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It’s really spring in Massachusetts. Sometimes 70 F, sometimes 50 F. But we know where we’re headed.

I took advantage of being old to get my Covid-19 vaccinations wrapped up in March and began to visit grandchildren indoors. Below you see that piano recitals are still on Zoom. While I was visiting, I got my hair “painted” rainbow colors by the youngest grandchild. She worked on my hair while her brother read “spooky stories” to me. The stories got exciting, so she went to look at the pictures.

Easter involved an egg hunt, although some kids may be getting too old. Next year, maybe a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt would be a good variation.

Where I live, there’s a guy who rides around on his bicycle playing the guitar. I managed to capture him this week in his headless horseman costume. His day job is baker.

Also in my town, there are people who never forget that April is Natural Poetry Month. One homeowner makes poems available for free.

Most of the other pictures are about Suzanne’s Mom and her friends flipping over spring flowers. Daffodil, Andromeda, Rhododenron. Fig Buttercup, Blue Scilla, Bloodroot, Trout Lily, Magnolia.

The second to last photo was taken in Central Park by Ying-Ying, who was thrilled to get out of Arizona for a New York spring. And the last was taken by Melita in Madrid, where she’s been living during the pandemic.

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I found it harder than usual this year to wait for spring flowers, so I ordered bulbs online. The way the tulips opened was really intriguing. Do all tulips emerge from under a leaf as if from under a wing or from a womb? I had never noticed that before.

Signs of spring appeared outdoors in due time, but first I took plenty of snow, lichen, and shadow photos.

The bird feeder kept me entertained all winter, especially when rare visitors like bluebirds showed up. Another hit in lockdown was Kim’s lecture series about New Shoreham, RI, nature, where I learned that the fuzzy growth on the Massachusetts tree below is Bushy Beard Lichen.

One funny thing: I was excited about seeing pussywillows, but when my Arlington family saw the photo, they thought there must be a hidden image. My granddaughter suggested there was a snake in the foreground, and my grandson saw a turtle. Now I’m inspired to seek photos of snakes and turtles!

I hope you remember my Afghan mentee, Shagufa. She has the world’s best host family, helping her in countless ways. This month they gave her the first birthday party of her life. You never heard anybody so amazed and delighted by a cake with her name and age — and candles!

Meanwhile in Stockholm, the seniors continue outdoor dance exercise no matter how cold it gets. Stuga40, their volunteer leader, says that in addition to the health benefits, the point is to have fun. When a preschool group came walking through the park, the children were invited to join in.

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Photo: Nick Dymond.
Nick Dymond took his bags of old slides to the Shetland Islands recycling center. Paul Moar rescued them for posterity.

This why I have such a hard time throwing anything out. I say to myself that I really need to deal with the clutter here and leave less of a mess for my children. But then I think, what if these old letters, these old photos, etc., turn out to have value for posterity? I have read too many biographies that lament someone’s friend or grandmother burning precious material!

Megan Specia reported recently at the New York Times that a Shetland Islands resident who was cleaning house never considered that anyone would care about his slides of the old days. Fortunately, someone who did care saw them.

“After working for years at a recycling center in the Shetland Islands, at the northernmost reaches of the British Isles, Paul Moar is used to helping the public get rid of unwanted items.

“But when an older man walked into the recycling center in Lerwick, the capital of the archipelago in the North Atlantic, carrying two large bags heaving with old photograph slides, he quickly realized that this intended trash might be worth keeping.

“In the bags, he found a wealth of old pictures of the Shetland Islands taken in the 1960s and ’70s — old farmers shearing sheep by hand, views of dirt roads winding between small stone houses, and fishers rowing small dinghies ashore.

” ‘My jaw hit the ground,’ said Mr. Moar, a local history buff. ‘Some of them were these amazing snapshots into island life, and other ones were just scenic photos,’ he said. ‘But I knew I’d stumbled on a little bit of treasure.’

