In late autumn of 2011, I had the great fortune to be invited on a trip to Concord Massachusetts, arguably the epicenter of contemplative literature in New England. From the moment the trip was planned I felt as though I was making a literary pilgrimage. It was the birthplace of the Transcendentalist movement, home to Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne, Fuller and Thoreau. I felt rightfully overwhelmed.
When arriving in Concord I was struck by the history of the place. It was the little things at first. The old graves, the site of Orchard House, which called to my fond childhood memories of enjoying Little Women with my mother. The road signs pointing the way to Walden, the Old Manse and Minute Man National Historical Park, where the opening battle of the Revolution was fought in April of 1775.
Not at all surprising to those who know me, my first stop upon arriving was the public library. I walked down the stone path I knew I was following in the footsteps of those New England minds I most respect. Opening the narrow double doors, I proceeded through the short mud room and into the main room where I was suddenly struck by the ponderings held within that room.
At times when I am hiking through the woods behind my Connecticut home, I will ruminate on the history of the ground beneath my feet. Wondering if perhaps some Mashantucket or Eastern Pequot village might not have resided nearby and if the paths I walk weren’t once crossed by one among the tribe.
I found myself asking the same such questions that morning while exploring Concord. As I walked the paths I felt Henry and Louisa brush past me in the crowd. As I grasped the old wrought doorknobs, I shook hands with the past. Using the window of their books, I had ever-been looking in on the lives of these kindred minds, but finally on that day I found myself invited in from my musings.
Walking across the slanted floor of her room to sit at her small desk, I found Louisa. Walking the hidden paths behind Orchard House, I found Nathan. Reading in the study of the Old Manse I found Ralph Waldo. Sitting along the Concord River I found Margaret. And there, along the banks of Walden I found Henry.
Blue Mornings on the Concord River
Across the yard of the Old Manse
following the stone wall
down to the boathouse,
I come to the edge of the river;
Its gray, still waters
mirror the marbled sky above.
The bare trees
are stiff in the cold breeze.
Thick, stout bushes are scratched
into the scene—
etched there by the pallet knife
of the Great Painter.
Plump geese waddle along the rim,
sifting seeds and bugs
from the muddy grass roots
passing through their black beaks.
Just beyond—across the arc
of the wooden bridge
there grows the meadow
of the Minute Men.
Running through the draping grasses
the farm boys fired their muskets.
Son against son,
as blue collided with red,
the world changed.
In the fields
along the Concord River,
violence begot a nation.
A century later
the passion continued to
pulse through the place
as the minds in the Manse
spurred a revolution of intellect.
How small am I to stand here
along the banks of a river
that has seen so much.
I who but scribble in the margins
of those classics penned
on this ground.
In the distance
the sun is rising
above the treeline.
The field is smoking
as the morning fog rises.
The rifles sound…
The hearth of the Old Manse smokes…
And the river rushes ever-on.
—an excerpt from Fleeting Moments of Fierce Clarity: Journal of a New England Poet