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Barbara Clough

Living in Lowell

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Edited by Barbara Clough, Thursday, 26 Aug 2021, 02:29

I am almost unpacked. I am leaving on vacation on 10 Sept., so I need to be fully unpacked before I go. That's the deal I made with myself because I don't want to come back and still have cardboard boxes to unpack and bags of clothes waiting to be donated. I want to come back to clean, clear spaces because Year 2 starts officially the first week in October. I need to be fully present and undistracted for my coursework. 

Sailing season will be over when I come home from vacation because it's too cold, windy and dark in New England to sail the treacherous Atlantic. My weekends will be consumed with reading and writing and hiking and biking and CrossFit - mostly in that order. All good fun things. I often wonder would I love sailing as much as I do if I could do it year round? Or is it simply because summer and sailing have become synonymous in my mind. And yet, I don't like summer - the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the unrelenting sun. But for those few short months with long days, the sailing alleviates the heat, the humidity, the bugs, and the unrelenting sun; all those are muted when I'm out on the water. 

Autumn will give me time to teach a memoir class at the senior center, work on my own writing, ride my bike into the greenery surrounding this gritty city in which I live. I can find the other great Victorian buildings, explore neighborhoods that are all new to me, find myself in this new space and in this new city. I know my time here is limited, so I need to embrace it while I can. And I don't mean I'm dying! I'm mean my time here in Lowell is just a layover until I make my next connection. I'm starting to think that's all life really is - the layover until the final flight. 

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Barbara Clough

Learning to love Lowell

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The tag line in the town where I live is "Lowell - a lot to like." Around the old mill buildings, converted to so-so loft apartments, the banners of "a lot to like" have started to fade from the sun and rain and maybe winter. I moved here in July, so I don't know when they were placed on the lamp posts, as if by looking up at them I won't see the smashed jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce, spattered over the side walk in shards of glass and puddles that look like blood. A lot to like but not the person who had neither will nor initiative to clean up the mess they created. 

And yet, as I walked across the rain damp street so I could get a better look at the massive Queen Anne brick building that was the First Congregational Church, I thought, there's still a lot to like here. As I gaze at the building with its massive point-arched windows and slate roof, I see the red square with the white x in it. Behind me, also stunning in its scale is the Lowell Public Library, of which I will soon be a member. I think the red/white sign means demolition but I hope not. That amazing Victorian brick building needs a new life, an investment so that it lasts another hundred years, creates a new history for a new century. I don't know what the red/white sign indicates, so I turn into the library.

"Are they demolishing the building across the street," I ask the librarian, behind her plexi-glass shield.

"Oh I hope not," she responds. Clearly as upset as I am that a building as magnificent as the old church would come down.

"I don't know," I said. "It has that funny sign. The red square with the big white x. Isn't that a demolition sign?" I am heartened that she is as emotional about that splendid edifice as I am, even as she works in a splendid edifice that has clearly been lovingly saved. 

"I hope I'm wrong," I say as I gaze at the heavy oak shelves holding thousands of books. "Can I walk round?" 

"Oh yes, we're open until 9. I'm going to call someone. He'll be able to tell me what the sign means." 

I don't see her again as I wonder and wander around this granite Richardsonian Romanesque building fulfilling its purpose as a center of erudition. Only after I'm home, and I start writing this blog, do I go online and learn the red/white x sign means: "structural or interior hazards exist to a degree that consideration should be given to limit fire fighting to exterior operations only." 

I hope it never comes to that. I hope the librarian was able to find the person who could tell her that, 'no, the building isn't going to be knocked down.' And I hope someone comes to save it. 

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