Archives for March 2011

Along a Nature Path with Chet Raymo

By Judy Buswick

Of the writers who might instruct us on the subtle points of how to Let Nature Be Our Teacher, Chet Raymo, author of sixteen books and Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at Stonehill College in Easton (MA), has a unbeatable combination of science interests and life experience. He leans toward astronomy as his favorite science, saying, I love the dark night sky, and love knowing what it is I’m looking at. The sciences, like the parts of nature, are each interrelated; so he notes that astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, biology all illuminate each other. All of them give depth and beauty to our local environments.

 

Chet Raymo

Readers in Cary Library’s Lexington Reads program this March will have encountered the connections in a number of sciences, as Dr. Raymo describes the one-mile path he walked for 37 years from his front porch in the village of North Easton to his office at Stonehill College. The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe (Walker & Company, 2003) is Lexington’s community-wide book selection and Dr. Raymo will be at Cary Hall (1605 Mass. Avenue, next to the Police Station) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 27th to discuss his multifaceted study of nature and the history of his hometown. His observant, inquiring personality shows us how our own path of discovery may begin at our own front door.

Prof. Raymo demonstrates that every pebble and flower has a story to tell, which leads him to introduce geology, botany, genetics, environmental concerns, and the history of human intervention in nature. That scratch on a rocky ledge, he explains, may be the result of glaciers creeping across New England. That weed by the wayside may have descended from a seed that travelled here aboard a sailing ship in the 1600s. Thus, because he knows and loves this particular path, the light-years and the eons no longer seem quite so forbidding. He comforts us by adding that his path is quite commonplace for New England and any path we select for our careful observation and applied knowledge can be filled with surprises and appreciation of nature.

Historians and readers of history will be conscious of how Raymo incorporates the burgeoning wealth of one family and the industrial development of North Easton into his account of nature’s power. The Ames Shovel Shop moved to North Easton in 1803 and Oliver Ames tapped the energy resource of Queset Brook, built dams to control a consistent supply of water power, and watched his shovel factory grow to produce 20,000 dozen shovels in 1844, before converting to steam power. Historically, our nation needed shovels to build the Eire Canal, the intercontinental railroad, and trenches in the Civil War. With the discovery of gold in California and then in Australia, there was a worldwide demand for the high quality shovels produced by this one family.

The Ameses became wealthy and built mansions, public parks, and impressive public architecture in the village many of which are still evident today. They commissioned works by America’s leading architect Henry Hobson Richardson and the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The roles these men played in and beyond North Eastern become part of Dr. Raymo’s story.

Olmsted moved mountains of soil and stone, diverted streams, clear-cut forests, and planted local and exotic trees to create the Sheep Pasture estate, the Ames family mansion and property. Now, a hundred years later, the effects of the hand of man — that is, Olmsted’s hand — appear ostensibly natural on the grounds of Sheep Pasture through which Raymo walks. He passes through woodlands and meadows, crosses Queset Brook on a plank bridge and stoops to examine the astonishing sexual apparatus of the purple loosestrife decorating the banks of the stream, and stops in a community garden to chat with locals who sometimes offer him radishes. He buys bunches of flowers for a dollar (on the honor system) or chats with Bob Benson, the bluebird man who builds boxes for the breeding birds.

At the Olmsted Archives in Brookline, Massachusetts, the plans Olmsted worked on, including land surveys, sightlines from the home’s terrace, and sketches of the landscape he imagined are preserved. Raymo suggests to Lexingtonians, I would encourage everyone who lives in the Boston area to visit the Olmstead home and offices in Brookline. It is now in the care of the National Park Service, and you’ll get a lovely tour by a ranger in a Smokey Bear hat. 

For Olmsted and his colleague Charles Eliot who designed the parks and parkways in the Boston metropolitan system, the harried urban middle class deserved landscape art that was beautiful and alive with the sounds of nature. Behind this was their understanding that we are part of an organic world, and that we need, as Olmsted insisted, relief from the too insistently man-man surroundings of civilized life.

