Monday, March 17, 2014

Dia Dhaoibh (Greetings)

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Also occasionally known as Irish Awareness Day. Do you know where in the U.S. is most known for its Irishness? That'd be Boston, where I'll be headed next week! Though I've never had any particular interest in the city of Boston, I am very excited for my visit.

Not far outside of Boston is located Concord, home base of one of my longstanding personal heroes, Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist extraordinaire (among many other things). Some call him an anarchist; I call him a genius. Ralph Waldo Emerson, his friend and fellow writer, lecturer, and transcendentalist leader, is, of course, another famous Concord resident. I am absolutely determined to follow the Thoreau self-guided walking tour and visit the homes of both writers. (Though I think Emerson's house is closed for the season, so I'll only be able to look from the outside.) 

Nearer to Boston is Cambridge, another writing mecca. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and more all called Cambridge home. I vaguely recall studying Longfellow in school, and I've read some of the others, but these gentlemen are most freshly known to me via the terribly interesting mystery novel The Dante Club. (If you like historical thrillers, this is a must-read.) 

Moving further to the east, we arrive in Salem. Not the home of the famous witch trials, as it happens, though this is where one finds the Witch Museum, which I am totally visiting. If you are looking for the actual location of the infamous trials, try Danvers, once known as Salem Village. The real location of the Gallows Hill is up for debate.

Also located in Salem is the house that was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. I am absolutely visiting that, as well. Many of my friends had to read Hawthorne's other, possibly more famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, in high school. I did not. I am currently listening to the audiobook in my car, however, and I am actually enjoying it! I don't know that I would have liked it nearly so much as a teenager. Also, I am reading (physically) The House of the Seven Gables, which is also enjoyable, though very different from The Scarlet Letter. It's very easy to keep the two stories distinct in my head. I've often heard of Hawthorne spoken of disparagingly, but I assure you, he is very a capable writer! All young American writers would do well to acquaint themselves with him.

(I was hoping to also read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as I plan to pay a visit to her old home, the Orchard House in Concord, as well, but I am not sure I will get to it in time. I saw the film that was made in, I think, the 1990s, though I don't remember it well.)

In addition to being crazily filled with literary history, Massachusetts happens to also be where my Coburn ancestors first set foot on American soil way back in 1635. Edward Colbourne was the first settler insane enough to settle north of the Merrimack River. All others had been killed by the local tribes, many mid-crossing. He and his descendants went on to found the town of Dracut. I hope to pass through Dracut on the drive home as it is located in the far north of the state, thus a little too far out of the way from Concord, Cambridge, and Salem. 

So this is my proposed Pilgrimage. I will visit the homes and final resting places of these Great Authors of the Past. (Unfortunately, the graves of my ancestors were lost long ago to history.) Perhaps I will leave some offerings and ask for their blessings. As I said in the beginning: I am very excited. 

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