pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: September, 2012

mrs. architecture maven

dispatch from 02139 (in which we ramble among harvard yard’s architectural wonders, through the eyes of mr. chair)…

i promised, some months back, when i first pulled up my chair here and spilled the secret of where we were headed for the school year, that i’d not leave you straggling at the table, all alone to gather up the coffee mugs, pack away the placemats.

i told you we’d all dive  — one big uber splash — into this post-collegiate adventure, that i’d sneak you into lecture halls, prowl through poetry corners, stroll the banks of the charles river, tiptoe into vespers behind the monastery wall, even unload assigned and essential readings.

i hadn’t realized that i’d take you on an architecture tour. but, you might know — and if you didn’t, now you do — that i’ve long been wedded to mr. architecture critic, a man who long ago made my knees all wobbly when he uttered — in our first quaint phone call — the declaration: “God is in the details.”

fool me, i didn’t know at the time that this was hardly his original thought, but that in fact he was quoting ol’ mies van der rohe. i mistook his musing as prayerful; i didn’t yet realize that to the fellow on the other end of the coiled cord, his religion was architecture, and van der rohe, his patron saint.

but that was 25 years ago, give or take a couple months. and a quarter century later, i now know what it is to live entwined in the inescapable art, as my own personal critic so fondly calls it.

it isn’t always pretty.

case in point, for which we’ll turn back the clock to the hot summer day of 1991 when he and i at last succumbed to the grueling exercise of bridal registry:

why, we’d barely traipsed three steps down the bedding aisle at marshall field & co., that grande dame of old-world department stores on state street in chicago. i’d spotted a lovely set of sheets, blue roses, i recall, entwined in vines. i thought nothing of it as i hoisted my pen to scribble down their hardly poetic SKU. to which the architecture critic yelped in full protest: “i’ll not sleep on those. it’d be like getting tangled in a bed of thorns.”

oh, dear. you might imagine where we went from there.

there’ve been times, speeding mightily on highways, when my otherwise cautious driver/critic spies an architectural disaster and, barreling along at an otherwise modest 65 m.p.h., can’t help but jerk his neck, take eyes solidly off the road, and cuss up a holy blue streak, as i brace against the dashboard, praying i don’t die in blasphemous post-modern collision.

on more than one occasion, though, it’s been breathtaking.

say, the saturday morning some years back when we were contemplating a skylight in our humble kitchen, and suddenly the man across the table was quoting louis kahn, the great architect and writer, who saw in every window the celestial hand of God, who rained down shards of light as divine illumination on our earthly doings.

i was swiping at tears before he’d finished his soliloquy, and i thanked my lucky stars that he’d swooped me on this sky-ride.

so here we are, destination 02139.

it should come as no surprise that, to my very own architectural wonder, this cambridge campus is a romp through the playlot of architectural history. he goes out for endless walks. comes home pink-cheeked, as if he’s been pumped with high-grade oxygen. he pores over guidebooks, inhales history tomes. takes me out for urgent strolls, because i simply must see — to pluck but one discovery from just the other day — the whispering arc of sever hall.

and so, today, i invite you to cower under the umbrella with me, as it’s rainy here, and not the finest day for touring harvard’s grand gates and hallowed chambers, its granite steps and harry potter dining hall.

but tour we did, all 24 fellows, their co-vivantes (as we prefer to be called), and a smattering of nieman chieftains, all following the pied piper of harvard architects.



you see him here, head bobbing amid the sea of rain-stoppers. and if you make out anything, do notice the ebullience on his countenance. the boy is joyful when talking brick and mortar.




moving swiftly along, here’s a snap of the iron scrollwork of something called johnston gate, which marks the front door to all of harvard college. the snaps i’ve chosen here are cut and cropped to zero in on the beautiful. i’ll leave the big picture to someone else.




and here, because i loved the scientific underpinning, is what the architecture maven calls, “the DNA of harvard,” its essential brickwork, colonial in root, laid out in variegated weave, not unlike the tweed jackets of a weathered harvard thinker.