“In the days since, Mr. Moar has worked on digitizing the 300 images, tracked down the photographer and shared dozens of the pictures online. There, they have proved a sensation for residents of the islands, which have a population of just 22,000 or so, who have helped piece together when they were taken, identified the people in the photographs, and shared their own memories of the islands. …

“Through a neighbor, Mr. Moar reached out to Nick Dymond, the local resident who dropped off the bags and who took the photographs, and with his permission, uploaded a number of the images to a Shetland memories Facebook group

Overnight, dozens of people [on Facebook] were leaving messages and helping to identify the people featured, chiming in with notes on family homes and sharing memories of places they spent time as children. …

“One member of the Facebook group where Mr. Moar first shared the images said it was ‘giving everyone such a boost in these dark times.’

“Mr. Moar said his own passion for the history of the islands — where his family can trace ancestors back to the 1400s — was what had initially drawn him to save the pictures. …

“Mr. Dymond, 77, … is originally from Bedford, England, but in the 1960s, he made his home on the Shetland Islands, … and in the 1970s, he began leading bird and wildlife tours in the summers. He served as a warden for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a charity, and later wrote a book on birding in the islands

“Mr. Dymond said that viewing the photographs was a journey back into small moments of his life that he had not thought of in some time. … One of his favorites is a photograph of a farmer kneeling to feed a lamb, taken on the tiny island of Fetlar, which had a population of just 100 during the seven years that Mr. Dymond lived there. He recognized the man, Lollie Brown, a neighbor, who died years ago.

“ ‘He was just a wonderful man,’ he said. ‘That was a great reminder for me.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here. See the Shetland Museum site, here.

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Pancake for Valentine’s Day.

I had high ambitions for heart-shaped pancakes today, with cranberries dotted around the edge in a tidy pattern. My cooking never comes out quite the way I envision, but with butter and maple syrup, it tasted just fine. Today was also the first time we used my mother-in-law’s dainty tea set, though we’ve had it in a cupboard the last 20 years. My husband was surprised.

In other February news, there’s been snow, snow, and more snow. My grandson built a snowman and took a photo one day. Where he lives, the kids don’t always get snow days because, with schools all set up for online classes, teachers want to keep kids learning.

Is that nose a carrot? A pumpkin stem? Looks good to me. I myself felt moved to get playful in the snow, so I shot the Fisher-Price kid with the wheelbarrow for no other reason.

I hope you can feel the weight of the snow in the next few pictures. This winter has been rough on bushes and trees. Not to mention old guys who have to dig out of the driveway in a hurry if they want to get to their scheduled Covid shot in time. (Whew, we both got Dose 1! Onward and Upward!)

The rhododendron blooming indoors represents one upside of having four wild creatures running ’round and ’round outside the house in January and crashing into bushes. Another upside is having them here, running ’round and ’round outside the house in January and crashing into bushes.

Sandra sent the Happy Valentine’s Day photo from New Shoreham, a place that seldom gets much snow. Pretty careful job, huh? If I’d tried, there would’ve been footprints all over it.

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This year, while choosing ornaments for the tree, I felt particularly drawn to anything that looked like a bird or an angel. All the bird and angel ornaments went up. The small snowy ball also gives me a good feeling. It was from a winter wedding in 2011.

On Sunday’s trip to Rhode Island to deliver the kids’ presents, Suzanne prepped her porch with cozy, festive elements. The candelabra has a bit of a story. When Suzanne and John were still little kids, I bought two of these from a Lillian Vernon sale. When my children grew up and had their own homes, I gave each one their candelabra. They light theirs every year with their own children.

Suzanne and Erik allowed each kid to open two gifts early so Mormor and Morfar could see how they reacted while we were still at their house.

In addition to those Christams-y photos, I want to share a couple pictures from far-flung friends. Earle, in California, makes the magnificent wooden bowls on his lathe and is known to donate a bowl to one of his environmental causes at the holidays to delight the top donor.

Stuga40 is in Stockholm, where there is almost no sun at this time of year. She caught a little today after weeks of overcast skies. I asked her take a picture of a shadow, but she said the sun is so low on the horizon now that she might not be able to. In the end, she was able to get some very, very long shadows! The sun set at lunchtime.