Prof. Raymo believes that Olmsted surely had a greater influence on how Americans think about the natural world than any other person. Boston’s Emerald Necklace is his work, and many other of our favorite public spaces in the Boston area are works of his disciples. Not wilderness. Not urban sprawl. Something artful and natural all at once. Environments that nourish the human spirit.” During his program on Sunday afternoon, March 27th at Cary Hall (note this is NOT at the Library), Prof. Raymo is sure to have more to say about the lessons of nature and the gifts of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Another local author who has shared his ruminations and research about some walks he has taken is Massachusetts Audubon Society editor John Hanson Mitchell. He fully engages readers in The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston (Beacon Press, 2008) about the series of exploratory walks around the old Shawmut Peninsula. In Walking Towards Walden: A Pilgrimage in Search of Place (Perseus, 1995), Mitchell evokes Thoreau with a jaunt entwining history and ecology. Raymo says, “I have long been a reader and admirer of Mitchell. He has a wonderful sense of the layers of a place, from the geologic to the human contemporary. I’ve been enlightened by his books and writings.

Noted author Dava Sobel wrote the foreword to The Path, at the request of George Gibson, Raymo’s publisher at Walker & Company. Raymo acknowledges that he is extremely grateful that she complied. Sobel and Raymo have never met, but she too has taken a familiar walk for more than twenty years. She feels an easy camaraderie with Raymo and knows he will understand when she says that something positive, even restorative happens to me out there on her walk along familiar wet lands. Though not a nature writer, but rather a science news writer, Sobel now authors non-fiction books with a scientific bent that share a complexity with those of Mitchell and Raymo.

Of her work, Dr. Raymo says, She’s a marvelous writer. I especially enjoyed The Planets. (Viking, 2005) Given his years of teaching astronomy, Raymo would obviously enjoy a book such as this that explores the solar system, using popular culture and current research. Her book titled Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (Penguin, 1996) is another that traces the scientific path of discovery and problem solving with a true story of a man once lost to history.

Wildlife artist and naturalist Clare Walker Leslie participated in the Cary Library series when she discussed her book Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, (Storey Publishing, 2000) earlier in March. She and Raymo are friends and he praises her efforts encouraging children and adults to draw from nature. He explains that drawing from nature helps develop powers of observation and reinforce[s] curiosity about the natural world. These are the attitudes that lead to scientific exploration and the awareness of nature’s organic wholeness.

With all this, it becomes obvious why Chet Raymo is an ideal author for sharing Let Nature Be Our Teacher lessons. His science capabilities are matched by his deep affection and respect for the history of Easton, his hometown. He shares with Lexingtonians a love of local history and Massachusetts people whose lives affected our nation. Comparing Easton and Lexington, he says, Both towns are icons of American history, Lexington of the Revolutionary period, Easton of early industrialization. I believe a few Eastoners were there taking pot shots at the Redcoats on the Lexington road.

The lessons of nature are well worth our study. As The Path shows us, minute lived attentively can contain a millennium; an adequate step can span the planet.

Visit Science Musings by Chet Raymo for a complete and annotated list of his sixteen books at  http://www.sciencemusings.com/books/.

 

Judy Buswick is the author of Slate of Hand: Stone for Fine Art and Folk Art (Trafford Publishing, 2007) and is working on a memoir of Massachusetts quilter Sally Palmer Field. Contact her at jt.buswick@verizon.net.

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Let’s Bowl!

By Heather Aveson  | 

Its the early 1950s. Its Saturday night. You’re looking for something to do with your sweetheart, a group of friends, or your sweetheart and a group of friends. You might head over to the movie theater to catch On the Waterfront or High Noon, but you may be just as likely to gather up the group and head to a local bowling alley. And you’d have plenty of choices. In the 1950s there were lanes in just about every town Waltham, Woburn, Burlington, Winchester, Cambridge, Somerville, and yes, even Lexington.

Bowling in Lexington

The Lexington Bowladrome was located downstairs at 1690 Mass Ave in Lexington Center, more commonly known as the building where Decelles used to be.

Frank Armstrong, veteran salesman at Michelson’s Shoes, remembers being a pinsetter there as a young teenager in the mid-1940s. If you were setting up, you’d sit on a board straddling two alleys with your legs tucked up. You had to keep your eyes open because sometimes pins would fly up or the balls would fly up. If a pin hit you, the bowler might slide a nickel or dime down the alley. Frank got paid six cents a string to set the pins and return the balls in those days. So the nickels and dimes came in handy when he headed back to the nickel coke machine that dispensed 6 oz. glass bottles. Frank says it was mostly men in those days, “After the war it was a place for guys to go.

Or you might have gone to the iconic Wal-Lex, just over the line in Waltham. At its height in the early 60’s Wal-Lex offered 60 lanes of candlepin bowling, roller-skating, billiards and mini-golf. Dave Breton grew up at Wal-Lex.  He started bowling there in kindergarten and took a part time job as soon as he was old enough. He bowled in an adult league there until Wal-Lex closed in 2002, and still has a great love for the place, Wal-Lex had a lot of leagues. After it closed some of the bowlers went other places, but a lot of people just gave up. It was a shame because now the kids have nothing to do. I still have the key to the front door in case it comes back.