after a studied stroll through old harvard yard (1700s), and new harvard yard (1800s through 1900s), the rain-splattered critic revealed that he’d snared backstage passes to a hallowed hall where the faculty have been known to shout down the president (of the university, not the republic — not yet anyway). there was much to make us gasp, but i found myself staring jaw-dropped toward the twinkling heavens.

which belongs to this…

and, now i’ll hush, and let you stroll past harvard’s glory…

memorial church, one grand place to pray…


this is too itty-bitty, but up close it’s h.h. richardson taking your breath  away with botanic-themed sandstone, and light-as-souffle brickwork…..

and here, before we run out of time, space or dry puddle-hoppers, one last bit of delicacy from inside the morning-prayer chapel of memorial church….

was that a sigh i heard?








and, at last, the harry potter dining hall, otherwise known as annenberg hall, “the great bristling brick valhalla” tucked inside memorial hall, where all the freshman gobble breakfast, lunch and dinner, and which does not welcome hungry gawkers. which, from the start,  is what stirred mr. architecture  critic to find an honest means to wend its food line. thus, this rainy traipse through harvard yard, just so he could chew and drool, all at once.

bravo, sweet blair.







and there you have it! this dispatch is dedicated, wholly and utterly, to the mama and papa of mr. critic, the kindest, gentlest souls you ever did meet, and the ones i’ll love forever after.

here’s hoping not a one of you minded tagging along for the tour. at least none of you had to warm your sodden toes in the fire. which is where i’m headed now. 

anyone else stumble on a wonder this week, architectural or otherwise???

(pssst. clearly, i am having a tough time getting words and pix to line up…..bear with me while i struggle…)

stitching the homesick blanket

dispatch from 02139…

here on the banks of the charles river, it’s seeped in, that one thing i knew was coming, that one thing i prayed might be kept at bay.

but of course, it couldn’t, wouldn’t be.

not when traveling with young soul, tender soul, boy on the brink of those tumbling years, those years when friends mean everything, when the familiar is lifeline, is equilibrium.

and so, at the dawn of most days lately, and past nightfall, when the bedclothes are tucked up around his chin, that’s when i hear the sigh, the deep, deep hollow sigh. the boy misses home, misses friends, feels unmoored.

please, can we go home?!?!” he asks, begging and insisting in the same short breaths.

are there words in a mother’s lexicon that cut more sharply against the vessels of the heart?

one morning, not so many days ago, when i’d dried the tears, whispered words meant to stitch together the tatters, when i’d coaxed and promised and pleaded, at last he climbed down from the top of the bunk bed, surrendered more or less to the school day up ahead, and as he stood there, calm by then, bravely slipping arms through soccer jersey, he asked:

“mom, has there ever been a time in your life where you wished you could go back to a decision and make it over again?”

and i knew, of course, before the last word of the sentence rested on my eardrum, that the decision in mind here was the one back in january, around the dinner table, when we’d asked that fifth-grade boy what he’d think of up and moving to cambridge for a year, and he replied, without missing a beat, “sounds great. i need to see the world!”

and here, standing on the hard-planked floor of his little room on franklin street, in cambridge, in the heart of 02139, he was wishing with all his might that time was silly-putty, could be pulled and twisted, turned back, re-formed. that just maybe he’d said nope, no way, i’m stayin’ put.

but fact is, we’re here. for a mere nine more months.

and i know, deep in my mother heart, that he’ll be all right.

that this hurts, absolutely. (after all i’m the girl who sat on the garage stoop for my whole kindergarten year, every sunday night, oozing emptiness and sorrow as i watched my papa pull down the driveway, turn and fade into the darkness, gone again till friday, week after empty week, for most of that whole year.)