But you can trust those Swedes to light up their nights with outdoor decorations and to make some kind of fun during the day, too. Stuga40, in the light green jacket below, stepped into the instructor’s role for the outdoor exercise class after new Covid restrictions kept the leader from traveling by bus. The woman in red is 91, and rain or snow, they all keep up the outdoor exercising. Stuga40 says she leads the group using Spotify and a speaker from home. One day, some passing teens and a few boys from a school class joined in.

Back in wintry New England, you can see that our big new bird feeder is popular. It arrived the day before we had a snowstorm, and it’s such fun to watch. The gray squirrel tolerates a rabbit but chased away a gang of 11 mourning doves. Also very aggressive are the goldfinches. Does anyone know (Nancy G.? Kim?) if goldfinches are always aggressive? The first day at the feeder we had cardinals, bluejays, a purple finch, a house finch, juncos, and even a red bellied woodpecker. Now it’s mostly goldfinches. I love them, but I do wonder.

There’s also a little red squirrel that makes tunnels under the snow and pops up all over the yard like a gopher.

Happy Holidays to Everyone, wherever you are and whatever your weather!

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Frost

For one of the online English as a Second Language (ESL) classes where I work as a teacher’s aide, I think up writing prompts for students who want to practice their skills. The other day, I thought of “Write about something you like about cold weather” — but I changed my mind. It’s hard even for me to think of something I like about cold weather, and I imagined it would be harder still for the students from tropical countries.

In any weather, however, there are always photo ops to be found, and I must say I loved the frost-etched leaves above. Today I thought I’d share other signs of the changing seasons.

I read the long, rust-colored band on this Woolly Bear as predicting a mild winter. It’s harder to read the conflicting signs in the photos that follow. The North Bridge and the boat house at the Old Manse look bleak enough for a tough winter. But on one day, I’m kicking through dry leaves along a sun-strewn trail, and the next trudging through snow.

The snow was actually an October surprise. It melted pretty soon. More typical for the time of year are the three scenes that follow., including the one of boys seizing the day for a bit of fishing in the Sudbury River (posted with a warning about mercury contamination).

I expect that my Money Plant — a goofy gift from the bank, of all things — will keep turning to the light no matter what the weather. I like watching its slow dance. Funny how a pandemic-constricted social being can end up befriending a plant.

The artist in the next photo noticed she could draw pictures with the charcoal from a fire pit. She’s partially covering one family portrait that features white hair made from ashes.

Whatever the season, life goes on in its random way, and my pictures documenting it are eclectic. The next one shows a farmer’s version of a Little Free Library beside the big, open-air barn where I buy produce. That photo is followed by a shot of Sandra’s magnificent baking. Her brother-in-law loves fruitcake at Christmas, and she starts making it in November. Ordinarily, she would give it to Tom at Thanksgiving, but this year, she and Pat are on their own with the turkey. Gatherings are getting too worrisome, and the governor is revving up extra hospital space in the convention center.

The last picture is of one of those charming things that people do just because they feel like it. I loved the surprise of two silver bells hanging near the library. It made me want to do more stealth decorations myself, as I did a few years ago.

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Oops!

Massachusetts got a tree-bending snowfall October 30 while leaves were still attached to everything. I don’t know if we should call it an October surprise or a Halloween surprise, but it’s likely to add to the reasons kids will long remember this year’s mask-required Halloween.

For today’s photo round-up, let’s start with what autumn looked like in these parts before the snow. Amusing, colorful, thought-provoking.

In an annual event on the library lawn, people put up scarecrows to represent their favorite storybook characters. I love the face-shield wielding Wild Thing below kicking a coronavirus soccer ball.

As pumpkins came out in yards, flowers continued to bloom on fences, and sometimes the woods seemed to bloom like flowers.

One day I got it in my head that the white-pine needles on our yew branches looked like wishbones, so I set up a silly shot.

The carved stone marker is located near a retirement home in town. I had never noticed before that it has a word about local celebrity Henry Thoreau.

