Concord – The Little Town With Everything
Posted on May 6, 2019
Every year for a few years now, I’ve visited the town of Concord, Massachusetts. With every successive year I’ve gone, I’ve been dealing with new sets of challenges and new personal goals along the way.
The original purpose in visiting Concord (and the surrounding towns of Lexington, Lincoln, and Bedford) was to bone up on my history and explore a town that had a lot to do with the beginnings of the American Revolution. Through the context of my own visits, I hoped to gain some insight into what it was like back then, what the people were like, and what it felt like to be in a significant historical spot like The Old North Bridge. (Mostly for my writing…at the time of my first visit, I was writing a YA novel set during the American Revolution – which I still hope to eventually finish, by the way…)
What I found when I visited, however, is a town that holds endless interest for me. In the context of history, in the context of pure aesthetic, and also through the eyepiece of literature and the history of it in America. Not only is Concord a significant footnote in the 1700’s, but also in the 1800’s – as the philosophers and writers of that time congregated there or in places just like it.
And so, having had somewhat of an obsession with Longfellow and Hawthorne as I became the writer I am today – I found myself also being drawn into Hawthorne’s friendships with other authors and writers of the time such as Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Each year, I visit their homes and lived-in spaces, and pay tribute to them at their burial plots – all of them together on Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I visit the Old Manse, where Hawthorne wrote most of “Mosses From An Old Manse” (his short story collection from 1846), where Emerson penned his influential essay “Nature”, and where Thoreau planted a garden for the Hawthornes. I also visit Emerson’s simple former dwelling up the road, only a few houses down from The Orchard House – where Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” and other works. And up the road from that is The Wayside, where Hawthorne lived out his final years but where the Alcotts lived in first and where Louisa lived out many of the scenes she featured in “Little Women”. Also – on the outskirts of town, I visit Walden Pond and the site of Thoreau’s cabin where he wrote “Walden”.
The past two years were no different for me from other years, aside from being there with my wife Peyton. We strolled the streets of Concord together and talked in the warm spring sun. We ate delicious sandwiches and drank cold lemonade in an outside cafe. We walked the grounds of the Old North Bridge (flooded) and the Old Manse, as I explained to her what these places meant to me. We walked part of the Battle Road Trail. We ate ice cream and picked our way through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where I showed her the final resting places of these authors I’d talked to her so often about. It was the perfect opening to spring for us. Last year was much the same. This year, we went back and I tried to show her even more than in previous years.
Each time I visit Concord, it’s a pilgrimage for me – to get my inner creative juices going. And last year, when I laid a penny on Hawthorne’s headstone on top of Author’s Ridge, I wished for guidance in my writing endeavors, and for help in bleeding my stories onto the paper. Since then, I’ve had some success and some hardships. Of course, Concord is not steeped in actual magic and Hawthorne is not going to be able to cast a spell from his grave. If he were alive, or able to give me advice – he’d likely just tell me to write.
And so I’m trying.
Here are some photos I took of various cool things in Concord over the past five years or so (all photography by me):