the thing that keeps me steady are the words some wise soul said in passing, just before we packed up all the boxes back on maple avenue, when she said: “a parent’s job is to teach our children to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

well, it’s uncomfortable, all right. for him, at least. for this kid who travels to a school where he claims just one friend, though when i pick him up on the basketball courts after school, he’s amid a thicket of ball players, all smiling, jostling. and they call out his name in a way that drips with honey, pure sweet, our little scrapper of a hustler on the court. and with that big ol’ smile to boot, he seems to be the proud owner of a formula for instant affection.

if i didn’t believe, deep down, with all my soul, that this year was in fact a trip through the accelerator, that shake-’em-up-machine that can’t help but infuse life knowledge, heart, a deeper wider understanding of the world, whether it comes from sitting on my lap while i read a story from our south african journalist friend about the 1,802 footsteps it takes along a muddy mountain path to fetch a jug of water (twice, each day), or whether it comes while kicking around a soccer ball with four kids, not one of whom speaks english, i would never have emptied out his dresser drawers, stuffed it all in duffel bags, and squished them into the back of the little black sedan that pulled out of our alley back home, and kept chugging till it got to the curb here on franklin.

but that doesn’t mean i’ve not, once again, pulled out my mother bag of implements and tools for stitching back together the tattered heart of a boy who’s been stricken with a nasty case of homesick blues.

and once again i’ve come to that blunt line, the precipice, where words run out, where there are only so many ways you can whisper hope, promise deliverance from this heartache.

and so, as always, i’ve turned to the alchemies of comfort.

i am simmering cider and spices in early morning hours so that even before he flutters open an eyelid, he’ll have breathed in a comfort note, a pungent autumn mix of cinnamon and clove and apple orchard.

i’m frying sausages and bacon. making whopping batches of french toast on weekends, so all week long he’ll start the day with a platter that tries to whisper: you are loved. you’re not home, but home is here, is where the ones who hold you up promise to sustain you, to keep you from being swallowed whole by the rocky waters of your achiness.

i’m snatching samples of hard-rock candy from the white house pastry chef who lectured to my “science and cooking” class, so that he knows, without words, that even in the thick of my dailiness, he is front and center in my mama brain.

last night, dashing out of a mind-blowing talk from five journalists who covered the arab spring, from egypt to liberia to yemen and tunisia, five journalists who barely missed bullets, and didn’t escape arrest, dashing out because i had to get to the soccer field, to fetch my homesick boy from practice, i spied a vat of goldfish crackers, and scooped up a whole cup because even when my head is swirling with images of war and foreign correspondents, i remember that little boys’ tummies growl when they are empty, and the drive home in cambridge traffic is always longer than it should be, and so there i was dashing along the cobbled streets, weaving and darting between college kids plugged into iPhones, with my plastic cup of bright orange goldfish.

because mamas never stop the art, the craft, the hope of being mamas. our one true work is nestled deep in that cord that forever connects us: we are, if we choose to be, the beginning and the end of someone’s belonging to this holy earth. we are womb. even when it’s emptied.

and our prayers are without end. our prayers, without words when we come to the place where no vowels, no consonants exist to capture the whole of what we ask, what we beg for.

dear God, please fill this child’s heart. please stitch together the gaping hole, the oozing-out place where it hurts so very much, where it feels like you’re falling, spinning, down a big black tunnel. where you think you’ll never again get home. where the comfort of your big old bed, the wallpaper that you know by heart, the sounds of the creaking at the top of the stairs, it’s all you long for. that and the footsteps of your friends, tramping in the door, encasing you in the whole cloth of friendship and familiar that you so miss.

dear God, pass me, please, the spool and the needle that i need here. as i try mightily, morning after morning, bedtime after bedtime, to stitch the homesick blanket. so i can tuck in the boy i love, wrap him in the holy cloth of comfort that only angels bring.

chair people, if you’ve an extra word of grace to spare, perhaps you might send up vespers for all the children in this world who don’t quite feel that they belong wherever it is they are.  and if you’ve tricks in your sewing kit, or recipes tucked into files, please do tell: how do you stitch comfort for the ones you love when they are aching, oozing, and wholly at a loss?