The mother-baby sculpture is a peaceful one outside a hospital in Boston, where I had to go for an annual checkup. Overall, it wasn’t a peaceful experience because there were so many people. The safety protocols were good, but I am definitely not used to crowds.

OK, the luscious dahlia is not mine. Melita sent it from Madrid, where she reports a State of Emergency has been decreed until May 9!

After the dahlia is my attempt at creating a Maxfield Parrish.

Stay safe, stay warm, but try to get out in the fresh air for a bit every day.

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On this rainy, indoor day, I’m sharing photographs from recent walks. I have been so surprised lately by how much is blooming late in the season. Look at the color of those roses and the vitality of the daisies! I want to get some autumn daisies for my own yard.

As you may have guessed, the flower basket at the street crossing memorializes a death on that spot. The woman who was hit was devoted to nature, so her friends have not been putting anything plastic up. Yesterday I noticed a small pile of smooth stones such as one sees in Japanese gardens.

The next shot, of an old tree stump, was taken on a trail that branches off from our local cemetery. I often walk in the cemetery because it is so beautifully landscaped, but I had never taken this path along the wetlands because it’s usually too swampy. I enjoyed trying to guess where the trail would emerge and I was almost right.

I was also drawn to a tree stump by a stone wall on the Codman House grounds in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Sometimes there is beauty in decay. Some might regard the old formal gardens with the ionic columns as representing a different kind of decay, although I must say, the statue looks pretty alert and energetic to me.

The farmstand and a homeowner’s gourd-and-pumpkin display speak for themselves. They remind me I should add a bag of candy to my delivery order on the off-chance we actually get a trick-or-treater this year. It’s been years. But a toddler just moved in next door, so I have hopes. Maybe his mother would prefer something other than candy though. What do you suggest?

Next I have two of the pieces of art from this year’s Umbrella Art Ramble in the town forest. I liked the hanging rowboats and the fishnet strung between trees. The theme this year was “Water Change: Where Spirit, Nature, and Civilization Meet.” Some works spoke to the different ways we use water. Some spoke to increasing shortages. In our own town, we have been suffering from a drought, so the pieces were especially relevant.

Finally, beautiful clouds. I don’t need to tell anyone here that some of the best art is not of human device.

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Bike path, Lincoln, Massachusetts

If you’re not traveling, you get to know your own neighborhood really well, both how it looks and sounds and smells, and what people are thinking about.

It can get complicated. People on the same side of an issue can disagree. Today for example, a small group of people is holding a rally to condemn our church, of all things! Another group, which I ordinarily admire, plans a counter-demonstration, even though the church has requested that no one show up to give the extreme talk show host the confrontation video she seeks.

Some days, you just have to turn to nature.

Above is a bike path I especially love. It goes past a farm with pigs and cows. I learned the farm has an honor-system, 24/7 shop in a big, airy barn. The food I got there was great. We had it last night for dinner.

I took the first picture of dahlias, and Kristina took the one from a Western Massachusetts dahlia farm. Did you know you have to bring dahlias in every year and replant them the next year? Whoa!

At the nature preserve Great Meadows, I was astonished by lotus leaves as far as the eye can see. Next year, I will definitely come when the plants are blooming.

The flowers in the next three photos — asters, clematis virginiana, and a wild bouquet — are mostly from our yard. Then there’s a local jewelry shop, which has wonderful window boxes in every season.

After the pumpkins, there’s a painted door called “Walkies,” by Kayo Burmon, located on the Bruce Freeman bike trail.

In the picture after that, my neighbors are holding up their pink voting slips at the coronavirus outdoor town meeting. Signs of the times.

Literal signs of the times, below, need no discussion, although I do wonder if any of you know the code in the sign copied from Tolkien: “Speak, ‘Friend,’ and enter.”

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John takes my grandchildren on a paddle-board trip. Guess what happened when the youngest decided she wanted to stand up.

Here we are in September, and already August is seeming like a long time ago. So I want to share summer photos, mostly from my walks.

The first one below, however, shows a lighthouse painting by Ben Cummings. It was sent by his son Earle,after my last photo post, which featured a lighthouse. Everyone loves lighthouses.