Game Over

The Lexington Bowladrome and Wal-Lex weren’t alone in closing their doors. Alleys in Burlington and Winchester are also gone. Bowling hit hard times in the 70s and 80s as American life began to change. John Leverone, Manager of Lanes and Games in Cambridge, has followed its ups and downs over the past 34 years. When I was kid in Arlington there were buses that came around and picked us up and brought us here to bowl after school. Now there are more and more organized sports competing with bowling. There were also a lot fewer women working outside the home and they made morning leagues popular. Men usually worked an 8 hour day, finishing up around 5pm, leaving time to spend a few hours a week bowling on a league. Although statistics show a steady decrease in league play, the Bowling Membership Organization estimates there are still close to three million Americans participating in league play.

A League Of Their Own

I caught up with several leagues while visiting local bowling venues. And from what I saw I’d join any one that would have me. Bowling is about so much more than scores. There is friendship and camaraderie, friendly competition and in many of these leagues, a rich history, all of which are integral to enjoying the sport itself.

Vinnie Logrippo and Charlie Taylor go for a strike.

Sacco’s Bowl Haven in Davis Square was a traditional family owned alley for 70 years. Last summer The Flatbread Pizza Company took over the business creating an eclectic blend of old and new. You can sit in one of the original vinyl upholstered bowling benches and enjoy trendy and delicious pizza cooked in a clay and brick oven just across the bar from ten lanes of candlepin bowling. No computerized scoring here. Get out your pencils and mark the frames, spares, and strikes yourself. Wednesday afternoons at 1pm you’ll find the Somerville Senior Center League gathering. Many members of this co-ed league have been bowling for decades. And it reminds me that league play was often a company or club activity. Vinnie Logrippo is an outgoing guy, the unofficial greeter and ready with a story. I used to be in a steel company and we played other steel companies. Then at the end of the season we had a big party. We had strippers and somebody watched the door to make sure no one came in. Charlie Taylor is a little more reserved. He’s collecting dues, so I ask him where the money will go, prizes? No prizes, he says, they’ll host a banquet at the end of the season. But, no strippers.

Over at the Woburn Bowladrome on a recent Thursday night, I am welcomed by members of the Town Line Ladies. In the 1970s it was a group of Winchester friends, families and gal pals. It began as a way to get out of the house for a few hours. They’d bowl and then they’d play cards, says Joan Brownell. Her mother was an original Town Line Lady. Member Joyce Granara has been bowling for 60 years, and her daughter, Terri represents the third generation of bowlers on this league. The league moved to Woburn after the Winchester lanes closed and has expanded their membership to ladies from other local towns. Linda Durant of Lexington Financial Group is a newbie, joining just this season. They’re a great group of women. Once you start bowling with them you’re hooked, even if you do have a 61.9 average. They’re just so supportive. It’s just fun.

And you can’t help but get caught up in the fun these ladies are having, it’s like being at a sleepover with your BFF–there’s plenty of laughter, conversation and bowling. Joan’s got a bead on it. It’s really nice because people make connections. As we get older that’s really important. We all still the bowling, we all still love to win, but that’s not the most important thing. This league is all about inclusion. Their end of the season banquet used to include hand picked and individually wrapped gifts for every member, that doesn’t happen anymore, but they still make sure everyone is recognized. And everyone is proud of their sometimes notorious achievement. Elaine Callahan is quick to share her most coveted award. Three years ago I got a ribbon for Most Consistent for being Inconsistent. I think my low score that year was a 28 and my high score a 105.  Hmmm, I could be a contender for that ribbon.

The Next Generation

If the youth are our future, then bowling seems to be in good hands. At Lanes and Games on Route 2 you’ll find a great group of kids on Saturday morning bowling in the instructional league. Coach Bill and Coach Dave, our friend Dave Breton from Wal-Lex, are on hand to give guidance and support to the approximately 12 young bowlers here this morning. And on Sunday Coach Dave will take his traveling team on the road.

The Taranto family. Left-to-right: Marcellina, Gatetano and Isabella.

An unscientific survey of the kids showed most of them enjoy bowling because it’s fun and you get to hang out with your friends. Many siblings bowl in the league together. The Taranto family of Waltham has 3 children bowling this morning. Marcellina, 12, Isabella, 10 and Gaetano, 9. I asked them what their friends thought about bowling. In general their friends are supportive, but maybe don’t get it.