dashing to send this off because any minute now, the power’s going out for the whole day here. i’ll have to nip and tuck later. but for now…..my morning’s meander….

light coming in at the edges

dispatch from 02139…

it struck me, in the middle of a long-strided lope this week, as i race-walked from point A (andover library) to point B (memorial hall), my shoulders weighted down with satchels of notebooks and pens and binders, my breath coming in rapid spurts as i righted my wrong direction and sought internal gyroscope, that i was quickly becoming one of the lemmings.

schedule in hand, spreadsheet at the ready, i’d chalked up six whole classes plus wednesday night seminar plus friday master class plus etched-in-stone 75-year-old nieman tradition, the tuesday night “sounding,” in which each worldly fellow gathers us all at the conference table and pours out the why of his or her journalistic lifework.


the fact of the matter was i was darting past grolier poetry book shop, inc. (est. 1927). i’d not yet ventured behind the great stone walls of the monastery nestled along the bend in the charles river. i’d barely spent a morning here in the third-floor aerie where the sunlight streams in through lace curtains, where we’ve a whole library of sacred music, dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, where bookshelves overpopulated with the likes of thomas merton, t.s. eliot, rainier maria rilke, mary oliver and wendell berry call out to me so insistently and incessantly that surely their throats by now are rubbed raw and hoarse as chafing sandpaper.

“but here you are at harvard, fool!” i heard myself chastising myself. “clock’s ticking and you turn back into a pumpkin soon enough. glass slippers will shatter; you’ll be back to your pink rubber crocs quicker than you can say ‘manolo blahnik.’ don’t tarry. don’t stop for breath. inhale. swallow, swallow.”

and then i heard myself choking, sputtering like the tail pipe of some chitty-chitty-bang-bang (a cultural reference that solidly plants me a school-age child of the late 1960s, in which the whole family trooped to a crimson-upholstered downtown movie house to take in the big-screen rendition of roald dahl’s film delight, the one that starred dick van dyke in the role of hapless inventor of flying car).

and that’s when the editing began, the self-editing, the making sense of the morass of these past few days and weeks, in which dizzy heads prevailed, and the intellectual binge began.

no wonder we all looked dazed. it’s what happens when you unloose a troop of would-be thinkers on an ivy-walled institution catapulted off the drawing board back in pilgrim days, a mere hop, skip and a jump from plymouth rock, for cryin’ out loud. with the bona fides to prove it (just stop and read the olde english prose pounded into the limestone slab at johnston gate, at the maw of harvard yard, should you require chiseled veritas).

it wasn’t hard, really, to check my pulse and proclaim it overstrung on overdrive. i could hear it pounding in my head. i could see it in the rosy streaks that had stained my irish cheeks.

the choice, truly, wasn’t complicated: i could a.) keep up the mad-dash, and hyperventilate my way toward christmas. or, b.), grab the pruners, play curator of my own calendar, and try my hand at nips and tucks.

i heard the gong go off — bing! bing! bing! — when numero due, little letter “b” rolled through my brain cells, washed over the gray matter, kicked off its placid powers, settled me into a state of soothe i’d not sensed in, well, months and months, quite frankly.

the whole point of sabbatical, the essence of that latin root, sabbaticus, is, indisputably, “a ceasing.”

in other words, it’s a holy plea to hit the brakes on all the tumult.

“shhhhhhh,” you can hear the big lips in the sky whispering, imploring. dial it down. chill, baby, chill. it’s time to rest now. go to your cubby, and grab your sit-upon, that padded cushion upon which to doze while the teacher turns the pages of the picture book, and you nibble on your grahams and slurp your milk.

see, just the notion of that long-ago rug time, back in the children’s garden when you were five, it makes you all heavy-lidded, doesn’t it? slows your ticker to a sweet adagio.

