97-year-old oasis

The map said “Buddhist Temple Room,” something which, in all my years coming to the MFA, I had never seen. It wasn’t hard to spot; at the end of a long gallery of Japanese screens was a doorway to a room considerably darker than all of the others. Inside, the wall text said it had been designed in 1909 by MFA representatives who had seen similar temples while in Japan. Although it wasn’t perfectly authentic — the stunning wooden statues would normally be walled off from the masses — the effect was enough. I stood off to a corner after entering, admiring the wooden cieling, the detail of the statues, the cool stone floor, and it wasn’t until my eyes adjusted to the darkness that I saw the woman seated cross-legged on one of the wall’s benches. Oblivous to me and (hopefully) the yelps of a toddler set free by his parents and the couple who seemingly could not detatch from each other in each of the galleries where our paths crossed, this woman was here for a reason beyond curiosity and an escape from the heat.

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