical Boston things. Growing up, we'd always take trips to historic sites...but we usually ended up somewhere like Virginia, or Pennsylvania. We skipped a lot of the things that were closer to home.

Which means that now that I'm spending so much more time in the city, and am so much more comfortable navigating it, I want to take advantage and soak up all the amazing things Boston has to offer. I texted Caroline, one of my teammates, and we met up to check out the museum.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened on January 1, 1903, on land that had been bought by Isabella herself for the purpose of creating the museum in 1898. Isabella, whose appreciation for art was spurred on by extensive travel and the intellectual scene in Boston, wanted to create a place for art to not only be hung but be appreciated, and made. Her personal collection, which the museum is drawn from, started with collecting rare manuscripts, particularly works from Dante, and kept growing, to include masterpieces like Vermeer's "The Concert" and Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait, Age 23".

In 1901, when the building was finished, Isabella moved into private living quarters on the fourth floor of the museum and began work personally arranging the museum. She remained intensely involved in her work, not only arranging the rooms but organizing performances, concerts, lectures, and inviting artists to take up residency there. When she died in 1924, she dedicated the museum to the "education and enjoyment of the public forever", only asking that nothing be moved, or re-arranged.

But in 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum early in the morning, and stole 13 works of art. The pieces that were taken, among them Vemeer's "The Concert, are worth over $500 million. It is the largest unsolved theft in history, and even today, 28 years later, authorities remain just as stumped as to their whereabouts. To remember the stolen works, and keep hope alive for their eventual return to the museum, empty frames remain hung in the places the paintings occupied.

I absolutely loved the museum. The original building (called "The Palace") has four floors, but is open in the middle, with a glass ceiling letting in natural light. A garden takes up the entire middle, which you can look down into from any of the four floors, and has elaborate tile walkways, arches, and fountains. The actual rooms are arranged to look less like a gallery, and more like an actual house, with scenes set up to showcase incredible rugs, or furniture, or tea services. One of my favorite rooms had a bunch of door-like wood panels hung to the wall, each covered in framed sketches and etchings, that you could move and work your way through.

Once we'd seen everything, the large stone archways offered a great place to sit and enjoy the garden. Caroline and I sat for a while and talked, since it had been a while since we'd really caught up. It's such a peaceful place; even though it was crowded, a calm hush blanketed everyone. I can see it being a beautiful place to sit and journal, or sketch (which the museum encourages!). We only spent a few hours there, and I definitely feel like it's the kind of place where you have to go a couple of times to really see everything.

We were going to check out the museum cafe, which looked really good, but they were closed by the time we were ready to eat. The museum is in Fenway, so we walked a little ways and came across a really cute restaurant named Tapestry. Not gonna lie, the main reason we chose it was because of the outdoor patio. This particular Saturday was one of the first super sunny, super warm afternoons of the year, so they had opened the patio early for drinks and pizza even though the rest of the kitchen wasn't open until later. We ordered the Mediterranean pizza (awesome cheese! But kind of soggy...), and waited until they opened for bar snacks and got the Greek nachos (which were awesome!). So we ate a whole pizza as our pre-bar-snack snack, haha. Tapestry is in a pretty quiet, residential area of Fenway, and it was so nice to sit outside, under the sun, and enjoy the breeze and each other's company. It was a wonderful way to kick of a season full of many more afternoon adventures with friends.

I'm in the city a couple of times a week, but it's always for work, or practice, or both. But, I enjoy spending my weekends in the rink (and even the commute) so much more when I take advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer. Here's to searching for fun, instead of just driving right home.

Happy Thursday!! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set

Last Friday, the school that I work at was out for April Break. The call to get outside and get moving again has been ringing in my ears for a while now, and my friend Kelsie, who's also a para, felt the same way. So, we planned to meet up Friday morning and drive to Mt. Moosilauke in Benton, NH, for the first hike of 2018.

While I'd always gone hiking as a little kid, as I got older, work and school and skating always seemed to get in a way, and I found myself going a few ears without anything that qualified as a 'real' hike. Then last summer, I climbed Mt. Major with my mom, and was immediately hooked.

I couldn't believe how much fun hiking was. I had always known I enjoyed it, but the rush of peace, possibility, and achievement I felt with every single step blew my mind. After Mt. Major, I went on to do Mt. Tecumseh and Mt. Canon last summer, as well as multiple quick trips to smaller, local mountains. I decided that I would work my way through the 4000 Footers; NH's 48 mountains that reach an elevation of 4000+ feet.

My incredible friend Kelsie looking like she stepped out of a hiking magazine.
It felt so good to get back out to the mountains. Benton is pretty far north in NH, so Moosilauke still had snow cover the entire way up. We had no problem with ice (we both came prepared with spikes for our boots), but we did sink in a lot. We'd be walking along, laughing and not paying too much attention, and all of a sudden one foot would sink all the way through the snow, tripping us and leaving bruises up and down our legs. Some of the falls were hilarious--I sunk all the way up to my waist once!

Once you're a little more than half way up, you can really see the change in the tree line. Everything gets smaller, shrubbier, and mossier. Along the trail, there are a few really great spots to stop and appreciate the view. The cloudy weather made all the far off mountains look blue, and paired with the snow and the evergreen trees, it looked like a painting. The peak was really cool, because it's a bald top mountain. For the last portion of the trail, you're just hiking across rocks, with a 360 degree view. By the time we got the top, the cloudy skies we'd started out with had gotten even worse, so it was pretty foggy. The winds were crazy, some of them felt like they could knock me over, but they did keep the fog moving, so every couple of minutes the clouds would part and we could see the view.

The wind driving some of the fog away at the peak.
We stayed at the top for a little while to take some pictures, but it was easily 20 degrees cooler than just a little ways down the mountain, so we started our way back down pretty quickly. About a quarter of the way back down, we stopped for lunch, and then kept moving. The way down was so much quicker than the way up! Overall, I think the snow actually helped us gain time. The estimated time for the hike was a little over 6 hours, and we got back to our car after 5 hours and 50 minutes. But, the gate to the parking lot was closed, so we had a half-hour walk on the road in both directions to actually get to the trail-head. Subtract that from our time, and the fact that we stopped for lots of pictures and to eat lunch, and we made really good time!

On the hike, we talked about everything from work to dating to TV shows we watched as kids to our futures. A big idea we both commented on, though, was the wash of peace that came over both of us. When you're hiking, you have no where else to be. Nothing to run to next. It's just you, and a close friend, and the mountain. As you hike, life becomes more real. You're simultaneously impressed with the beauty around you, and the importance of appreciating every second we have in this world, while also realizing that so much of the crap we fill our daily lives with really doesn't matter. I had this epiphany on the way up that I wasn't put here to conform to what society's expectations of me are, or to spend my time worrying about making enough money, or doing the 'right' work, or getting to a certain place by a certain age. I'm allowed to explore. I'm allowed to do what works for me, and what makes me happy. I don't have to judge myself by anyone else's measure.

For me personally, hiking is about so much more than exercise, or even crossing peaks off of a list. It's a reality check, a brain re-set. The evening after, I feel so accomplished and invincible, and so much more ready to tackle life in a way that makes me happy.

Mount Moosilauke, Benton, NH.
Elevation: 4, 802 foot.
Trail: Gorge Brook Trail.
Gained Elevation: 2, 506 feet.
Date Completed: April 27, 2018.

If you find yourself with time to hike in NH, I'd totally recommend Moosilauke! It's a great winter hike, and I'm sure the bald top views are even prettier in the summer!

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian