Out In It

September 6th, 2014

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How many places do you know, do you go, that you can be completely out in it?

Out in the air, in the wind,

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an enormous sky above,

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water at your feet.

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(Over your feet.)

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The natural world as the stage, the backdrop, the action, and the narrative.

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And you? Just a detail, observing.

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I like it like that.

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From the big picture,

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to the smallest detail.

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All day long.

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It doesn’t need many words.

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Hola

August 3rd, 2014

Okay, so I’m pretty banged up from last weekend. I’m not going to be jogging or swimming anytime soon. And I think I’ll stay off the bike path for the next few weeks (until I’m in Nantucket…)

So what’s a girl to do on summer weekend?

I was out to run my errands, but instead I let the city decide.

Turns out there was a parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

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Of course there was music, and girls, and cars, and flags, and floats…

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Here come the girls, all ages, marching, twirling, dancing. Some are crowned and ride on floats, some are enthroned on cars.

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Most stride, and strut, and spin, and dance their way down Boylston Street, to the pounding music. There are tiny tots, and seasoned campaigners. Some great dancers, some accomplished twirlers… and if someone drops a baton, just keep on moving.

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Some of the teenaged dancers have spent so much time and energy on preparation – hair styling, makeup, and body glitter, that they are now almost to self-conscious to perform. Emprisoned by the very glamour that they hoped would transform them into stars.

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And of course there is music, salsa bands mounted on trucks, Latin disco from boomboxes, marching drums, DJ’s on floats. The loudest music of all blares from the custom sound systems installed in dozens of macho cars and trucks, Pimp My Ride style. They provide the soundtrack for most of the performers.

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These vehicles drive slowly down the street, keeping time with the dancers or marchers who have trained to their beats. Their sun roofs are open, windows down, doors swung wide, and trunks popped open so that every bit of volume can reach the crowd. There is so much power in these multi-speaker systems, so much base,  that the music thrums through the crowd, vibrating inside my chest, and seeming to rock even the roadway beneath my feet.

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Yes, they are blasting it for the parade, and their proud owners are beaming with pride, friends and supporters walking along side to share in the glory. What do they do with these incredible sound systems, and all this volume, during the rest of the year? Terrorize their neighborhoods? Troll down the streets at night blasting away? Stage impromptu raves in empty parking lots?

Spread out through the parade, separated from each other, are politicians running for office, and their campaign supporters and volunteers, carrying placards, banners, posters. The candidates shake hands all down the route, and run through the parade crowd to demonstrate how literally fit for office they are.

The music continues to pound, the sequined dancers stream by. The twirlers twirl.

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There are even a few volunteers, who join the parade for kicks.

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It’s a summer pageant. You know I love a parade.

 

 

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Crash

August 2nd, 2014

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Crash.

No, not the Dow, though that has taken quite a tumble this past week.

I’m talking about me, on my bike.

Jeesh.

Last weekend… and I was having such a great ride.

The bike path along the Charles River is a wonderful thing.

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You can ride from here to somewhere else. You can get to the next town over, or even the one beyond that, while really seeing the scenery you travel through.

That’s how I felt as I pedaled out along the river pathway, weaving amidst runners and baby strollers and other bikers, heading west, away from the city crowds into the Charles River Reservation land.

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The bike path is a shared use route, through city, suburb, country. At times it winds through parkland, pine trees, and open swards of grass dotted with hardy urban lilies. In places the path is barely a sidewalk, hemmed in by pedestrian railings along the riverbank, and congested with joggers, dog walkers and sightseers.  Some towns along the route do a better job of maintaining the paving of the bike path than others.

As you leave the more urban stretches behind, looming trees over-arch the bike path and sunlight dapples the paving. The river flows by slowly, here muddied from the recent rains, there rendered almost bucolic by cattails and water lilies.

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It is a Murphy’s Law of bike paths that when the trail curves sharply, or winds itself around a bridge footing, or enters a dense thicket where you cannot see any distance ahead of you, there will be someone coming the other way. A group of speeding bikers in lycra, making better time than you are, or a line of girlfriends out for a walk, side-by-side across the width of the path.

I rode for an hour or so, the breeze in my hair, the green of the riverbank rushing by. Slowing at times for crumbling cement, or stopping for pedestrians massed at a busy intersection, or at a turning signal for lanes of traffic.

