As the calendar closes in on Labor Day, a lot of you are scrambling to make last minute, weekend vacation plans lest your kids write a tell all article in about 50 years indicting you for vacation negligence.
Most of you will sign up for the usual fare: beach houses, theme parks…maybe even spend some down time in an exotic location…like over your cousin’s garage in Yorktown.
Don’t laugh...he makes a mean Piña Colada.
But before you pack the Bacardi’s, if you’re looking for a nice change of pace with a mix of fun, culture and a smidge of education…or you just want to get back at your kids for taking you on “Revenge of the Mummy”, last year, you should consider a quick trip north to the land of revolution, enlightenment…and the bar where everyone knows your name.
That’s right, the great “Commonwealth” of Massachusetts, which I dare you to spell without using spell check.
No—I’m not working for the M.A. Board of Tourism or paying off a bet with the Governor up there or anything like that. My only connection to New England is my predilection for Sam Adams beer, no matter what the season.
I just wanted to spark your interest in something different by relating a recent visit Z and I made to Concord, home of the famous grape jelly. It’s also the town where the “shot heard round the world” occurred at the old north bridge, marking the first official battle of the American Revolution, which you may have heard about.
We spent a nice day up there and actually learned a few things about what life was like before smart phones and 140 Twitter characters. Believe it or not, people actually had to talk to one another, even if only to ask directions.
Concord also boasts having been the onetime home to several of the most notable American authors of their time, or any time….all at one time.
Perhaps because of all the talking.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, of whom Thoreau was attributed to have said, "He's a pretty cool dude, for an old guy...," was noted for advancing the Transcendentalism movement, which I believe had something to do with molar replacement.
The aforementioned Henry David Thoreau, the famed naturalist who also wrote:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived....in Chickahominy."
Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had a thing for big red letters and houses with funky roof lines. He was generally considered to be an old stick in the mud, and is said to have written the now famous axiom:
"I like brown...it suits me...."
And last but not least, Louisa May Alcott, noted abolitionist, best known for her novel “Little Women”.
Ms. Alcott cherished her role as an independent woman and wrote:
"Though not an easy life, it is a free one, and I enjoy it. I can't do much with my hands; so I will make a battering-ram of my head and make a way through this rough-and-tumble world...without coupons."
It was actually kind of cool walking through all the exhibits displayed in the Concord museum, seeing Thoreau’s old furniture and Emerson’s study; imagining myself hanging with all of them in there, shooting the breeze...despite the scarcity of indoor plumbing.
In a way, they were all just early day bloggers…who, judging by their photos, could all have benefited from a later day blow-dryer.
They wrote essays on unique topics, sharing distinctive insights such as man’s relationship with nature as a way of connecting to the whole; all the mysteries of the universe and beyond answered in a single drop of rain falling in a pond.
Emerson declared "literary independence" in the United States and urged Americans to create a writing style all their own, free from European influences, paving the way for a revolution in writing that unveiled the true face and voice of America, a country endlessly in transition.
And Thoreau with his urge to simplify, perceiving the world through an army of ant’s battling it out on his window sill on a lazy afternoon.
Or professing the futility of labor at the expense of the soul…and making you smile about it all, to boot.
Of Thoreau, Emerson wrote:
“My good Henry Thoreau made this else solitary afternoon sunny with his simplicity & clear perception. How comic is simplicity in this double-dealing quacking world. Everything that boy says makes merry with society though nothing can be graver than his meaning”.
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Words to live by…for all of us.
But maybe that’s too complicated.
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