Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Amherst!

After a long, hard day's work of editing my manuscript, we sprawled around our wonderful rental house.  We had to get our strength back for the next day: Amherst!

Upon our arrival in this beautiful college town, we parked and found the Fresh Side Eatery, which we assumed to be a spot for quiche, soup and salads.  Wrong!  Our menus revealed we'd found the most delightful place for Asian food and I tried Vietnamese Coffee for the first time.  A quick trip through a bookstore landed me with Amherst College t-shirts for Team Testosterone and we were off to explore the Dickenson homestead.

 The grounds were as pastoral as you might imagine.  Emily's love of nature comes through her poetry and it took no effort to pretend she was floating past in her white nightgown after rambling through a field in pursuit of a bumblebee...or perfect word.

We toured the garden and grounds surrounding the Dickensons' houses--one lived in by Emily, the adjacent owned by her brother.  Quite a family scandal surrounding Emily's brother, but more important than his torrid affair with a co-worker's wife is how involved the Dickensons were in establishing Amherst College.


Emily's distaste for the public was notorious.  I knew she didn't attend church services after she was a teenager.  I did NOT know the church was directly across the street from her house.  And the Dickensons were founding members of that institution, as well.  It's remarkable how civic-minded the  people of Massachusetts were, they valued communal property and intellectual pursuit much more than economic gain. 

 No photos are allowed inside the Dickenson house, but most of the property displayed belonged to the family and our tour guide was informative and enthusiastic about her topic.  One of the very best parts of the tour came at the end where we learned that Emily's poetry was written purposely open-ended.  She suggested different words/phrases not as revisions, but as alternate versions of the poem.  When I saw her work for that way the very first time and heard her method explained, it made me curious to see more and gave me a whole new appreciation of her genius. 
 Just on the edge of the grounds are two silhouettes, Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost.  It was in this spot that mystery writer MK Graff realized the title of her next work (the moment is pictured above)!  All of MK Graff's books have a color in them, her latest is The Scarlet Wench.

We left the Dickenson place to explore Amherst College and I left convinced that it would be a grand thing to expose at least one of my sons to such an education.  The museum was particularly impressive and free to the admiring public.

On our way home we stopped at Salem Cross Inn for another traditional sort of New England meal.  From cocktails through dessert it was fabulous.  This historic spot is on a working farm and we enjoyed a post-dinner walk around the grounds.  Above is one of the flowers I couldn't identify--any ideas? 

Massachusetts farmland is rolling and looks exactly like the history books of my youth depicted colonial America.
We spent the following day working and back in Concord, but I'll leave you with this one discovery.  We walked up the road from our rental house and followed a path that took us deep into the woods.  All the footpaths seem to date back to Native American times, edged by low stone walls and tamped down by countless feet.  We came upon this Shaker cemetery, perfectly tended, yet unreachable by any vehicles.  Amazing!





© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved

13 comments:

  1. It all just screams peace and quiet. A lovely place to work on a book.

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  2. dat is heel mooi wat is het ook goed onderhouden allemaal.

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  3. What a wonderful trip you had :-)

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  4. beautiful. i'm so glad you have this opportunity to work and to be in such a wonderful place!

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  5. How lovely. It is wonderful to be in the places where these great literary figures lived.

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  6. So. Perfect. What a blessing for you to be there and for me to read about it and see the photos!

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  7. So amazing - sounds like the most wonderful day and a great trip overall.

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  8. We lived near Amherst for quite awhile and LOVE Emily...and are desperate to return to her house! I am so pleased you went. Amherst has a zillion other attractions, too, like the wee train station that can take you to NY city and also the nearby COOLer town of Northampton :)

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  9. Thank you for taking me here. I've never been there. Wandered Concord a bit, but so need to go back.

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  10. Wow! That is amazing. All the way from the Dickenson's to the cemetery. I've spent a ton of time in MA. I should have visited there. ;)

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  11. The cemetery discovery is so cool! I would love to visit Emily Dickenson's house some day.

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  12. I love living vicariously through you. Your tour in the literary worlds of the past is fascinating!

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  13. I saw the title of the post and expected a small town near Lions' Camp in central Wisconsin! "Our" Amherst is also home to one of my favorite places, the O.K. True Value and Live Bait. In my Mrs. O.K. persona, I keep a picture of that store at my desk.

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