Boston’s Inspirational Places & Spaces

Boston, www.marianamcdougall.com, picture of weeping willow trees and a lake at Boston Public Gardens

As we continue our year of travel, I find inspiration in many places. Boston is a city bursting with history, the beauty of nature, and inspiration aplenty. It’s also a great city to visit with young children.

Boston, a city that inspires, www.marianamcdougall.com, photo of father and two children inside Elliot Room at Boston Public Library

October 15th-17th, 2018

The Boston Children’s Museum

At the Boston Children’s Museum, children are not scolded for touching the displays. On the contrary; they are encouraged to interact with exhibits, move their bodies, and learn about themselves and the world around them in the process. Children’s museums are a welcome addition to any family vacation. Here, children are truly allowed to be children. 

 

Boston' Children's Museum

 

From learning about construction, to cooking pretend meals in Arthur’s kitchen to flying an airplane, kids delight in each experience in this museum. There is water play, physical activity play, and even a real Japanese house that children can visit while they are at the museum.

 

girl climing at the boston children's museum

 

They can also learn about the Caribbean and Black influence in Boston by visiting the market, the barber shop, or the Café Cape Verde. My little ones explore the entire museum, spending much of their time “purchasing” food in the market, where they make friends with two other children.

The newly found friends then take the food from the market to the café, where they have a tea party. Our children get along so well with their new friends, I exchange information with the mom, and we intend on getting together in Arizona, where they are from, when we get to that state.

The staff at this museum are truly lovely, and it’s obvious that they take pride and delight in their work. From the smiling faces teaching you how to weave with foil, to the excellent storytelling in the Japanese house, both the museum itself and the service received there make this a place worth visiting. For those who live in Boston, getting a membership is probably an excellent idea.

 

The Boston Freedom Trail and the Boston Commons

 

Boston breathes history. Here, monuments to those who fought and won to preserve the union and end slavery stand as a stark reminder of the country’s difficult race relations history. The Freedom Trail and the significant places it contains offer an excellent opportunity to study the history of the United States.

 

As we walk through a historical cemetery, we learn about how affluence has long affected even the respects that are paid to the deceased. A monument to Benjamin Franklin’s family stands in the center of the cemetery, and throngs of tourists listen to interpreters in period dress. As we continue our walk through the red brick line, we continue to learn and review momentous occasions in the making of the country. 

 

Franklin monument in Boston

 

We move quickly through history from the revolutionary and civil wars to World War II, as we come face to face with large portraits of holocaust survivors at Boston Commons. These are pictures of real people who lived through horrendous experiences and lived. Some escaped death marches; others barely survived in concentration camps. Most lost their entire families because of hate.

When will we learn that love is the only way? the Holocaust is over, but groups all over the world are still persecuted because they are different. When will we learn that difference is what makes the world the beautiful place it is?

I am an optimist… one day, we will all learn to love one another as we are meant to do. I may not live to see that day, but while I am on this earth, I consider it my vocation to offer unconditional love to all fellow humans. It doesn’t matter what they look like, what they believe, or who they love. My job is to love my neighbour and to help them as I’m able. It’s not always easy to love all our fellow humans. But it’s our job. Imagine how much violence we could prevent if every single person met another with the first instinct being to love that person. How much more wonderful and peaceful would our world become.

Explaining these monuments and this photo exhibit to an 8-year-old eager to learn everything she can is not always easy. But it’s necessary. Our children are truly our future. By explaining (at an age-appropriate level, of course) what hate can do, it is my hope that we can prevent these horrendous things from happening again.

My daughter doesn’t seem to understand how anyone could harm and kill others simply because they are different. It’s a somber moment when she realizes that what she is looking at are pictures of and monuments to people who lived through unfathomable hardships, lost their families, and had to rebuild their lives, simply because they didn’t look or believe a certain way. But I hope that as my daughter looks into these faces, she realizes that love is the only way, and that differences are to be learned about and celebrated. I hope she understands that hate will always lead to tragedy, and that there is nothing in this world more powerful than unconditional love—it can truly conquer all.

