Reflections on Water

I can’t swim to save my life. As a matter of fact, I can’t even doggy paddle. I thought I’d tell you now before you read any further. I must also tell you that I’ve never experienced any life altering incidents involving water (in case you wanted to know). In fact, some of the fondest memories I have as a child have dealt with water has playing a prominent role. I’m just not a water type of person I guess.

The sight of water alone re-energizes my senses and brings back memories of places and people I’ve encountered along my path in life. Up until recently, I lived about a 10 minute walk from the ocean. Whenever I needed to clear my mind or fill my lungs with the cool sea breeze, I would engage in a conversation with the waves crashing upon the shore. I no longer have that “luxury.” Ever since my move to another neighborhood in Boston, it requires more planning than I thought it originally would using public transportation.

Lucky for me, Boston is home to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace – a series of picturesque parks linked as the name suggests, like a necklace by parkways and waterways.  In a spur of the moment decision, I ventured out to Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain earlier this week to connect with the pond and its beautiful surroundings.

Bounded by the town of Brookline and located within walking distance from the home and studio of both Frederick Law Olmsted and the architect Henry Hobson Richardson, Jamaica Pond is a popular destination for city dwellers looking to go sailing, fishing, jogging or walking. Both Olmsted and Richardson were friends and collaborated on many outstanding projects in Massachusetts which integrated the architecture with its surrounding landscapes.  

The architecture at Jamaica Pond consists of a boat house and bandstand designed by the firm of Stickney and Austin and the now demolished Pinebank Mansion; the Queen Anne style house designed by John Hubbard Sturgis, of Sturgis and Brigham; designers of the Museum of Fine Arts that once stood on Copley Square.

I hadn’t been to Jamaica Pond since I was about 11 years old. As I approached the pond from Pond Street, memories of family picnics and bike rides started to flow. I briskly walked along the pond’s edges, calmly awaiting the sunset.  As the sun began to set and colors emerged from behind the clouds, the architecture of Stickney and Austin became so much more intense contrasting with the soft glow of the sun. This moment reminded me of how much we all intrinsically benefit from the natural and designed landscapes that surround us.  And although I cannot swim, I try to engage and interact as often as I can with landscapes and architecture where water plays a prominent role like Jamaica Pond.

To learn more about the Emerald Necklace and the work being done to preserve and restore this magnificent cultural resource, click here.

Learn more about the Olmstead Historic Site in Brookline and the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation.

To read about Stickney and Austin, see posts here and here.

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