Travel, Writing

Back on the N.E. Literary Tour

Concord, Massachusetts is the jackpot when it comes to literary and historical figures. There’s Emerson, Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and of course, Thoreau. Less well-known persons include Harriett Lothrop (aka, Margaret Sidney), Sarah B. Ripley, and the painter, Sophia Hawthrone. Stopping at some of the homes of these famous writers and founders of the transcendentalist movement might cause some initial confusion. You might imagine some of them were housemates. The Wayside, for example, notes it is the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Alcotts, and Margaret Sidney, but Louisa May Alcott’s house (Orchard House) is just down the street or a quick trek through the woods. The Old Manse is where Emerson penned his essay on nature, but he has another house nearby. Hawthrone also rented the Old Manse at one time. These overlapping residences continued on after death as many of these same people are buried together at the nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Even Thoreau is buried there though he lived alone in a small cabin near Walden Pond for a while. 

My last visit to Walden Pond was about 40 years ago when I was still living in Boston. I should have stayed away. It doesn’t look like the photo below anymore.

It doesn’t look like what I remember in the spring of ’81. Instead, it’s a series of parking lots with a QR code-cell phone parking systems, gift shops, and a beach crowded with visitors and lifeguards, boats, and noise. Thoreau would hang himself if he were alive today. The state, in order—I suppose—to protect it, turned it into an amusement park and thereby destroyed it. Couldn’t they have just hidden it away and let the occasional hiker or bird watcher rediscover it? 

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