Good Morning, Bostonians!
I’ve written before about the life of the city, and the joys that I find in interactions with strangers, impromptu activities, and the general energy of living in such a place. I love the pace at which I live as a college student in Boston, yet I realize that I value quiet moments as much or more as those spent biking the marathon route or tossing pillows. PBS’s new YouTube show, The Art Assignment, highlighted the importance of quiet spaces and the unsettling nature of silence in their last episode, and it reminded me of this need for quiet, almost to revive our sanity and remain in touch with who we are at our core. While I haven’t searched the city for the most quiet of places (yet), I can recall some of my favorite spaces of calm amidst the bustle, spaces that I cherish and hope that you can share.
Chances are they’re free, too, because let’s be honest I can’t afford to pay for quiet.
A beautiful and historic site, the BPL lends itself to all members of the community–or even those passing by–for a quiet read or study session. I love studying at this particular library, with its gorgeous architecture and academic aura. It’s inspiring. I suppose libraries are also defined by society as a place of quiet anyways, so all the better! Sit, relax, and enjoy the feeling of connection with the past.
I love biking to the Arboretum along Southwest Corridor Park, though to be perfectly honest I tend to get lost when I hit the Forest Hills T stop and bike around Franklin Park instead. But while Franklin Park is quite nice, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard is on its own level. It does get busier towards the afternoon on weekends, but if you go in the off-season or on week days, it is quiet, private, and really just gorgeous. You can bike around, walk around, hike, wander–whatever your heart desires. And if you climb to the highest point in the park, you can see the Boston skyline in the distance.
Mornings in General/Boston’s Parks
Really any park that you visit before 10am will be quiet. The Fens, Boston Commons, and Boston Public Gardens (as well as most of Commonwealth Ave and really most of the city) aren’t inhabited early in the mornings, save for early runners and the occasional tour. The Esplanade does get a bit more traffic at that time, and during rush hour the cars are everywhere, but the parks themselves are lovely spaces to relax and center yourself. I’ve also been able to enjoy these parks in every season, as even the winter can be charming (though nothing compares to the spring blooms and leafy summers).
As a Northeastern student, I have the privilege of visiting the MFA for free whenever I’d like. Almost all Boston/MA colleges are in partnership with the museum, as well as some ME and NH universities (full list can be found here). I am also lucky enough to live across the street from the MFA, and thus it has become one of those places that I visit occasionally and almost take for granted. If you go on a regular day (one without free admission, because that tends to draw large crowds), the museum can be pretty deserted, and the display rooms and gardens can be a perfect place to reflect on life and history and anything you so desire.
Christian Science Plaza Reflecting Pool
Again, mornings are key for this one, but even when it’s busy, the reflecting pool never feels full. Oftentimes, the sound of the fountain and water lapping the sides of the pool will drown out other ambient noise, and the beauty of it all will make up for the rest. This is really one of my favorite places in Boston, and we are so lucky as NU students to be so close (like I pass it every time I walk to the grocery store). Just don’t jump from concrete bench to concrete bench, because that tends not to end well. Especially for that one kid I knew freshman year who face planted and had to get stitches.
The Esplanade [in Winter]
Walkers, runners, and cyclists take to the Charles during the warmer months, but very few venture out when temperatures drop. I’ve noticed that the Esplanade path at night is almost unnaturally quiet; it is really a great place to go to escape the sounds and bustle of Boston. The view of the our river is also breathtaking in every season, from ice in winter to melting ice in spring to a reflective playground for sailboats in the warmer months. If you haven’t been to the Esplanade, go now. Also, I realize that all of my pictures of the docks are from summer; I’m sorry. It was too pretty in the summer!
The waterfront is a bit far from Northeastern, so I never just think to go there, but when we have ended up at these docks I have always found a large measure of peace and quiet. Especially in the Spring and Fall, the waterfront is generally devoid of people and makes for a nice spot to read, talk, or enjoy the view. There are several docks around Boston; I generally go to the one closest to Fanueil Hall or the North End (if you walk from Maurizio’s to the water, it’s down like two streets), but the Aquarium docks are also nice albeit more crowded.
I realize that the places I picked were (probably) prized more for the aesthetics than their noise levels, but I suppose these spaces just have many appealing qualities that I enjoy, thus motivating me to frequent them more often. I hope you can share in these places, and wherever you are, perhaps try out this week’s Art Assignment and find the quietest place near you. Do share your quietest place in the comments below and be sure to tag #TheArtAssignment for PBS! Don’t forget to make time for yourself and your sanity whilst living in such a big city. There is always time for a singular moment of peace.