Gaetano offers, “They don’t like it because they’re not good at it. Big sister Marcellina adds “My friends usually tell me it’s not really a sport. It’s the only sport I’m doing now, but I’m doing track later.”

Well, Marcellina may have the last laugh there. According to the National Federation of State High School associations bowling is the fastest growing varsity sport for both boys and girls in the country. The number of varsity bowlers at the high school level has actually doubled in the last eight years, putting it just behind ice hockey and well above crew.

And for those looking for an edge in the college admissions game, that’s right–think bowling. More than 170 colleges and universities now have varsity bowling teams and thirty-nine offer bowling scholarships. The National Association of intercollegiate Athletics considers bowling an emerging sport sending it on its way to becoming a recognized NAIA championship sport.

These junior bowlers weren’t impressed when I shared this valuable nugget with them. There was a general shrugging of the shoulders mixed with New England pride and a general response that they probably all bowl 10-pin. Implying they spoke another language. But I think I caught a glint of interest in the parents’ eyes.

The Ultimate Test

I’d spent a bit of time around bowlers during the last week. And I was getting hooked. Now for the ultimate test. How hard would it be to convince a group of friends to head out for a Saturday night bowling adventure? One call to each of three friends and it was done. We had a group of eight ready to battle it out on the lanes. For this outing we decided to visit one of the hip new upscale bowling venues in the city. When we entered Lucky Strike, part of the Jillian’s complex on Ipswich Street we were greeted by polished wood panels along the walls and a stunning arrangement of fresh cut white hydrangea, lilies and roses at the door. Inside we found subtle lighting and lounge areas with low benches. I thought I’d walked into a Sex and the City episode.

Ken Willinger throws a strike.

Gone were the curved plastic bowling banquettes, replaced by elegant leatherette sofas facing low cocktail tables. Plasma screens lined the wall at the end of the alley, keeping score, giving bowling tips and cheering or jeering your latest roll. This was definitely not our father’s bowling alley.

After a few tentative frames we got into it, we cheered each other on and played up casual rivalries. Lexington Resident Ken Willinger bowled a suspiciously high 141 his first game and an equally overwhelming 132 for the second string. Turns out Ken’s father had owned an interest in Wal-Lex and he’d spent quite a bit of time there as a kid. Florence DelSanto admitted that the last time she’d bowled when was she and Ken were working in Moscow because there was nothing else to do. It made me think that just about everyone has a bowling story.

And our teammate Suzanne Rothschild of Arlington didn’t care how many other entertainment choices we had, she knew fun when she saw it. We should do this every month. Her husband John Baynard agreed, as long we could get bowling shirts.

As we headed out the lanes were filling up with groups of college kids and twenty somethings ready to take up where we left off.

All in all, I’d say it’s about the best eleven dollar deal around. Where else can you spend a couple of hours having a great time with friends or family, get a little exercise and wear cool shoes?

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The first annual Lexington BBQ Battle draws huge crowd to support LABBB Program

 

 

 A tasty way to raise funds for the great LABBB program at Lexington High School.

Photos by Jim Shaw.

 

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Lexington Police department appoints two new officers

Richard “Rick” Ham and Christiana Severe were officially presented badges as Lexington police officers by Lexington police chief Mark Corr on Friday, April 15th.  Both officers were warmly received by over two dozen fellow officers and other town employees.  Rick Ham is the son of retired Lexington police lieutenant Rich Ham, and brother of Lexington police officer Brian Ham. Pictured above: Lexington police chief Mark Corr introduces the department’s two new officers. (Photo by Jim Shaw)

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Open House with Jay Kaufman

 Thursday, May 19  |  7:00 – 9:00 pm

OPEN HOUSE with Jay Kaufman: Many hoped that the election of Barack Obama as President signaled the end of racism in the U.S.   However, there is ample evidence, nationally and locally, that we must continue to be vigilant about racial tensions and prejudice in our midst.  Join with your neighbors for a difficult but important conversation about issues of race in our community.  Share your experiences of insensitivity, intolerance and discrimination.  What impact has it had on your life?  What can or should we, individually and collectively, do about it?

