Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Summer Vacation

Bar Harbor, Maine
When I began teaching at age 21, my boss Dr. Latimer, who had taught me Psychology in high school, warned me that travel "stirs up the unconscious" bringing all kinds of memories, hopes, and fears to the surface.  He told me to expect fantastic dreams.
Just back from a week of sight-seeing to Maine and Boston, I've got memories and photos of physical places, things I mention when people ask about the trip.  Parallel to that was the subconscious narrative: Fears, hopes, and memories indeed.

It started with the impression of how different things are in Maine, where billboards evidently aren't allowed, where pine trees are shaped like Christmas trees, and white-barked birches fill forests, where my friend Suzanne and I drove 100 miles without seeing traffic, a truck stop, a shopping mall, or McDonald's.   These are high on my list of things I don't want in my life any more.

That night, as we settled into Bar Harbor at the Grand Hotel on Main Street, tourists and the year-round residents of this little town met each other over menus and counters.  We saw off-duty waiters biking home in their aprons and late-night dog walkers.   No less than when I visited Venice around 1990, I marveled that real people live in a place that seems to me like a fantasy.  Of course, sitting under an awning or umbrella at a cafe sipping a martini is conducive to feeling removed from real life

Suzanne at Sandy Beach, Acadia
Suzanne and I climbed rocks at Arcadia National Park to look over Sandy Beach and, in thick fog, to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain, highest spot on America's east coast.

Laughing at the little blue path markers left by the Park Rangers whose idea of "moderately difficult" rock climbing was different from ours, I felt the whole thing as a metaphor for life -- every step is a choice, different choices can lead to the same place (with more or less effort), and you ought to stop now and then to look around.  Also:  Every time we thought we'd reached the top, we found another blue mark to the side on a path that went down before sloping further upward..

Cadillac Mtn

Site of Anne Hutchinson's 1630s home, left; Winthrop, across on rt.

In Boston, the layer of history was added on top.  I've long lived with two historical personalities inside me, smooth and earnest John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony; and self-assured, "fierce" (Winthrop's word) Anne Hutchinson.

Of course, there's that later history with Adamses, Revere, and Hancock.

There's also a layer of literary history here, authors whose names and minds I know more or less well.   I didn't find any markers for Henry James or John Updike, though we stayed in the vicinity of Updike's in-town residences.

The Public Garden was certainly a site known to Jameses and Updike.  Additionally, it's the site for Make Way for Ducklings

We did visit Walden Pond, and the ridge in Concord's cemetery where we found Hawthorne, Emerson, and Alcott.

Yours truly, wadin' at Walden

On Boston streets that struck us as marvelous and a little bewildering, we saw kids walking alone about their business as if nothing at all were remarkable.

One of these was the young man across the Charles River in Cambridge who talked us into sitting in his pedi-cab.  I wanted to see the Harvard Bridge for an obvious personal reason, that it's been measured in "Smoots" since MIT students rolled drunk Oliver Smoot (5'7") end to end across the river in 1962.   Thankfully, our young pedlar/pedaller kept up a steady stream of conversation to put us at ease, sw knew it didn't take him too much effort to drag us through the streets, except when the lights turned green.    
Harvard Bridge, measured in Smoots

Washington in Boston's Public Garden
Suzanne Swann and swan

In Concord, MA, down the street from Walden

Famiglia Giorgio in Boston's very Italian North End
Yours truly, heading back down to Sandy Beach


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