Coming home, I threaded my way down the other side of the river, enjoying the distant views of the city skyline, as the river, and the bike path, twisted to reveal or disguise the vista.

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In the shade of the overgrown riverbank a group of elderly residents enjoyed an outing. Four women played bridge at a picnic table, one’s metal walker behind her chair. Older gentlemen in plaid polyester pants and an assortment of caps sat on a pair of park benches, leaning on their canes, and commenting on passersby. An elderly couple walked slowly along the path, chins lowered, their hands clasped behind their backs.

I rode on by a playground. Children splashing in the fountain of a baby pool. A young family picnicking on a blanket on the lawn. Dogs tussling with a Frisbee.

Past several boathouses, rowers carrying the endless gear of oars and shells in and out of the bays.

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Other bikers making loops around the river. I recognized riders I’d passed coming out.

I threaded a steep curb ramp, and stopped in the traffic island between oncoming streams of cars. Back onto my bike, and up onto the sidewalk between river railing and highway curb. The pavement was a combination of cement along the railing, and worn asphalt that slanted towards the street. A runner was coming the opposite direction, behind her a group of three bicyclists.

It occurred to me that I should yield. The cement here was narrow. I rode off the flat cement onto the slanted asphalt, noting the big drop off at the curb. The runner passed; up ahead came the metal footing of a streetlight pole.  I headed back onto the cement. Wild blue cornflowers and grasses growing from the crack between the two areas of paving disguised how much of a difference there was in the height of the sections. The raised edge of the cement caught my tire, twisted it sideways. Suddenly ahead, the two green metal horizontal tubes of the river railing. I had the clearest thought, as the bike bucked, and I toppled sideways, wondering how much this was going to hurt.  I caught at the horizontal railing to spare my face, and felt my ribcage strike the cement footing that held the uprights of the railing. The breath was knocked out of me, thunk, bone on cement.

I pulled the bike upright, over against the railing. That instinct you have when you’ve had an accident, to get up and get on your way. Flight. The first of the cyclists stopped, looked up at me from beneath his aerodynamic helmet, with its rear view mirror attachment.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I wanted to say, “I don’t know yet,” but the breath didn’t come. He nodded. Maybe I nodded. I glanced down and realized that my knee was dripping blood, a dribble tracking around the clumps of grit embedded in the skin from the skid on concrete. Ribs. I wouldn’t think about that yet.

A second bicyclist stopped, “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I think so,” I was able to squeak out. Enough standing here in the middle of this narrow, cracked stretch of sidewalk. I was going to cause another accident.

I glanced around, to check for any more traffic. No one coming. I climbed back on the bicycle, and pushed off. Down the bike path again, upright, pedaling normally. The wind in my hair, alert for hazards.

Learning to breathe into the space between my ribs, before it hurt.

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More Summer

July 27th, 2014

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The Eldest was in town for the weekend. He always makes the most of his time, wherever he is.

Time to maximize summer.

A trip to the North Shore, he suggests? Sure.

The Girl and I were ready for an outing.

Crane’s Beach it is.

The last time The Eldest went on his bicycle. This time I drove.

We used our The Trustees of the Reservations cards, to access the parking lot, and save a few dollars. That always makes me happy, first to support The Trustees of the Reservations properties, second to visit them, and thirdly, to actually get some ‘value’ from the card.

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What did we do?

Caught a little sun on a brightly striped towel.

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Read a novel, to the sound of children playing in the sand, and in the surf.

Walked up the long beach on the tide wrinkled sand.

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Had a sighting: Piping Plovers. Yes, they are real.

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The Eldest had a quick dip in the ocean. Me? No, it’s too far from the Gulf Stream for me, especially on a grey day.

Then back into Essex for a late lunch at the iconic Woodman’s.

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The line was only out the door, not around the block and back into the parking lot as it can be.

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We ordered one of everything, just about. Clam chowder – stuffed with pieces of clam. For starters.

Fried clams, served with onion rings AND French Fries, as you do.

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All so piping hot and fresh from the fryer that you realize why anyone would or should want to eat fried food in the first place. No wonder people have been standing in line outside Woodman’s for one hundred years.

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And maybe we shared a lobster roll, on that special, almost-sweet, top sliced, buttered and toasted hot-dog bun.

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I want to make that noise that Homer Simpson makes, when he’s both satisfied and still craving… the sound that’s a combination of ‘Ahhh’ and ‘yuum’, garnished with drool.

