Category Archives: landscape

hearst castle

In November 2004 (just one month after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years) I was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia at a cultural landscapes conference. Over drinks at that meeting the idea of working on a Cultural Landscape Report for Hearst Castle first came up and I lobbied for the honor to work on it. Less than six months later I was given the project.

Little did I know what kind of journey that project had in store for me. It was a journey that contained the highest highs and the lowest lows. The trajectory it put me on led me (in no small part) to leave Boston and move 3000 miles away to Portland, Oregon in 2007. Prior to moving I completed two of three parts of the project.

This last week that project was finally completed and I was invited to attend a party and presentation celebrating its completion. For me it was both a celebration and much needed closure. You can’t second guess decisions, but I learned a valuable lesson which I never want to repeat – to never let someone bully me off a project that I want to work on or take away an opportunity that I have earned. Just by being there I was able to simultaneously celebrate and be recognized for my contributions to the project AND stand up to a bully. It was an amazing experience.

I revisited old haunts and relived highlights of my participation in the project – lunch at my favorite deli (Soto’s in Cambria), a latte from my favorite coffee shop (French Corner Cafe in Cambria), and driving around my favorite curves along the approach road to the hilltop. Plus I finally took the scenic drive from San Simeon to San Francisco through Big Sur and Carmel. Such a treat!

The highlight was a swim in the Neptune Pool along with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres under the portico in the late afternoon sun. Few people outside the Hearst family and those who work at Hearst Castle get the opportunity to swim in the outdoor pool. It’s a rare honor and I loved every minute of it, especially watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and the moon rise over Casa Grande.

At times, especially during the low lows I thought the Hearst Castle project was a curse. Fortunately it didn’t take 86 years of heartbreaking losses to break it (if indeed a curse existed). All it took was a little reflection and a lovely dip in the pool.

soto’s deli in cambria

french corner bakery in cambria

pier at san simeon

pier at san simeon

dipping my toes in the pacific

door to the pool dressing rooms

swimming in the neptune pool


sculpture on the neptune terrace

shadows on casa del sol

casa del sol’s curved staircase

casa del sol

moon rise over hearst castle

elephant seals napping in san simeon

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo – I arrived just as they were starting mass

smallest park in the world

Portland is kind of quirky, but that’s why we love it. Most of its quirk has developed over the last decade, but some things started long ago. It was on a 3rd grade class field trip that I first encountered the smallest park in the world. Surrounded by asphalt and located (in stunning contrast) next to Waterfront Park (one of the largest parks in the City), this little park still makes me smile.

lincoln cottage

Seven years ago I started research on the Lincoln Cottage, a small house situated on a hill on the edge of Washington D.C. where Abraham Lincoln spent his summers while President. He couldn’t travel to the Shenandoah Mountains like Herbert Hoover did or Camp David like many modern presidents do now. Our country was at war so he needed to stay close to Washington.

However he needed a place that was quiet, where he could think outside the chaos of Washington, and escape the hot swampy weather surrounding the White House. Even during the usually idyllic summer months Lincoln was often described as sad and restless as he wandered the grounds. During the summer of 1862 while living at the cottage he formed his thoughts on slavery that would he would eventually formalize with the Emancipation Proclamation.

My research led to the restoration of the Lincoln Cottage grounds which are now open to the public. The restoration project was initiated in anticipation of the Lincoln Bicentennial, which was in full swing this week surrounding what would have been Lincoln’s 150th birthday. Leading many of those celebrations was President Barack Obama.

In 2002, when I started this project I would not have believed that an African-American would reside in the White House when the celebration commenced. Now I can’t imagine anything else. In itself it’s the most profound element of the celebration and exactly what Lincoln foresaw as he pondered this very issue at the Lincoln Cottage.

the cottage and grounds in 2002 before restoration


today i got to talk about cultural landscapes. today i got to feel like i was sharing my experience with people who appreciate it. today i got to remember wonderful discussions in my old office at fairsted. today i got to remember going to coffee with amy. today i got to feel passionate.

all aboard

Every time I take the train from New York to Boston I relive my post grad school life.

I pass through Rye, my first stop after driving 3000 miles from Oregon with Ivy in the summer of 2001. I pass through Westport which I was dreaming would be filled with fresh produce and wonderful food markets ala Martha Stewart, but which paled in comparison to the fresh fruits and vegetables I could find in my own home state.

I pass by the East Norwalk train stop where I deboarded the commuter rail nearly every day on my way to work. The platform looks the same. We stop in Bridgeport and it still looks as rundown and ghostly as it did when I lived here. There’s still a promise of restoration, but reality is a much different story. As we lumbered out of the station and continued to head north I could see the downtown was filled with grey rundown buildings next to a couple brand-spanking new renovations that stuck out like diamonds floating in a sea of tar.

Beyond that we stopped in New Haven and it took everything I had not to get off and pop into see Jeromy, Anne and Ella. Maybe have a little pizza at Modern, maybe drink a little whiskey at Bar, or catch a concert on the Green.

From there the landscape changes to less familiar places, but beautiful bays and inlets that dot the shoreline through Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Finally the train rolls in to Boston, passing alongside the commuter rail stops that run to the city from the south making their way to Back Bay and then South Station. I can’t count how many times I passed through South Station on my way in and out of Boston, but it felt so familiar walking through the doors and heading to the T. I was back!

la la land

Christmas in LA in March. Nothing about that sounds right, but mom and I had a great trip to the Palm lined city – a visit we’d planned over the winter when we couldn’t rendezvous with my brother in December. We took in a concert at Erik’s studio, had dinner at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, and toured the recently reopened Getty Villa in Malibu. We had breakfast at Urth Cafe with Peter and Garrett before meeting up with them again in West Hollywood for dinner. It felt a lot like our old Boston days, but in a much nicer climate!! I guess I can see why they like their la la life.