and so it was when i realized i could ditch a class or two. didn’t need to take in the spectacle of rock-star ethical reasoner michael sandel (heck, i’d been a student of the jesuits, and i’ve yet to stumble upon a living-breathing soul who teaches ethics more solidly than a three-star jebbie). on a gosh-darn roll, i realized, too, i didn’t need to whittle away my thursday afternoons tangled in the algorithms of “science and cooking.”

suddenly, as if cumulus clouds had parted, i saw clear blue stretches in my week, whole blocks of hours unclaimed.

why, i could amble down the cobbled lane, climb the steps to that famed poetry corner, slide a slender volume off the shelf, curl up in a cozy nook, and discover bliss in stanzas.

rather than exist beneath an opaque wall of back-to-back commitments, i could step off to the side of the lemming’s march, pay attention to where the light seeps in around the edges.

isn’t that where holiness presides?

isn’t that the glory that makes this whole endeavor matter?

isn’t that why God invented sabbath, and on the seventh day she wholly rested? plunked her achy tootsy-toes upon the footstool, sat back and sighed?

i am always late to understanding, and i nearly always manage to stumble, bloody-up my knees before i figure out the obvious, but might we come to hear our deepest whispers, quench our deepest thirst, when we stop the noise, quell the fury, and get about the work of purely being alive?

and so it’s been in recent days.

can’t claim i didn’t feel a twinge, a seismic pang of guilt, when i skipped my first “justice” rock-‘n’-roll show. can’t pretend i didn’t wince when, yesterday at 2, i knew full well i was missing out on the physics of sous vide, that chic undercooking mode made famous by the spanish roca brothers (whose lecture i did take in on tuesday afternoon, though i was left barely grasping how you cook filet of sole in a vacuum-sealed pouch on very few degrees for 36 hours, and live to tell about it).

i mustered up all my heaven-sent determination, and — egad, what pray tell is this? — found myself sinking down into a featherbed of slow time, pay-attention time, do-what-matters-to-your-heart time.

i tiptoed out of bed at dawn, and marched down the cobblestones toward the great stone monastery, saint john the evangelist, at the river’s bend. i pushed open the great oak door, and stepped into the candle-lit stone-cave quietude where the monks were deep in morning prayer.

i’d missed the bells, it turned out, because i read the schedule wrong. but, still, i was there for the gospel and the chanting. and i was soon alone, my knees resting on the cobalt-blue velvet cushion, my head bowed before the rows and rows of votive candles, one of which i’d lit, one of which flickered its holy vesper up to where the prayers waft.

and here, on a friday morning where the breeze flutters the lace that drapes the window, i am alone with the tap-tap-tap of the alphabet keys, a somnolent but soulful rhythm if ever there was one.

and i made time this week not for a night class, but rather to visit the book store where a fellow who’s written julia child’s biography, stood and told us tales from the cookstove. recounted how julia’s hors d’oeuvres of choice was nothing so fancy as pepperidge farm goldfish. “by the bowls full,” the scribe informed. “whole mountains of them,” he emphasized, as if letting us in on her long-held kitchen secret.

it just might be that serendipity is the savior of this year. that floating without rudder, dancing unchoreographed, just might be the magic trick.

to live, to breathe, with all your might, just might be to let the hours unspool all on their own, to grasp the sacred when and where you find it.

most especially when you slow down, grow quiet, so much so that you can’t help but pay attention to the sunbeams peeking in from between the shadows.

that’s the harvard book store, up above, where bob spitz, author of “dearie: the remarkable life of julia child,” and the white-shocked pin dot, just to the right of the tv square, was spilling kitchen secrets the other eve. and just below, the candles that burn at saint john the evangelist, a holy place i fully intend to make my home away from home……

oy. and before i lose this entire page, thoroughly upending my new-found calm, i’d ask simply, have you discovered a need to edit the demands of your life, to curate the gallery of what matters most deeply, and what’s dismissible? and what unfolds when you slow to a pensive quiet?

