Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Concord as inspiration

I was in Concord, Massachusetts over the weekend attending my cousin's wedding. All month I've been trying to stay ahead on NaNoWriMo so that I didn't have to worry about it on the trip. I brought my computer anyway, just in case I had some time to write. I wrote about 600 words in all the five days we were there.

In Concord, however, you can't help but think about writing. It smacks you in the face pretty much everywhere you go. One of the things I most wanted to do during our non-family time there was visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott lived while she wrote Little Women, and where the story is set. It is plainer than many of the nearby houses, but boy, you can see where the inspiration came from. The Alcott family moved around a lot, and didn't live there until Louisa was an adult. Her sister Elizabeth, on whom the character of Beth was based, had already died. But Louisa's room, full of light and books and a writing desk her father built, was just as you'd imagine it to be. And her sister May, on whom Amy is based, had a room decorated with her drawings and paintings. In fact, they adorn the whole house. She even drew sketches on the walls, which are still there today. It was a pleasure to hear about the real lives on which that book was based, and the tour guide had a passion for telling us about every detail.

I was commenting to my husband that I should consider Little Women for the girls' book group at the library. After all, I said, we try to do some classics, and we are going to read The Secret Garden this spring. The guide overheard and showed me a group photo of a women's luncheon that Louisa May Alcott attended. Also in the photo: Frances Hodgson Burnett. I had no idea they knew one another!

After the tour, we visited the local library, which was just about the most beautiful public library I've seen. The librarian I met was very friendly and welcoming, and showed me all the drawings they've received from children's illustrators. I stared up in wonder at the two levels of balconies surrounding the largest room in the center of the library. The special collections room, with its rare editions of local authors Thoreau and Emerson, as well as Alcott, made me feel a reverence, like stepping into a church.

On Sunday, after all the family festivities were over, we took a walk around Walden Pond. It's larger than I'd imagined. And while we were there, even my husband said that it inspired him to write. So now, I've recharged my imagination and am ready to revisit my NaNo.


Tess said...

Don't you just love trips like that? How beautiful those pics are - thanks for sharing. And, kudos on doing so well w/ Nano!

Michelle said...

Thank you, Tess!

I realized later that I completely forgot about seeing the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in Boston too. I'll post that picture soon.

Sarah said...

I love that bit about Alcott's sister drawing on the wall! Thanks for sharing about your trip, Michelle.

Lisa said...

Oh, I feel inspired just reading the account of your trip! I spent 6 months in the UK and Ireland during college and got to visit lots of writerly sites--graves and houses, pubs where writers hung out. D.H. Lawrence, the Brontes, Yeats. Your post reminded me of those times.

I remember being in Sligo, Ireland and setting out to find the Lake Isle of Innisfree. It was so much smaller than I had imagined. You could walk the circumference in less than 5 minutes. Still, looking at the island in the purple glow, with the lake water lapping at the shore, I understood how Yeats could find some peace there.

For an awesome recording of him reciting the poem, go to http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15529

Carla Gade said...

How wonderful! When I lived in Massachusetts I never visited Concord even though I wasn't far from there. I'm kicking myself now. Sounds like a great time. I love Lousisa May Alcott. I keep one of her quotes on my writing desk, "Far away in the sunshine are myhighest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."