Next is a picture of chicory, which people in New Shoreham and other parts of Rhode Island call Ragged Sailor. It has many names, in fact, depending on where you live. The turtle art is also from New Shoreham, one of my favorite Painted Rock images this year, and one that actually lasted more than a few hours. (The rock is a local billboard and really gets a workout in the summer.)

Back in Massachusetts, Kristina shared a photo of a sunflower from Verrill Farm’s pick-your-own-sunflowers day, a benefit for Emerson Hospital. Kristina gave me one of her sunflowers, and I was worried when I left for a few days that it wouldn’t survive. So I put it in the birdbath, and it did just fine.

Woodland scenes and the farm along the Lincoln bike path come next. I continue to be fascinated by fungi and by bits of art in unexpected places. The pig, an Old Spot, is one of the varieties raised at Codman Community Farms.

The frame on a pedestal and the amoeba-shaped sculpture were next to a construction site near a conservation trail. I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Perhaps you have a thought.

Meanwhile in the town, a second-floor shop’s staircase says, “Whatever you do today, do it with the confidence of a four-year-old in a Batman cape.” I thought it was excellent advice.

The last photo speaks for itself.

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Photo: Shadows on the Southeast Lighthouse

Time to share a few more photos from a summer in isolation. Four island photos come first. The dishrack photo is to show how I spend my time there. (LOL. I am the one, alas, who said we should protect the groundwater and not have a dishwasher. Sometimes it’s better to be pragmatic than idealistic.)

Back on the mainland, the photos reflect my appreciation of colorful summer meadows, cows, and outdoor library fun for kids. No pictures of people. I do sometimes meet a friend at a safe distance for a sandwich and a chat, but masks never make for good photos. And in my walks, I generally aim for places where people are scarce, like graveyards.

I really liked the spooky-looking crypt and wish I could be Edgar Allan Poe for a minute and invent a reason that a lock was broken.

The long shadow in the next photo is in front of a local senior-living building.

Next comes a sign at Emerson Field that struck me as funny. No golfing? There was never any golfing there. What’s the story? Someone must have tried to get around the governor’s rules in coronavirus Phase One and gotten in the way of dog walkers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in our town it’s you don’t want to mess with dog walkers.

I wonder what memories we will take away from this weird time. For me, a sign forbidding golfing where there was never golfing might be one.

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Sunflowers are wonderful on gray days or sunny, but they seem happiest on sunny days. Gardeners in the local community garden plant a lot of sunflowers, probably to keep the birds busy and away from other plants.

I took the second sunflower photo on a gray day when I happened to notice how prettily this lady’s hair was arranged around her face. I haven’t been to my hairdresser for many moons. Although I’m concerned for her and her coworkers, who need to make a living, I’m still too afraid to go in buildings where coronavirus droplets might linger in the air. I’m hoping my hair ends up with a sunflower naturalness — but a scarecrow look seems more likely.

Going deeper into the garden to capture the first photo, I noticed an arbor I hadn’t seen before. All Morning Glories!

In other walks around town, I was drawn to a stark tree skeleton in a quiet swamp and Purple Loosestrife crowding around a footbridge. The Balloon Flower (or Japanese Bellflower) I suddenly started noticing in local yards after studying a painting on a calendar that a friend in Hokkaido sends me every year. I had never zeroed in on those balloon-like buds before.

Next are yellow roses, a bizarre fungus, and good advice on a small, wise stone. The old seafood sign was outside an antique shop. I’m also sharing a picture of produce that the grocery store delivered the other day, and a blueberry-raspberry cake I made for our very quiet 50th anniversary.

The sheep were sent to me by Stuga40, who sees many wonders on her walks in Stockholm, a city that knows the value of nature.

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Summer heat means taking walks earlier and earlier.

Today I’m sharing a bunch of my recent photos, plus three from friends. It’s great that so many self-isolating people are sending pictures to each other now. Have you noticed?

Kristina sent the red flower below, which I believe is a Chinese Hibiscus. She lives in my town, but we don’t get to see each other as regularly as before Covid. The next two photos are from Melita, who is currently living in Madrid. Spain was hit hard by the virus, and Melita says she’s grateful for the relative safety of the gardens she can walk to.