trying to take a drink from a fire hose…

dispatch from 02139 (in which i herewith make the distinction between a “dispatch,” that is, a verbal  post card, reporting from the front, and a “meander,” the more typical musing from the chair. in this year of thinking sumptuously we will need a mix of both, and this week was so over-upholstered, it requires dispatch from which meander might be launched….)

loping down the cobblestones of cambridge last eve, the long tall fellow with whom i’ve entwined my life and i were volleying utterances back and forth in between the huffing and puffing that comes when dashing home from the theatre in attempt to a.) catch the president make his second-round acceptance speech, and b.) duly stop the clock on the babysitter’s tally.

in other words, we were speeding toward home, talking.

the subject at hand was how very dizzying this week has been, how “shopping” classes — a harvard eccentricity in which professors put on “the best of” lectures, and students, accustomed to cherry-picking the choices in their life, dash into lecture halls or seminar rooms, listen for as long as their attention holds, then vote nay or yea, either staying put (thus declaring they’ll take the course) or up and skedaddling (thereby letting the prof know that the dog-and-pony theatrics did not meet unspoken expectation) — had been at once exhausting and exhilarating.

i’d just said that i had looked forward all the dizzying day to sitting quietly in the theatre, the famed cambridge-based american repertory theatre (A.R.T.), absorbing all that needed to be absorbed.

but instead of quiet, a landscape for contemplation, the play that had just unfolded before our eyes, “marie antoinette,” by hyperkinetic and brilliant playwright david adjmi (he was there to talk to us, along with the director, as we sipped prosecco and nibbled blanched broccoli in the lobby before the play), had been one of full-throttle sensory explosion (in the most glorious way), and rather than theatre as respite, the evening had added yet another massive volume of thought and image to sift through.

to that, the lanky fellow replied, “this whole thing is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose.”


i am gulping as fast as i can. and still, my face, my front, right down to the tips of my yellow rubber rain boots, is soaked with all that i can’t  fit into my stretched-wide-open maw.

i do believe i’m missing 98 percent of what’s gushing from the eternal hose. or so it feels.

and that’s only because here in the city of infinite wellspring it comes so fast, so furiously, you’d need a hippopotamus’ great vast jaw to open wide and swallow.

besides taking in trips to thoreau’s walden pond, and a glorious slice of atlantic coast called crane’s beach, and an apple orchard in ipswich where cider donuts were plopping down in doughy life-preserver Os, then floating along a hot oil river till crisped to sugar-and-cinnamon-y perfection, this week was all about taking to the classroom.

our brave little soldier was first up, marching to the bus stop on a rainy morn, declaring, “i don’t want a helicopter mom, i’ll do this myself.”

and so aboard the bus he climbed, the purple cow bus, as it’s so designated. and off he went for the next nine hours. we scooped him up at day’s end from a basketball court where he was the only white kid playing among a forest of sky-high shooters.

he beamed, as did they, when they reported to us that it had been revealed that our not-yet-5-foot shooter could keep up with the best of ’em.

bumping home in the back seat of our cambridge mobile, he went on to declare at least one teacher “awesome,” and was astonished to find the one kid he knows at the school somehow magically made his way into every one of our little guy’s classes. so, all in all, except for the english teacher he thinks is “super tough,” it was an A+ start to his rendition of this adventure.

while he was off being brave, his mama found her heart near pounding through her chest as she took a seat in the far back of her first harvard lecture hall.

wasn’t long till i distinguished myself as the only one in the 300 seats of paul farmer’s global health class who curiously pulled out a pen. i was the odd scritch-scratch amid a sea of click-clack-clicks, as the 18-year-olds madly pound out notes on laptops, and toss curious glances at that archaic instrument, the stick pen.

the school week didn’t end before handing me rejection no. 2 from yet another harvard prof, who refused to let a silver hair sit in on her graduate-level seminar, “the major works of american civilization.” but, touché, i was in the room, pulled right up to the conference table for the whole first two-hour slot, long enough to snare a reading list and syllabus so i can play along at home.

