Just about any hour of the day, Harvard Square teems with students, tourists and locals looking to take in the unique sights, sounds and shops of this Cambridge destination.
Yet about two blocks away from the crowds and the noise, you can find a park that is an oasis from the madness.
This is Sunken Garden. You’ve seen bigger parks, but I doubt you’ve seen a more tranquil one. I chanced upon it years ago when I was a lowly Harvard employee, although I didn’t learn its name – or that it even had a name – until this weekend.
Despite its proximity to Harvard Square and to the university itself, few people seem to know of this park’s existence. You can find it off of Radcliffe Yard, home to administrative offices for Harvard. Years ago, this site was nothing more than a couple of stone benches, a trimmed lawn and a small fountain with a fluorescent blue liner. The garden has been upgraded with wooden park benches on two sides, and the fountain was replaced and enlarged with a stone liner and a wraparound bench.
And throughout, this place has always represented one thing to me above all else: peace.
The garden has been a refuge, a place to read, to sit, to think, to breathe, to just be. (Take the 360-degree tour and you’ll get a sense of what makes this little hideaway so special.)
One thing I’ve learned since my accident and my long hospitalization is that all we have is this moment. For those who meditate, the concept is mindfulness: Avoid the past, don’t live in the future. Center your thoughts on the present. I’ve realized I don’t need to go somewhere else to experience this, as special as Sunken Garden is. I can find it within myself, and you can, too.
Try it the next time you’re taking a walk or washing the dishes or just sitting on the couch. Focus on your breathing, on the smells and the sounds and the sensations surrounding you. Stay in that moment. Relax and take it in. You might find yourself better able to handle the challenges of the day.
I hope you find your place of peace.
And if you are ever in the area and are very nice, I’ll be happy to show you Sunken Garden.