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The rest of the photos are mine. For weaving bloggers, I took a picture of the handsome dishtowel a childhood friend made and sent me out of the blue. I positioned it on top of a pillow cover her parents wove many years ago. She carries on the traditional craft.

My local community garden is coming along beautifully and providing a temptation to more than birds. Hence the sign.

Funny to be regarding as art the commuter train that was part of my working life for decades.

Louisa’s grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is never short of writing utensils. I love checking it out. And every day that I take a walk near there, I see more gravestones I want to photograph. Shadowed ones for example.

The next four photos show art on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, courtesy of Umbrella Art Center artists. The painted doors are by Sophy Tuttle, and the woodland shelving is by Rebecca Tuck.

The various lilies belong to neighbors, and the bright pink flower is, according to the app PictureThis, a rose mallow, apparently a relative of Kristina’s flower.

The last three photos are from New Shoreham and include the historic home where the song “Smilin’ Through” was written — a fact, I fear, that only an islander would consider worthy of note.

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When my summertime neighbor opens her front door in the morning, I know it’s OK to go over there even if it’s only 6:30. We like to take our walk early, before there are too many mopeds and before it gets hot.

In this plague year, we put on our masks and walk six feet apart. If there are no cars or other people, one of us walks in the middle of the road. Otherwise, one is in front and one six feet behind.

A few other people prefer the early hours, too. It can be a good time to paint the rock and have the work last more than half an hour.

We always check to see if the lotus on Lakeside has any buds. This year looks bad. Sandra notes the little pond is almost dry.

The marker honoring New Shoreham’s early indigenous residents, the Manisseans, is near their old burial ground. We usually pause and turn around here.

On the way home, we check on how the potential ingredients for Sandra’s jellies are coming along. Will the wild blackberry crop be good this year? How many many jars of beach plum jam is this spot likely to provide?

Last year, in between hunting for Monarch caterpillars on milkweed, we picked a lot of Queen Anne’s Lace, and Sandra made a batch of “Jelly a la Thelma,” which has a slightly lemony flavor.

You can probably tell our walk is not aerobic exercise.

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Hello, summer clouds — so beautiful! I was discussing them with my friend Nancy yesterday, and she told me she had signed up some years ago with the UK-based Cloud Appreciation Society, which sends her a daily cloud picture and a few words on cloud science or cloud mythology. Consider joining if you need a daily pick-me-up in quarantine.

The next two pictures reference my growing appreciation of fungus. Then comes a bright red intruder in the forest, reminding me of the lamppost that Lucy found in the wintry Narnia woodland after emerging from the wardrobe.

The doorknob in the tree made Suzanne think of a handy panic button (I think she is tired of lockdown), but I’m pretty sure it leads into a home. Probably not a hobbit home, since they prefer burrows underground. Maybe it belongs to Owl.

I love the little red squirrels that have started to appear in our region. John thinks global warming may be bringing them up from the south. Clue me in if you know.

The decidedly unscenic bug repellent had been abandoned along the bike trail. I didn’t touch it as I am a Covid germaphobe, but I got a laugh: I’d been slapping mosquitoes for the whole walk.

In the town of Lincoln, yarn stretched between trees caught my eye. A bit further along the conservation trail, there was a helpful explanation.

The tippy old wooden building is next to Orchard House, a childhood home of author Louisa May Alcott. The building was named the School of Philosophy by Louisa’s hippy father Bronson and continues to offer presentations and lectures in normal times. (I put up my photo of Louisa in her coronavirus face mask for yesterday’s post.)

Speaking of adapting to the times, you will note that the Colonial Inn (founded in 1716) has marked off six-foot segments on its brick walk for safe distancing.

The Art Deco frieze on the old Emerson school building welcomes visitors to what is now the Umbrella Center for the Arts.

I don’t think I need to explain the last three. Sometimes readers give me their reactions to one or two pics. I do get a kick out of that — should you feel moved to comment.

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