Side Trail Article
On a resplendent day in July, 2018, leaving our Saugus, MA of the First Iron Works of America barely out my favorite window, my son Jamie drove me to the ancient resting place, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, burial site of many authors who right to this day enchant us with their work, who spent their lives in the vicinity and thus their lyrical eternities enjoined. We read that none of them ventured west in those explorative days, busy here at creation, staying put, embracing the charms about them, one and all, to touch us down these centuries, to allow recall of youthful reading on my part bringing back the kind of memories all of us should have, should share.
None of them, I believe, joined with wagon trains or other westward ventures in their years to the growing parts of the country, but empowered their legends here at hand, romancing their neighbors and this east of us, to inspire all of us down the centuries.
Public records, and the stones themselves, advise that Authors Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery shelters the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Sidney, Ephraim Bull, and so many other famous authors and figures of literary glow. I trod there among their heavily-worn stone memorials, my mind being refreshed with couplets, phrases, adages and proverbs used for centuries, often choice bits of custom and manner.
Most of these sleeping giants lived in the 19th century when this nation was still expanding westward, areas becoming territories, territories becoming states, states becoming this grand nation of ours. The long and often plagued wagon trains went west, carrying hopes and dreams and seeds of the future, literally and figuratively. Oh, what they might spin these days if they could reappear, just as the giants interred here might spin from their minds. To stop and think what might have been carried off knocks my mind afoot.
In Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Jamie and I were alone in the midst of towering huge trees, stone memorials across the wide spans out in front of us, beside us, around us, and more along the climb up a steep path. Everything everywhere was in absolute silence, until, as foretold me at the very start of our drive to get here, a distance projected to be about 25 miles, the echoes of old reading began their haunt in my memories, catch-words, phrases, couplets, opening lines or fond adieus. Not whole pieces of their noted work, of course, but relevant statements or clipped pieces bringing parent work to mind, titles coming with soft introductions, whispers from eternal mouths, lessons of favored teachers also returning with like favor. They set me wondering: do they carry yet what they put our way, like the soft tones of a fifth-grade teacher in the Sweetser School reading a few small passages of Louisa May Alcott to be carried out the door and down the walk for 78 additional years. Did my teacher, Miss Chase, once pay attention to my attention? Was that deliberate eye of hers mine alone? Two rows up, two rows over, classmate Eileen turned aside at least twice, as if saying she knew where I was, where I would be later on, no matter the time of day, the whereabouts of my thinking; we had shared like books from the library.
All of this slammed at me as I ambled up the incline, via cane and handrail, slow step after slow step, appreciations finding their own old favorites, to the threshold of authors’ eternities, their echoes afoot in the clutch of enormous trees, some of them as upright as a planted arrow, I swear 200 feet into the air.
With assistance of a cane, son Jamie’s sure hands behind me at the ready, a handrail on the right hand, we climbed Authors Ridge, the sweep of history, of lyrics in their prime, enveloping us, slamming at me from my early reading days, fair echoes at their deeds, the excitement coming with total compass. Their years in those parts of the second century past, the rich and excitable literary marks, were being unveiled for all the centuries hence and thus. Their times were those times when wagon trains made the long and desperate trek across the land from the middle parts of the country to places in the far west, often as distant as Oregon on the Pacific Coast where this favored editor resides.
I feel sure none of these authors, so acclaimed, ever got to Oregon or thereabouts in that wide- open west, never spent long months on the westward trail. I dare think if they had, western stories might have a particular spin on them, at least be influenced.
This is one way to get them to Oregon, though it is sure that their works have often made the trip, long years ahead of this approach.
So, hail to the east and west.
“We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. But if a man would be alone let him look at the stars.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
“I am no more lonely than the Mill Brook, or a weathercock, or the North Star, or the south wind, or an April shower, or a January thaw, or the first spider in a new house.”
Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862)
“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”
Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)