It was with a heavy heart I left the farm for my birthday weekend, and I looked longingly through my rearview mirror as I left for work on Friday. How could I miss the few precious days of Vermont spring? My weekend. MY WEEKEND! I wanted to sit on the porch and read. I wanted to wake up and debate jumping in the pond (and then not jump in because it's still too cold.) I wanted to go to the drive-in, take a hike in the woods, and walk up to the little cabin and sit on that porch and read. I also kept expecting a surprise party where all my old friends from New York, secretly hiding in the garden shed, popped out and then started a dance party. I had big plans for my birthday. Big plans. But instead, we went to Boston.
I'll be honest, going to Boston ranks about negative one thousand on my list of fun places to go on your birthday. I'd rather stick my head in a pile of leaves, I think. What's in Boston? We went to visit awesome people, but still. I figured we'd spend time in outside malls with cobblestone streets, window-shopping and dodging kids with popsicles. I figured we'd have breakfast at Jamba Juice. I figured we'd go to cheesy movies and eat bad pasta in outdoor cafes, with people in ties referring to the good ole days at Harvard or something. I don't know. I couldn't decide which stereotype to latch onto in my mind, so I let them all merge. Not that I'm opposed to urban life, or Boston, or people who are from Boston (I have family in Boston!), just that four months ago, when I moved from New York City to rural Vermont, I realized I had been traumatized by the pace, the power, and the quest for urban success I felt had shaded my eyes from who I wanted to be (or something along those lines…) So I was wary of Boston. What I found, however, was so utterly delicious and unexpected, and I wound up being proven wrong on the day of my birth–and happily so.
(Before I continue, I should add a caveat: the people we visited aren't exceptionally urban city dwellers. So it could very well be that Boston is nowhere near what I experienced, in which case, don't tell me.)
We arrived on Friday evening, at our friends' house in Jamaica Plains. We sat on their stoop for a while, drinking local beer out of a jug, and cider they pressed, and hummus she made (danggg good.) They're both involved in the environmental preservation movement; she is about to go back into grad school and he works for The Nature Conservancy, and is in the beginning stages of starting an oyster farm somewhere in Rhode Island. After settling in on Friday night, putting on clean clothes (i.e., not covered in chicken manure and dirt) and walking through the quiet neighborhood streets at dusk, I didn't miss the farm at all. I felt relaxed, and on vacation. No chores. Yesssss.
The next morning, there was no jamba juice. We ate egg sandwiches on the porch (with eggs from our hens), and then Jules prepared his boat and filled it with lobster traps. Then he hitched "Muddy Waters"–the metal dinghy/speedboat that looks kind of like a giant tuna can–to the back of his civic and off to the water we went, in our rubber boots and raincoats. We parked on some sort of beach close by and set out into the Boston Harbor. I was terrified. I do not think I am a boat person. I thought I was going to die. It was a calm day but clouds loomed in the distance. I held on for dear life and figured I'd never live to see my 25th year. So be it. But despite my protesting, we kept on motoring way out into the harbor, and finally sputtered to a stop. Jules pulled out frozen whole fish to use as lobster bait. We slipped them into bait bags (little red, mesh sacks), attached the big, moldy looking trap to a buoy on a rope, and tossed it overboard, watching it sink. After we set six traps like these, we sat back and enjoyed the view. I couldn't believe it; it took us literally fifteen minutes to get to the beach from their house, and here we were in the middle of a huge harbor, almost out to sea, setting lobster traps and reeling in cod. I'd never even fished before, and Jules hooked an eighteen-incher with a fat mouth and whiskers, which he threw back (Massachusettes regulations say cod has to be 22 inches to keep.) We spent a long time out there with our fishing poles, drifting a ways and then motoring to another location in search of more bites. On the way back, Jules pulled into a small island used as a state park and summer camp, and we gathered up seaweed from the shore to use in their garden plot downtown, as mulch. Seaweed! Now I know what Eliot Coleman is talking about.
We got back to their house after getting caught in a small rainstorm, jumping (not really) massive waves, and interrupting a Boston College sailing tournament, and then I remembered we were in a city. City streets and window boxes brought me back to reality. Kind of. I made some BLTs and we put them in a bag for a picnic. And off we went to their community garden plot near Fenway Park, to spend the rest of the afternoon planting their garden and turning the soil (using the seaweed as mulch.) How did we get there? On bikes!! We rode around the neighborhood a bit, and then got onto the bike path, which was beautiful, and long. It took us practically all the way to their garden, save a couple of blocks careening through traffic. How cool, to get exercise in this way, with the wind whipping through your hair. I felt like a kid.
We got to the community garden, and I was completely blown away. There must have been several hundred plots, all completely different and equally lush, sandwiched up next to each other. Many of them were vegetable gardens, and I had this vision of twenty years from now, urban gardens in every city, in every neighborhood, and each family tending their own produce. It made me realize you don't have to move out of the city to have your own little farm, which is really comforting. The plots are thirty bucks a year! Which is so affordable. I can imagine stopping by after work every day and spending the whole afternoon chatting with other gardeners, sharing tips, and tasting each other's lettuces. It certainly is different from rural farming where you don't get off your own hill very often. There were young and old people out there, some of them even said they had been in their plots for over twenty years! And there was a Red Sox game that day, so every so often, gusts of cheers blew through the plots (Fenway Park is a block away.) We ate our BLTS at their picnic table, and then picked lavender stalks and brought them home to dry.
On the drive back to Vermont, we followed thunderclouds through rolling green hills, and I was glad to be on my way back. There's nothing like returning to a place you love. But oh my god, I wish I could bike everywhere. If only I didn't live an hour drive from my office, I would totally bike to work. Maybe one day I WILL bike to work. Since it's bike-to-work week, I will consider doing it soon. We have a shower in the office, so that might be possible. (Wouldn't it be cool if all offices had showers so people could run, walk, or bike to work all the time?) Next trip I take is going to be to a city where I can bike everywhere…like Berlin. Other ideas for urban places where biking is big?