Back to work

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From the pink plastic upholstery (so very familiar from a week at Mass Memorial 5 years ago) to the cluttered O Mansion is a matter of light years. From the tension filled days  and nights at the Cooley Dickinson hospital, waiting for Farro and then bodies to heal, to the energy-filled room of 5 MSH teams that are coming together around a shared vision also feels rather far apart.

Axel and I said goodbye to the new threesome on Saturday afternoon, with some difficulty as our lives had been intertwined so tightly for the last few days. Manchester by the sea provided some solace – beautiful weather, a garden awash in healthy looking greens and friends with a boat that allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the Essex River off the charts. The weekend was relaxing and joyful – we will be riding this tidal wave of joy for some time to come.

I left early on Monday morning for Washington again, the second time in two weeks, to facilitate a retreat for five teams of colleagues who have recently been grouped under one new VP. I knew few of them, the reason why I had agreed to this assignment even though it was close to Farro’s birth. Some of the team members work in my office in Cambridge – I had seen them in the hallways – but we didn’t know each other and neither one of us had made the introduction overtures.

The first day has been completed and after redesigning day two I walked down through Georgetown with a colleague to the waterfront and enjoyed a seafood meal in the warm evening breeze. At times like this DC seems like a very nice place to live.

Back at the mansion we had some time to explore this wicked weird place that consists of 4 enormous adjacent and connected stone row houses full of hidden passageways (I was told the FBI was housed here once), bookcases that are doors that open onto other mirrored doors. Every nook and cranny is filled with bric a brac, books, and the kind of stuff you find at junkyard sales. It is actually an indoor junkyard as everything is for sale. Small items have stickers with prices and large items are listed on a sheet in each bedroom (my bed, dresser, couch, chairs are all for sale). Bedrooms not occupied are open to be explored and everything can be touched. Here and there are posted signs ‘this is not a secret door – look, it has a handle’) for the counting explorer.

Each bedroom has a different motif – there is the jungle room, the navigator room and 23 others. Some have Jacuzzis or steam rooms. My room has a country motif. My bathroom is black (must have been a different motif before) with an abundance of non-matching pastel pillows and a giant beaded pink bird (850 dollars). I slept like a baby in an enormous feathered bed.

Breakfast is a do-it-yourself affair in a large kitchen that resembles Sita’s and Jim’s because there is so much stuff. It’s hard to figure out what is decoration (and thus also for sale) and what is for use by the guests. A large refrigerator and pantry is stocked for guests’ use. I made a waffle and a big mess in the process. That’s when I would have prefered a regular hotel where the waffle was prepared in a kitchen by professional staff that also cleaned up the mess.

Our ‘conference’ room is a chandeliered extravaganza, a Baldwin piano and a china display cabinet that is one of the hidden doors. As if so designed, the walls are obscured by some sixty large pictures of men, women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Darfur (Photographer Chip Duncan) – a fitting backdrop for our work with these ultimate beneficiaries looking at us and asking, “is what you are doing here helping us in any way?” I wonder how many of these people have died since they were photographed and whether what we do will save the lives of those who have survived so far under the most dire circumstances.

1 Response to “Back to work”


  1. 1 axelsjournal June 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Finally looking at these on my first real day of “upness” since the operation and my nursing care by Sylvia after the operation. All I can say about the House of “O” is that I’m glad I don’t have to dust.


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