Late fall in the Public Garden

photo (14)One of my favorite happy places is only a short walk from where we live. The Boston Public Garden lifts me up no matter what state I’m in. I’m amazed at the number of leaves that are still left and the way the light plays with them and the bare branches.

Someone once said that nature is God’s first revelation of God’s self. I believe it.


photo (11)


Not your average alarm

Nothing quite like being jolted out of bed early in the morning by a fire alarm instead of my usual alarm. Especially in a big old house in a city where there have been numerous bad fires in big old houses. Once I was fully awake I was pretty sure it was a false alarm. We’ve had a few of those lately because something is out of kilter with our alarm system. Still, the idea of heading outside into the 20 degree weather in my pjs did not sound like fun.

But, as I ran into sleepy housemates in the hall something interesting happened. Annoyance turned into amusement. We all looked pretty funny. It was a false alarm. Sharing the irritating experience took some of the sting out of it. Pretty nice to have laughter instead of the whining I might have otherwise engaged in. One more plus of living in community.

Stayin’ alive (and moving) on the street and up the stairs

Ok, I admit it. For the most part I am a slug. I’ve never been athletic. My favorite hobbies include activities like reading, gardening, cooking, knitting and crafts. I do like to be out in nature, so hiking and biking have appeal. Gyms generally make me feel like a hamster in a cage and I can only get through the experience by dosing myself liberally with my favorite music.

jawbone fotoAs a younger person raising children I was forced into a certain level of activity. In my 65th year it was another story. Florida’s heat and humidity amplified my tendency to avoid moving.

Current research links a sedentary lifestyle to a host of medical conditions that only worsen with age. Mental acuity as one ages also appears linked to physical activity.

I became worried that I would age more quickly if I didn’t make some lifestyle changes. But, slug that I am, lifestyle changes don’t come easily. Sometimes I have to trick myself into them.  Continue reading

Welcome to NPR/ visitors

We appreciate your interest in life at Beacon Hill Friends House. We’ll have a
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For those of you who are visiting via another route today, here’s the link from NPR’s Facebook page that’s sending so many visitors to A Year in a Room.

A glimpse of what might await us next

Six months into our time at BHFH, we’re enjoying life in the house so much that it’s hard to imagine moving elsewhere. But all residents are term-limited at a max of four years and there’s always a possibility that our stay could be shorter.

So we’ve kept one eye on what might be next, a perspective informed the other night by something called a Coop Crawl — sort of like a pub crawl except that you visit coop housing sites instead of saloons.

Since most of you are probably as new to the world of coop communities as we are, here’s a basic primer on the three categories we’ve become familiar with:

  • Collections of like-minded people forming households that typically share space, food and decision-making — and sometimes politics and worldview, too.
  • More formal set-ups (like BHFH) guided by specific expectations of conduct and collaboration
  • Hybrid arrangements (like co-housing, discussed below) that include more private space and ownership than that offered by coops
Dave Goodman at JP Co-housing

Dave Goodman in the common kitchen at JP Co-housing

Common to all three is a commitment to “intentional community,” an approach to daily life that demands and values getting up close and personal with people outside your family.

As one of our Crawl hosts, David Goodman, said the other night, “It’s not for everybody.” David lives at Jamaica Plain Co-housing and noted that one of his relatives puts it this way: “I love co-housing except for the ‘co’ part.” Continue reading

Scoping the hard work ahead on unity amid difference

In the wake of the Marathon bombings six months ago, I wondered what it would take for the popular sentiment of “we are all one Boston” to take root in reality.

We got part of the answer Wednesday night, as the third strike thrown by Koji Uehara threw the region into a virtual chorus of Big Papi’s “This is our bleeping city!”

Photo by Ben Sachs-Hamilton

Photo by Ben Sachs-Hamilton

It certainly threw the TV room at Beacon Hill Friends House into that mindset, with more than half the room making its way to the streets of Boston despite the midnight hour. The roar of the crowd drew me to Parkman Bandstand, where police officers on bicycles (and suited up in reflector jackets rather than riot gear) posed for photos with the crowd they were assigned to control. As one of the officers mentioned to a tipsy reveler who, at least by appearance, had nothing in common with the cop, “We’re all Sox fans tonight.”

Even the worst reported incident of vandalism, the destruction of a car on Boylston Street, ended well with a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover the owner’s insurance deductibles.

My walk in the park concluded a big day for me. It was my 65th birthday, and included another walk, this one with Carol to Faneuil Hall in hopes of getting a glimpse of President Obama. In town to defend his health care plan and apologize for its ragged online launch, the president’s appearance provided an excellent platform to consider the challenge of unity amid difference. Continue reading

Keep the car?

Part of our original downsizing plan was to let go of the car once we got settled in Boston. We haven’t done that yet.

We love the easy access we have to great public transportation. For the most part, we delight in using that. And, for the times when a car could be really helpful, zipcar is readily available. Still, we’re not ready to let the car go yet.

In the heart of Boston a car is not always an advantage. One either finds parking on the street or pays serious money for a dedicated parking place. Sometimes really serious money. We’ve opted for street parking. It can be complicated. The other morning, for instance, Bill got up to move the car by eight AM for the street sweepers. He could only find parking at a meter, which meant I had to move it two hours later. Luckily the street sweepers had finished with our street and I could get a place right in front of our house. Whew! Safe – until we use it for something or the streets get swept again in two weeks.IMG_2420

Is this how I want to spend time? Doesn’t downsizing and simplifying suggest we should give up this car we don’t really need. What about our commitment to a sharing economy? And what about lessening our carbon footprint? Continue reading