Depot Square, Lexington, MA

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Lexington Reads

By Judy Buswick  | 

Record snowstorms may have barricaded us indoors, but there’s more to nature than snow!  As the 2011 season progresses toward spring, Cary Memorial Library will have programs on what Nature teaches us. We can find, as William Shakespeare reminds us, that there are “tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene i) 

This season’s Lexington Reads events come into blossom throughout March, growing around a “Let Nature Be Our Teacher” theme. Residents may join in discussions with an animal naturalist, a treasure-hunt explorer, and a nature photographer, and view the wilderness movie Alone in the Wilderness about Richard “Dick” Proenneke. Alone in the Wilderness, was produced in 2003 from Dick’s own film footage. Special Children’s programs are guaranteed to stimulate a sense of wonder.

Literary elements this year include nature-journaling tips and also the reprise of our 2007 “Evening of Poetry Reading.” Our Community Book for Lexington Reads 2011 is Chet Raymo’s non-fiction title The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe.  Mr. Raymo will bring the “Let Nature Be Our Teacher” series to a close with a nature lecture and discussion of his book. Multiple copies are available at Cary Library. [Read more…]

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New Fund Honors Lexington Writer & Educator

Bill Tapply

By S. Levi Doran  | 

The William G. Tapply Memorial Fund Will Support Sophomore Writing Program

Friends of a longtime Lexingtonian are merging with supporters of a high school writing program, to fund an important piece of the sophomore English curriculum.

Bill Tapply spent his childhood here, and graduated from the High School in 1958. He later became well-known for his mystery novels, and published thirty during his lifetime – in addition to at least ten nonfiction books which mostly deal with fly fishing. And within Lexington, he was also admired for his abilities in the classroom – as a teacher. He returned to town for a quarter-century as an English and social studies teacher, and house master, before moving on to Emerson College, Clark University, and a home in Hancock, N.H.

Tapply died of leukemia in July of 2009, and almost immediately, his high school classmates began thinking of how they could honor him within the town. The LHS Class of 1958 is closely knit, and Tapply was a prominent member. There were much smaller classes then, with about 200 seniors graduating in ’58. [Read more…]

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Traces of the Trade

By Laurie Atwater  | 

CommUNITY programs to address issues of race

Imagine your joy at discovering a family history actually compiled by your grandmother only to have it turn to horror and disgust as you unwind a story that reveals your ancestor to be the most successful slave trader in America.

Now imagine that you are a nice white girl from Bristol, Rhode Island with a highbrow name like DeWolf in your family tree as you begin to grasp that reality. Katrina Browne (a distant cousin of DeWolf) uncovered this ugly family history over fifteen years ago and she was so moved by this unknown history that she was inspired to bring it out from the shadows and has been using her knowledge to educate and inform every since.

DeWolf Family
Above: Family of Ten—at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, July 2001. (Top, left to right) Dain Perry, Elizabeth Sturges Llerena, Katrina Browne, Jim Perry, Holly Fulton, Ledlie Laughing, Keila DePoorter. (Bottom, left to right) Tom DeWolf, Elly Hale, James Perry. (Photo by Elly Hale)

[Read more…]

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CRAFTY YANKEE

Popular with residents and tourists alike, the Crafty Yankee offers distinctive artisan gifts, unique jewelry and creative fashion accessories at prices that fit everyone’s budget. Crafty Yankee showcases the work of many New England artisans, as well as designs from around the world.

Our extensive gift and jewelry selections accommodate all ages and tastes, from traditional to contemporary. Our eclectic displays include handmade glassware, unique pottery, designer clocks, wall and desk calendars, greeting cards, handbags, scarves and hats – even fun socks and Stonewall Kitchen jams and special teas from Tea Forte! For every person, for every event, you’ll find something special at the Crafty Yankee.

 

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Look to Crafty Yankee for:

• Special small gifts, inspirational themes, and tokens of appreciation

• Unique artisan jewelry, eclectic fashion accessories and girlfriend gifts

• Entertainment gifts to celebrate special occasions, large and small

• Out of the ordinary personal service

Seasonally we offer promotional events, artisan trunk shows, birthday coupons and special gifts-with-purchase. We are pleased to offer complimentary gift-wrapping, personal shopping service, UPS shipping, and convenient parking. At Crafty Yankee, we make it easy!

We also take great pride in serving the local community, and supporting charitable causes comes straight from our heart. Known throughout Lexington as the “Giving Store,” we proudly support fundraiser events, the local seniors with our annual holiday gift tree, the Friends of Mel Foundation for breast cancer research, and many not-for-profit women’s organizations and artisans.

 

Crafty Yankee

1838 Massachusetts Avenue

Lexington MA 02420

email: contactus@craftyyankee.com

web: www.craftyyankee.com

 

 

 

 

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