No, we did not enjoy the ice cream that they feature out back.

We have some pride.

I’ll have to go back for that another time.

Summer yum.

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Red, White & Blue. And You?

July 25th, 2014

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Fourth of July. Family Reunion time.

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It felt surprisingly familiar to be back at The Tides in Irvington, Virginia. It’s been four years since we were there last, the 14 of us. But time seems to stand still at The Tides, in the most graceful way. The rooms are still gracious and welcoming, with touches of luxury. The grounds are lovely: the winding drive through the Par 3 golf course is still bordered by American flags, Fanta-orange lilies blaze in the sun along the croquet court,

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and the sparkling turquoise pool can still be glimpsed through fuchsia crepe myrtle trees.

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And the water, the ageless river – Carter’s Creek stretching out to the Rappahannock – encircles everything.

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There’s always a warm welcome at the front door, the meals are local and generous – with cheese grits and biscuits among the offerings at the breakfast buffet, and Southern Fried Chicken at dinner. Yes, they still offer lemonade and cookies under the front portico on summer afternoons.

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What’s new? More bikes for a lazy ride through town,

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and along back roads through wildflower filled fields.

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More kayaks,

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and pedal boats, for a self-propelled tour of the creek. And an enormous chessboard on the lawn, which totally transfixed several generations of the family, and resulted in prolonged, hotly contested, and laughter-filled matches into the evening.

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And we were new. Sort of. Because we all came back at different ages. Especially the grandchildren.

The youngest was 8 in 2010; she’s 12 now. Still full of dance and laughter, and a little snark. The eldest grandchild is 31. The majority of them are out on their own. They have always been wonderful, but four years have allowed them to flourish. They are fascinating. Grown, fully themselves, yet elusive as adolescents and young adults can be, to adults, to us ‘grownups’. I determined to get to know them all better. (Even my own children, if given the chance.)

So I sought out conversations over the breakfast table, or around the fire pit in the evening after dinner, about their burgeoning careers in law, finance, and real estate. Their ambitions for college, or for graduate school, a mention of a girlfriend. At first they might have been surprised I asked. That may be my new role, listening.

So bike rides, kayak trips, Par 3 golf

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(we rechristened it Par 7, which gives you some idea of the mixed skill levels…),

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the Fourth of July Parade,

 

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fireworks, the beach,

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chess matches, music by the pool,  visit to the local vineyard for a wine tasting,

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drinks and meals at The Tides, and out along the Rappahannock.

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(Okay, and maybe a few hours in front of the TV, or following Twitter, to find out what was happening at Henley, and at the World Cup in Brazil, and at Wimbledon

Family Reunions. So great, so sad. Just when you get really comfortable with each other, it’s time to go home.

Red, white & blue.

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Pedaling Along

June 29th, 2014

 

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Summer weekend. Time to go exploring. By bike.

I take a Hubway bicycle from the stand in front of the Boston Public Library, don my bike helmet, and head off for the Esplanade. A ride along the familiar river brings me to a new point of view.

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The Zakim Bridge, not seen from a car…

As I sit in the shade of the trees for a few minutes, I overhear the narration of a Duck Boat driver passing by with his busload of visitors. Did you know they illuminate the supports of the Zakim Bridge with blue lights at night? Unless the Bruins are playing, when the lights shine yellow. Or unless the Celtics are playing, when the lights glow green. I think I heard that right. Because side by side with the Zakim Bridge is the TD Garden, home to:

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that’s right, the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics.

Back onto the Hubway bike, for a pedal into the North End, Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood, and now its Little Italy.

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From the banks of the river, I can see across to Charlestown,  even older that the North End. The USS Constitution is docked in the old Navy Yards.

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They sail the USS Constitution out of the harbor on the Fourth of July, in a water-borne parade to Castle Hill, then sail her back to Charlestown, where they moor her facing the opposite direction for the following year.

Further along the harbor, into the residential neighborhoods of the redeveloped wharves.

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They’ve developed a wonderful walkway along the harbor, connecting so many sites.

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You can follow it along to Christopher Columbus Park:

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There’s a party going on here today apparently. And great views out over the flourishing harbor.

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Keeping along, to the Aquarium. There are masses of people lining up to board whale watching boats. Apparently it’s a banner summer for whale watching off Massachusetts.

