Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Writer's Thanksgiving Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for many blessings:
For a mother who gave me words and encouraged me to read,
For a father who supported my education and pushed me to reach for my dreams,
For a little brother who listened to my stories when we were young, and told me to write them when we grew up,
For a wealth of writer friends who will read my work and tell me when it's bad--or even when it's good,
For an actor-son who has shown me what it means to persevere against all odds--and by doing so to succeed,
For a writer-daughter who is my best editor and writing partner,
And for a wonderfully supportive husband who is and always will be my love and inspiration,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Going Home Again

While I have lived in Pennsylvania most of my adult life, I grew up in Acton, Massachusetts.

Acton's not really a famous place, but it is right next door to a town that is rather well known: Concord. (By the way, the town's name is pronounced more like "conquered" than like "concorde.") Acton was once part of Concord, but became independent in 1735, so it's just a young whipper snapper by New England standards.

The Battle at the Old North Bridge
Not surprisingly, my childhood was fully steeped in local Revolutionary War history. We took field trips to the Old North Bridge where the battle of Concord was fought. Every April 19th we would re-enact the minutemen's march to Concord from the homestead of the captain of the Acton militia, Isaac Davis. Even as a nine-year-old, I made the several-mile march, and I have the scroll to prove it--signed by Isaac Davis's descendant, Marie Davis Hunt.

Minuteman at Old North Bridge
Captain Davis had a metal shop on his farm, and made bayonets for his men. Naturally, the Acton Minutemen were in the front lines in the stand against the British that fateful day. The Redcoats shot first, and Captain Davis was the first to fall. When the minutemen returned fire, many British soldiers were hit, and their ranks broke. This was the site of the first armed resistance to the British. We from Acton always think of Isaac Davis when we see the famous Minuteman statue at the Old North Bridge, and read its inscription from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard 'round the world.
Last weekend, my niece got married in Groton, Massachusetts, about a half hour west of Acton and Concord. I was happy when one of our party, who had never spent time in the area before, expressed an interest in visiting Concord. It had been a long time since I had played tour guide to the sites I once knew so well.

Summer Orchard House
Alcott's Orchard House
A cold drizzle, that preceded a late-October snow, fell as we traveled east on Route 2, but it didn't dampen my enthusiasm as we approached my old stomping ground. We visited the bridge, and saw the Bullet Hole House and Old Manse. But Concord is known for so much more than a single battle.

Walden Pond in early 1900s
The rich cultural heritage of Concord still lives there. The buildings that were once the homes of authors Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney still stand and have become museums to their literary and philosophic accomplishments. Other authors also called Concord home, including Henry David Thoreau and poet Ellery Channing. Thoreau's former places of residence are not noted--except, of course, for Walden Pond (where I took swimming lessons). Thoreau famously spent two years in a cabin in the woods on its shores, and wrote about it in one of his most famous works. (I ought to know. We spent one quarter of my English class in my junior year of high school dissecting Walden.) Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, Channing, and Emerson are all buried in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in what is known as "Author's Ridge."

Despite a wintry mix pelting us as we went from place to place, showing our friend these sites was strangely renewing for me. While so much has changed in the world since I was last a Bay Stater, much of Concord remains as I remember it.

With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, maybe you can go home again.