Vacation, part 1

I’m currently in Boston, wrapping up part 1 of my vacation to see family and friends out here. (I grew up in a Boston suburb, went to college in a different one, and most of my college friends are still in the area, as is my mother.) Later this morning, we’ll be taking off to see my brother, sister-in-law, and my 5 and 7 year old nieces in New Haven for a few days.

In August, I’ll have lived in Minnesota for 10 years. And yet, while I love Minnesota (deeply: I fell in love with the state on a visit about a year before I moved and have never regretted that choice), coming back to the ocean, to the glacial valleys, to the landscape of my childhood  is never a bad thing.

This trip has been great, too. I got here on Thursday (several hours later than intended, but oh, well.)

On Friday, my oldest friend (we’ve been friends since I was in 2nd grade and she was in 3rd) picked me up, and we went off to do a whale watch. Whales, as some people know, have an increasing religious significance for me, which is complicated when you normally live about as far from any possible ocean as it is possible to live in North America.

We had, as it turns out, an *excellent* outing – the naturalist was delighted, as bad weather had meant they had had lousy luck for a couple of days. We saw about 15 individual whales, including all three species who normally spend time on Stellewagen Bank (the large bank and valley system just outside of Boston Harbour): humpbacks, fin whales, and minke whales.

Humpback whale, feeding

Humpback whale, feeding

This is my favorite of the shots I got. None of them are those amazing breech shots that one can sometimes get – they’re all feeding whales or bits of tail. But it was very soothing and relaxing and delightful.

After that, we had lunch, and pottered around for a while before going to see the Star Trek movie.

On Saturday, my mother and I went out to Old Sturbridge Village, which is a historical re-enactment of 1830s New England life. As a child who grew up here, we were out there at least once a year for most of my childhood, so there are a lot of old favorites. Coming back as an adult with a much deeper interest in culinary and medicinal herbs, in bread baking, in spinning wool and heritage sheep breeds, just makes the whole thing more fun.

A lamb, sleeping under a tree.

A lamb, sleeping under a tree.

And on Sunday, I went off to meet college friends. We spent the afternoon picknicking in the Arnold Arboretum, watching the small children of one of them run around (and be run around) by assorted adults. I keep in touch with my college friends online, but what I love is how we can pick up again when I make it out here, and it seems like no time has passed.

(And seeing their spouses is also fun: I realised last night that all three of my college friends who are married who I see when I’m out here reliably are married to people who were around when we were in college – not at our school, as we’re Wellesley alums and Wellesley is a women’s college, naturally – but around.)

One of the things I’ve been thinking about in Pagan terms a lot recently is about how one builds long-term relationships that can grow and change and flex over the years, without breaking. Those are the kind of relationships that I want in a coven setting, within my tradition, within the broader community in at least pieces.

There have been months and even years when I wasn’t sure I could do that. And then, I look at my college friends (and we’ve had ups and downs, though we seem pretty firmly settled into ‘up’ these days) and I think maybe I can keep doing that, for many more decades, and how wonderful that is.

We talked about that, last night, over dinner. About how our classes were fantasticm and we learned other things we enjoy a great deal in college, but that what we most appreciate is the friendships and the connection. And really, that’s the heart of my Craft work, too. It’s not the precise skills and intellectual knowledge that draws me (though those are things I enjoy), but the connections to Gods, to trad mates, to the parts of myself that become better and brighter and clearer in company.

I suspect I’m going to have more to say on this in the near future (my mom wants my opinion on a new novel called Commencement, which is about 4 Smith grads a few years younger than I and my friends, and I’m currently trying to figure out why it isn’t resonating with me as much as it might.)

There is also the part where I’m a little envious. Three of my friends here (and one more in San Diego), are with partners they met in college or in one case before. I look at my own relationship history, and I sort of wish I’d had that. I know there are good reasons I didn’t (and oh, boy, are there good reasons for ending the relevant relationships). But if I’m envious, it’s only because they’re so clearly happy and glowing. It’s hard to resent that in the slightest.

I do also, as you might figure by this actual post, feel my brain slowly unwinding after a very long spring and a lot of end of school year urgency and crisis. The good thing about being out here is that while there are things I do want to work on (writing, among other things), there are a lot of things I just can’t do easily from here, giving my brain space to stretch and expand again.

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