Brattle Street Musings

Thoughts on life, death, and podcasting during a walk past Longfellow's house (shown above) and other historic homes on Brattle Street in Cambridge.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Farming on the Edge

My high school friend Henry Ogilby is farming 14 acres in the middle of Belmont, Massachusetts, surrounded by suburbia, on land deeded to his family in the 1600s by the King of England. Henry gave me a tour of the barn this week. Afterward we retreated from the cold to his cozy home next door for coffee and talk about how much his life has changed, from a 25-year career at Hewlett-Packard to saving the family farm in perpetuity through the American Farmland Trust. His strategy is to emphasize organic farming, and you can participate by purchasing a $400 share in the upcoming season's crops that entitles you to a big basket of fresh produce each week. You can e-mail for details. If I lived here, I would definitely jump on this opportunity, and my mother has already sent in her subscription form and check.

Henry let me sit on one of the vintage tractors crowded into the barn. I was delighted to hear his stories and have collated excerpts of our convesation in this podcast. Henry and I held the top jobs on The Panel, our high school newspaper. I was the editor, and he was the business manager. Nearly four decades later, I am still looking for good stories, and he is still doing a terrific job running a business that matters.

During our taping, I received a call from my daughter Sarah, which immediately took priority over talk of organic farming, because she is due to give birth any day now. She was just calling to say hi, and as of this posting we are all still waiting and wondering what news the next phone call may bring concerning the the arrival of the next generation.

Here is the podcast, about 18 minutes long:

Good Morning, Sisyphus

My father, a retired banker, returns to work at his office after a luncheon podcast interview in which he talked of his strategies for a purposeful and happy retirement. One of his secrets is taking on impossible missions, a habit which led my mother one day at breakfast to greet him with, "Good morning, Sisyphus." Having worked for more than a decade to promote education reform in Massachusetts, he is now working on ways to advance science, keep America strong, and expand the percentage of the world's population who live in free nations. The percentage now stands at 46 percent, according to an analysis by Freedom House. To a pragmatic optimist like my father, that figure simply begs for someone to set a goal of having more than half the world live in freedom. He walks a mile to his office each day eager to push the stone up the hill again, no matter how many times it rolls back.

We ate at Legal Sea Foods, where the restaurant noise was moderately loud, but I hope you can follow these excerpts of our conversation:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Praying with My Parents at Harvard

My father and mother leave The Memorial Church at Harvard after Morning Prayers in Appleton Chapel. Dad is holding the M-Audio MicroTrack, so I can take the photo. They have been attending Prayers at Harvard for nearly four decades, all the way back to when I was an undergraduate. On the way out, we were greeted by Peter J. Gomes, Harvard's preacher whose official title is Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church. He was stunned to learn of the imminent arrival of the next generation of our family and offered best wishes. Walking out through the main church, my parents shared their enthusiasm for Harry Huff, assistant organist and choirmaster.

Morning Prayers is a central spoke on the wheel of my parents' good life in Cambridge. As I played the MP3 file of this podcast today in their kitchen on tiny travel speakers, I saw my Dad's eyes fill with emotion during the choir's singing of "Deep River." It was a moment of enjoying the impact that a simple audio file can have on another man's soul.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

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