mending walls

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The past week swirled by in a chaotic frenzy of planning: coordinating a research trip, wedding organization, freelancing, endless overthinking…

Some peace, however, emerged after a weekend of plants and the past. Though my work requires that I spend most of my time preoccupied with the mid- and late nineteenth century, I enjoyed visiting a historic “village” from a slightly earlier period – a site that’s also imbued with my own history, as I found it entrancing as a child!

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Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

That wants it down. I could say “Elves” to him,

But it’s not elves exactly…

– Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Though the restored buildings in this village attract the most attention, I took pleasure in observing the artifacts of countryside life — rugged stone walls layered with encroaching grass, simple fences formed of rough wood, and tall wildflowers hiding from sheep and rabbits.

The experience reminded me, in a synesthetic way, of the rolling tones of the Howl’s Moving Castle soundtrack.

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This dusty path stretched down to a covered bridge spanning a quiet river.

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As I learn more and more about the past, I delight in the constellation of knowledge that takes shape in my mind as I draw connections between people, places, and eras. Because of my travels, I won’t give any more tours until later in the summer – so in the meantime, I will take every opportunity to enrich my understanding of this particular period! (Starting by watching the gorgeous new Little Women adaptation…)

lands before time

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I’ve returned from my brief trip through time to the Pleistocene–I mean, my birthday week hiatus! You’d be forgiven, though, if these photos did give you the impression that I’d popped back a few aeons.

I’m still yearning for those lovely mid-June days spent with the dearest companion, but I’m consoling myself by reliving our trip to a local natural history museum. These archaic bones and stone impressions comfort me: at least our time apart will be nothing more than the smallest blip on a geologic scale!

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wonderlust

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Because I studied abroad in Scotland during my college days, folks keep asking me if I was going back to Edinburgh to reunite with some faculty members or friends I’d met in 2013. (They underestimate how much of an extreme hermit I was while on my semester exchange.)

The best buddies I made during my first time in Edinburgh all live in the same place, which makes visiting convenient! They also all happen to be either fossils, ancient Celtic art objects, or other curiosities on view at the National Museum of Scotland. Oh, the company I keep!

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Berkshire Museums ’16: Renoir Redeemed

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I’ve been joking about my “feud” with Pierre-Auguste Renoir ever since I overdosed on his art at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia–a place where literally every wall is covered with his works. An afternoon there will certainly give you enough bucolic portraits of shimmeringly blurry young girls to last a lifetime!

Truth is, though, that I’m totally kidding myself: I love what the guy can do with color and flowers. At a place like the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, where I was surrounded by both nature and Impressionism, I’m even more apt to admire his boldly-brushed blooms.

2016 marks the third year in which I’ve kicked off September with a field trip to museums in the Berkshires. This time, I was inspired by my love of macro photography to capture wondrous, delicate details in Renoi–um, Impressionist paintings–and some other enchanting genres!

(Pictured above: a photograph of a flower I took on one of the Clark’s nature trails, followed by some blooms painted by–you guessed it…)

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In Emily’s Garden

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A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –
After two years of living in the Pioneer Valley, I had only visited the Emily Dickinson Museum–the former home of a poet whose works have entranced me since childhood–twice. Both pilgrimages took place during grey October days, when the grounds were already showing slight traces of frost.
My visit to the museum this past weekend, however, showed me the truest glimpse into Emily’s world I may ever experience. The gardens that so influenced her writing were in full bloom, and I found myself wandering and wondering, trying to capture a sense of this shy yet intellectually feisty writer whom I identify as a real kindred spirit, even though we were born centuries apart.

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“The Painting of the World”: Florence, Italy

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Nearly seven years before I set foot in Florence, a younger Keely discovered a phenomenal musical: Adam Guettel’s 2003 The Light in the Piazza, set in the same city. I fell so in love with this remarkable story and incredible score that I even performed the title song at an awkward voice recital.

One of the musical’s leads, Clara, describes Italy as “the land of naked marble boys,” and I couldn’t help wryly remembering her various comments as I browsed Florence’s galleries and museums. I would say that it’s also the land of sweeping architecture, pale yellow houses, tourists gaping at masterpieces, and one spectacular vegan Italian restaurant. I certainly can’t show these photos to my sixteen-year-old self, who was constantly singing Piazza lyrics under her breath and dreaming of Europe–but I’m happy to finally share them with anyone who plans to find their own way to these piazzas!

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Museum Marathon: Old Friends (National Gallery, DC)

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Although I’ve studied art history for several years now, I wouldn’t ever call myself a connoisseur of any European or American painters–my scholarly interests lie outside of the traditional boundaries of “Western fine art.” Still, after you’ve visited as many museum as I have, it’s easy to identify most relatively famous painters at first glance. I like to think of it as recognizing close friends!

When I visited the National Gallery during my trip to DC, I was delighted by my ability to correctly name most paintings’ creators without looking at the label. I guess all of the tours I’ve led and research I’ve completed has endowed me with the ability to tell a Cole from a Church even from several feet away! Above all, though, I’m just so happy to have had the opportunity to view so many masterpieces in one brief afternoon.

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