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Down to the wharf-end, wind whipping.

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I spy an ironic pairing, moored along the docks:

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Majesty, and Liberty Clipper. Your basic early history of Boston?

And out across the harbor haze, cranes marking the now-constant construction in South Boston and the Innovation District.

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If I look closely, I can also see the international flags of the World Trade Center in the Seaport. The office.

But today I am bike riding through summer Boston.

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Summer First

June 24th, 2014

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Saturday was the first day of summer.

Time for the firsts of summer:

First trip to Hyannis.

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First ferry ride out.

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First sight of Town.

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(The cloud even looks like a whale…)

First roses,

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Roses,

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Roses,

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Everywhere.

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First walk along the harbor.

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First visit to the Patio.

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First Farmers’ Market:

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First cobblestones.

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First walk through Town:

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All’s well with the world.

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First goodbye.

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Oh, the joy of knowing I will be back….

Hello, summer.

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TGIF

June 20th, 2014

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Leaving the office on an absolutely perfect June day….

As I walk to the “T” I come across an unexpected scene.

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There’s a high-lift truck, and a film crew, and men in hard hats with buzz-saws… and an enormous ice sculpture.

They appear to be setting up for a very large party. No, I wasn’t invited either.

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And here’s the guest of honor:

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Have a good one, Johnny Appleseed.

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Father’s Day

June 20th, 2014
Goose family on the Lagoon, Charles River Esplanade, Boston

Goose family on the Lagoon, Charles River Esplanade, Boston

 

Father’s Day in Boston. The Dog and I were out enjoying the sunshine along the Esplanade, viewing the Back Bay skyline beyond the Lagoon.

Along came a family that we have seen before.

This is absolutely the largest brood of goslings I have ever seen. There are four parents guiding this herd of offspring. If you look closely, you will see that there are over two dozen goslings, of quite varied size. This is definitely not one clutch of eggs, or two, or even three. I wonder how the four parents came to form their extended combined family. They really must have made a decision to adopt the offspring of others, and combine them with their own already large families. They are extremely patient as they move their outsize band of young across the water. It’s like a pre-school class on an outing to the playground. An exemplar of parenting.

This calm flotilla is so successful that another family of geese, with four much younger goslings, has decided to swim alongside the goose armada.

So here’s a salute to proud fathers (and mothers) guiding their enormous feathered flock safely across the Back Bay waters.

Quite a sight, on Fathers’ Day.

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Beautiful at 200

May 24th, 2014

Emma Willard School Bicentennial

In 1814 Emma Hart Willard opened a boarding school for young women in her home in Middlebury, Vermont. Willard had already been teaching young women for a number of years in schools run by other educators, and she believed her students were capable of mastering a more challenging curriculum than they were generally offered.

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Her first successful boarding school was not enough to satisfy Willard’s desire to educate young women to a higher standard.

By 1819 Emma Willard was campaigning to establish a women’s seminary in New York State that would be publicly funded, as comparable men’s schools were. Willard wrote A Plan for Improving Female Education, and spoke to the New York State legislature, saying the problem with existing women’s education was that the objective “has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty” and that “the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has been made into a standard for the formation of the female character.”

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In 1821 The Troy Female Seminary, for day and boarding students, opened for the business of serious education. It was the first school in the United States to offer higher education to women. The curriculum included the subjects that Willard had been committed to, and had argued for: mathematics, philosophy, geography, history, and science. The Troy Female Seminary under Emma Willard’s guidance was a success, and by 1831 had enrolled over 300 students. In 1895 The Troy Female Seminary was renamed in Emma Willard’s honor.

In 1910 the school moved to a stunning new campus being built on Mount Ida.

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I think it remains one of the most beautiful high school campuses in existence.

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Emma’s vision, supported and enlarged by the work of all who have come since, has certainly stood the test of time. In fact, 2014 sees the Bicentennial of the school’s founding.

Definitely time for a party. In a magical revival tent perhaps.

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By day, the tent was a place for tradition, speeches, poetry and inspiration.

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By night, a super slick urban nightclub, for conversation, dining, drinks, and dancing…

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Emma, you threw yourself one heck of a party. Yes, fun was had. Lots and lots of fun.

Gals, it was great to see you all, and to celebrate our education and ongoing friendships.

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Emma, you look beautiful at 200.

Tricentennial anyone?

 

 

 

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