 

Lest We Forget by Luigi Toscano at Boston Commons

The Boston Public Gardens

 

The weeping willow branches sway in the wind to the sound of a beautiful song. Standing here on this bridge, looking at these majestic green waterfalls, I’m reminded of why these are my favourite trees. They are dancers, mothers, teachers. Weeping Willows fill me with peace and wonder about the beauty of nature.

 

Father and three children looking at weeping willows at Boston Commons

 

I tell K-girl: “Look at the weeping willows now, and you’ll see why they’re my favourite tree.” K-girl looks on as the wind rustles the branches of the trees, and as she does so, a “wow” escapes her. Geese leave the sidewalk and enter the water in a line, as the branches sway on either side of the river. One does not simply “walk through” the Boston Public Gardens. You must plan on staying a while.

 

Boston Commons trees and ducks

 

Trees of every kind reside here, wildlife enjoys its many places for shade, and children stop to listen to a man playing the “erhu,” a type of Chinese violin. When the man notices two small children looking on, he switches from the enrapturing classic to Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. The children love it, and know he’s playing especially for them. They’re as delighted to put coins in his jar as they are at listening to his performance.

Here at these beautiful gardens, the beauty of nature, accompanied by beautiful music, is on full display, and demands to be noticed. From the gorgeous willows that provide shade to weary geese, to the tree that looks as if it’s wearing a skirt, to the bridge that invites busy people to stop and take notice of the beauty around them, the Boston Public Gardens are a place of wonder. And a place to wander. Wander through the majestic trees and take the time to ponder how fortunate we are to have access to such beauty.

 

Tree at Boston Commons

The Boston Public Library

 

She dances with her child in her arms, a smile on her face, and a bunch of grapes in her hands. Her movements are graceful if stationary, and the water that surrounds her sparkles as the sun peaks from behind a library outer wall. Here, in the Boston Public Library’s courtyard, sights and sounds give passersby a peace difficult to find in a large city, and give a writer inspiration for a lifetime.

 

Statue at Boston Public Library Courtyard

 

Boston Public Library Courtyard

 

If I lived in Boston, I would come to this place every day, and even then, I don’t think I would ever be able to take in every single detail of this magnificent building. The Boston Public Library isn’t just a library… it’s a piece of history that entangles with modernity to include every single reader, young and old, in the services it provides.

 

Boston Public Library clock

 

From the historical portions of the library to the newly renovated Children’s Library and Teen Space, this building, by its very essence, lives inclusion. People of all stripes are here, from the nannies with their young charges, to the business people on their lunch breaks, to those simply sitting and having a rest in the many comfortable chairs.

 

Boston Public Library Art Panels

 

Children's Library, Boston Public Library

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the most beautiful library I’ve ever had the privilege to enter. One of the oldest and largest libraries in the United States, the Boston Public Library is not a place to simply pass through. If you come, plan on spending a day. Take in every detail, observe every piece of art, see the art collections on display (currently a map project that marries topography with cultural discourse and artwork), and when your heart is bursting with love for this building, grab a treat from the coffee shop, and sit in the beautiful courtyard with your favourite reading material.

Whether you are a writer, a reader, a lover of art, or all of these, the Boston Public Library is worth a visit. Or preferably, many. Come to stare at the beautiful ceilings for hours, come to ponder the beauty that is free access to information and ancient works of literature and art, come to let the children spend hours in the beautiful Children’s Library, or come to sit and people watch, gathering inspiration for your own works of art and literature. Here at this library, art, knowledge, and history combine for an experience you won’t soon forget.

One of the beauties of a trip of this magnitude is that we have the chance to file away these memories and remember the places we’d like to visit again. Boston is definitely one of these places. Have you ever been to Boston? What was your favourite thing about the city?

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