by week’s end it seems i’ve — let me grab my fingers and begin the course count — “ethical reasoning 22: justice,” with rockstar legal thinker michael sandel (that’s the classroom pictured up above, if you can believe, and sandel emerged, bounding, as the chandeliers brightened, from the depths of a sunken staircase on stage, after class opened with a shake-the-rafters rock-anthem video); narrative non-fiction, a seminar for nieman fellows and the occasional tagalong (c’est moi); “modern spiritual pioneers and religious revolutionaries,” in which we explore the lives of leo tolstoy, mohandas gandhi, lech walesa, thich nhat hahn, dorothy day, abraham joshua heschel and martin luther king; rockstar global health doc paul farmer’s “case studies in global health: biosocial perspectives,” in which i wind up either enlisting in the peace corps or finally heading off to med school to save the world;  the hilarious could-be-sit-com “science and cooking: from haute cuisine to the science of soft matter,” in which rockstar chefs jet in from around the world for tuesday lectures, including the likes of much-famed ferran adria (from el bulli in spain), bill yosses (white house pastry chef), dan barber (blue hill), and wylie dufresne (wd-50).

take a breath. it’s still only tuesday aftenoon.

we then dash down to rockefeller hall at the div school, for “virginia woolf and religion,” in which we read at least one woolf novel per week, and present a five-page paper for all the class to critique.

since i’ve been unceremoniously dumped from two classes, poetry and religion, and the major works of american civilization, i intend to homeschool my little old self in the case of those two.

and — why stop when on a cerebral binge? — i’ve a long list of nooks and crannies to explore, among them grolier poetry book shop, inc., the longest-surviving poetry-only book store in america. cross my heart, i’ll soon trek to thoreau’s cabin, at the end of a heavenly trail that traces the shores of walden pond. and i do hope to spend a starry night in the hermitage in newbury that is the retreat house of the monastery just down the lane here in cambridge.

so so very much on the sumptuous list.

but what of the glories that seep in through the cracks, at unexpected moments and places, such as the school bus stop where i’ve met a parisian single mum who founded the french equivalent of city year (a year of do-goodery for kids from 16 to 22), and who is here alone with two kids for a full fellowship at harvard’s kennedy school of government? or the elegant finance professor, just back from a year in china, who each morning strolls in his crisp white shirt and chapeau, and is teaching me the ways of elite chinese 18-year-olds who, at every turn, buck the communist party’s so-called restrictions?

and what about the wife of a long-ago nieman fellow who has invited us into her painting studio and informed me that back in 1981 the tagalong of the fellow was known as the “co-vivante,” instead of the more pedestrian “affiliate,” our current official tag?

it is dizzyingly much. but not too much. because i stay up late to sift through my day’s notes, and i bend my knee and ask for strength whenever i need. i’ve already found my place, near the book of petitions at st. paul’s, where i venture when ready for refueling.

i must dash to scoop up soccer shorts off a cambridge front porch, because even amid all the thinking, there is soccer to be played. but before i go, i’ll add a new chair feature, the word of the week: last night, while listening to adjmi, the playwright, he mentioned something about a “quiddity,” a word that caught my ear, made me lunge for my pen, a word i’ve not yet had a chance to look up. (though i just did, and it means “the essence of a thing,” a word i’m sure i’ll put to great good use.)

so that’s the quiddity of it all, from here in 02139, at the end of — could it be — a mere week three. only 45 left to go. perhaps by autumn’s end, i’ll have managed to get my thirsty gullet moist in the rushing, gushing fire hose.

do please forgive the book report of a posting, and know that i write not to wow a single one of you, but with an innocent’s sense of over-exuberance, and pinch-me-is-this-real. i’ve a mama or two who want to know every bit of reporting from here on the front, and this one’s for both of them. and you and you and you…..

i intend to introduce thought of the week, as well, but now i must dash, and then i’ll need to scroll through my notes to find the one juiciest morsel worth laying out on the table…..

so the question of the week is simply this: what’s your word of the week? or big idea of the day??