Friday, July 27, 2007

Concord, MA

This photo of the serene Concord River in Massachusetts is for all my Southern California friends who are experiencing an extreme drought right now. (Thanks for the link, Grace.) It was very obvious flying into LA on Tuesday that we are having a drought. The hills are not just brown, they are black. There was no sign of green at all. That along with the haze made it look like we were flying into a war zone.

The first part of my vacation took me to Concord, MA, the place where the "shot heard round the world" was fired on April 19, 1775, and the place where Ralph Waldo Emerson gathered his Transcendental friends including the Alcotts, Bronson and Louisa May, and Henry David Thoreau in the 1800s. It is also the place where many of my ancestors lived. In fact, I am descended from one of the founders of the town, Maj. Simon Willard. My mother's Acadian ancestors also lived here for awhile after being deported from Acadia by the British. After about five years of living among the "heathens," they returned to Canada on foot and settled near Montreal. Currently, my brothers live near Concord and before they passed away, my parents lived here, too. So I have been to Concord many times over the years and always enjoy my visit.

Since this was my 10-year old grandson's first visit to the East Coast, we did something new. While I have been to the Old North Bridge where the British were turned back dozens of times, we decided to start our tour with the Visitors' Center for the Minute Man National Historical Park at the other end outside of Lexington where we viewed an excellent half-hour multi-media presentation telling us all about the events of that day in April. With the story fresh in our minds, we then traveled along the route that the British soldiers marched, stopping at several places along the way to view old houses, etc. There were friendly volunteers in period costume at many of the sites to explain things which made it all seem very real.

The lady in blue above was knitting a pair of gloves while she sat and waited for tourists to come her way. We chatted for a bit about knitting and she raved about using the "magic loop" technique for the fingers of the gloves. She then recommended a book on the Transcendentalists for me to read (American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever), but I'll get into that later. At another stop (Hartwell Tavern, 1733), there was a display of Colonial era spinning tools and supplies. I am always interested in what life was like back then, especially for the women. One of the books I purchased was, Founding Mothers, Women of America in the Revolutionary Era, by Linda Grant de Pauw. It looks like an interesting read, but I haven't had time to get into it yet.

Down the road from the Hartwell Tavern are the remains of Captain William Smith's house. There was a fire here in the 60s, I think, that burnt the house down but left the chimney standing. In Colonial days, the chimney and fireplaces were the heart of the house and were built first. My brother-in-law is an expert in old houses (he lives in a house built in 1760) and can tell you exactly how the rooms of a house would have been laid out by looking at the chimneys. In the photo on the right you can see the big main fireplace that would have been in the kitchen with the beehive oven on the left and a smaller fireplace on the right side and several smaller fireplaces for the upstairs rooms.

At the cellar level, we discovered that the foundation for the chimney was built in an upside down U-shape for better strength. We speculated that the extra cubby-holes might have been for storage. We were fascinated by this structure and spent a lot of time observing it from all angles.

After a delicious lunch in downtown Concord at the Walden Grille, I slipped into the Concord Bookshop to browse for a bit and purchase Cheever's book. Browsing through a bookstore after a meal is one of my favorite things to do and I miss the independent book stores like this one. Then we went on to the Bridge with its Minute Man statue by Daniel Chester French and the monument with the poem written by Emerson inscribed on its base. When I brought my father to this spot 12 or 13 years ago, he stood by the monument and recited the whole poem without looking and he was supposed to have Alzheimer's! Do school children have to memorize poetry anymore? It obviously sticks in the brain.

We finished the day with a stop at the North Bridge Visitor Center where I took this photo of my grandson. Toy guns are strictly forbidden by his parents so this photo is all we have to commemorate the event. I think the Spider Man T-shirt is a nice touch.

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