Sharing of the green
Author details ways to get in touch with nature in and around Boston
Q. What inspired you to write a book about Boston’s public green spaces?
A. I had been going to local events sponsored by places like the Boston Natural Areas Network, Massachusetts Audubon, and the New England Wildflower Society, visiting a lot of places that don’t appear on the tourist maps. . . . You don’t have to trek out to New Hampshire or the Cape to see something natural, green, and really interesting.
Q. Is there a particular Boston style or quality that stands out?
A. Well the real thing that’s unique to Boston is that it has double the land it had 400 years ago. The Back Bay Fens, a lot of the Emerald Necklace, and a large swath of the city simply didn’t exist as land; it was underwater. Boston has done an incredible amount of land-making.
Q. What’s different about Boston’s historic green spaces compared with the ones added more recently, such as those created by the Big Dig?
A. Well, there isn’t as much of this devotion toward trying to make something look natural in the middle of the city. You look at some place like Post Office Square park, and you’re not trying to have a rustic experience with sheep, as was had at Franklin Park when it was first constructed. There’s much more a sense that we are constructing an environment, rather than reproducing one.
Q. Do you think people make enough use of these spaces in Boston?
A. Because we pay so much attention to television and the Internet and things people talk about a lot, it’s easy to lose track of the places nearby us. When people aren’t aware of these places, they kind of disappear, and I think that’s tragic. Frederick Law Olmsted had a very strong belief that people needed to go to green spaces to relieve their stress, that they were too nervous, and that they would be destroyed by the city unless they had someplace green that they could go. I feel like if you don’t get to these places that are nearby, that are everyday, then you lose a little bit of what it’s like to be a human creature on this planet. I want people to be able to smell things, and touch things, and just be someplace that people didn’t entirely make, someplace that’s growing itself.
Q. What would make a perfect day for you in one of Boston’s green spaces?
A. My kids like Weezie’s Garden at Mass. Horticultural Society. If you want to take kids out, they can actually touch stuff there, but maybe not step on it. They have a giant nest, they have pumps you can pump — my goodness, you can actually touch something in the garden! There’s a tower you can climb, and they have obedient plants, where you can take the flowers and turn them around on the stems. They stay there, and they don’t fall off. . . . That’s a nice little expedition.
Interview was condensed and edited.
Taylor Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.