Travel

Pilgrimage to Massachusetts:  A postcard summary

Alcott house during a 7-month failed utopian experiment at Fruitlands

My first travel discovery was a shift in language; the journey defined not as a trip, or a vacation or even a history tour but as “pilgrimage.”  For the 15 of us, this was a time to immerse ourselves in stories; to amble the same path as Henry David Thoreau trod along the shores of Walden pond; to climb the same steep, narrow wooden stairs to the Arlington Street Church bell tower and ring the same bells that would have gathered people to hear William Ellery Channing speak; to saunter through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and touch the gravestone of Louisa May Alcott. 

Some highlights of our days of pilgrimage:

New England stone wall on the Emerson-Thoreau Amble
  • King’s Chapel – touched the last bell cast and hung by Paul Revere
  • Arlington Street Church – tried my hand at ringing three of the 16 bells
  • Mount Auburn Cemetery – left memorial bouquets at the graves of William Ellery Channing, Hosea Ballou, John Murray, and Margaret Fuller
  • Walden Pond – walked the entire pond and left a Winona river rock at the stone cairn close to the site of Thoreau’s cabin where he lived for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days
  • Old Manse – saw the desks where Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter and Emerson wrote Nature
  • Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – discovered that as they were neighbors in life, so too they are neighbors today as we visited Authors Row and the family plots of the Alcotts, Thoreaus, Emersons, and Peabodys leaving pencil homages for Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Elizabeth Peabody.
First Parish in Concord after vespers on the evening of our departure

Our days were filled visiting churches, graveyards and cemeteries (learning these two are different from one another) and touring the homes of literary giants.  All the while hearing concise history lessons laced with anecdotes that put flesh and bone to revered names and made them quirkily human.  We benefited from bookstore visits, invigorating conversations, time for quiet reflection, and the recitation of poetry.

The Road
The road waits. 
... when it invites you
to dance at daybreak, say yes.
Each step is the journey; a single note the song.
-	Arlene Gay Levine

P.S.  And six of us hopped the green line to Fenway for a Red Sox win.  The green monster is really monstrously tall!

Reading · Travel

American Bloomsbury

I have a copy of Michael Holroyd’s definitive biography of Lytton Strachey.  A gift from a friend, the two-volume boxed set serves as a bookend anchoring a shelf of history titles.  My friend was a Bloomsbury aficionado.  He read everything he could about these post-Victorian intellectuals even waiting patiently to purchase The Letters of Virginia Woolf published in six volumes; book-by-book over 10 years.  He also gifted me his extra copy of The Loving Friends: A Portrait of Bloomsbury by David Gadd.

When the Pilgrimage to Massachusetts reading list (yes – an actual two-page bibliography of primary and secondary sources) included American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever, I thought this title could be the primer I needed (just as The Loving Friends had been) to better understand our American literary giants.  As the subtitle describes, American Bloomsbury focuses on the lives, loves, and work of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. 

These profoundly talented people moved among each other, sometimes living together, sharing books, reading what each other wrote, and relishing in deep philosophical discussions.  In the introductory “Note to the Reader” Cheever describes her intent to work chronologically but to do so from each of her primary character’s perspectives thus her timeline moves back and forth as she describes overlapping incidents and conveys the stories of their lives life in Concord and the surrounding environs during the 1830s – 1890s.

Their individual accomplishments – Little Women, The Scarlett Letter, Walden, Or Life in the Woods – create for us a tableau of 19th century life; a young country, a growing divide over slavery; and women’s rights still but a wishful glimmer only in some minds.  But, taken as a whole, these hearty New Englanders defined a literary, philosophical, religious, and political movement that we call Transcendentalism with its core belief in the inherent goodness of the individual and nature. 

I leave early (4:45 am) tomorrow to see their homes and haunts.

Travel

Pilgrimage to Massachusetts: To blog or not to blog

graphic depiction of a chalice and flame surrounded by 2 circles

One week from today I leave for Boston.  My flight out of Rochester (RST – MSP – BOS) departs at an inhumane hour that requires leaving home around 4 am.  Admittedly, this was my decision as there are other departures with connections heading east but I opted to use already paid for Covid miles/dollars held in escrow by Delta for canceled trips to Phoenix, Providence, and Denmark.  2020 was to have been a travel-cious year.

I considered using Knit+ Librarian as a daily travelogue so you could join me vicariously as I visited historically important sites in Boston, Cambridge, Concord, and Gloucester but then re-thought this potential commitment.  As with most guided tours, our August 9-15 itinerary is full enough to make me wonder just how much time I will have to write; there is no guarantee of strong Wi-Fi needed for posting; and, while I know technically it can be done, I lack any desire to blog on my iPhone.  Plus, I have to wonder if you really want to read about the minutia of my days.  Rather, I’ll give you a succinct postcard summary complete with an appropriate selection of photos (no – dinner plates, I promise!) after I return to Minnesota.

A sampling of anticipated highlights may include:  King’s Chapel, Old North Church, Harvard Square, the Sargent-Murray House, Walden Pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery but you will have to wait until the end of my trip to know for sure.

Graphic:  © Greg Wimmer

Travel

Crossing the River

Mississippi River with lock and dam mid-frame
The Mississippi River at Lock & Dam 4 – August 2005

Every time I cross the river, I take a quick glance upstream and down through the blue bridge girders.  With the season for barge traffic and pleasure cruising long since complete, I check ice buildup along the shoreline.  Knowing only later, after deep-freeze temperatures, will the ice floats appear in the main channel.

When you go “over the river and through the woods” as often as I do at Wabasha it is easy to see this small segment of a massive watershed as simply another sight along the trip.  But the Mississippi is anything but commonplace.  It is a river that people from around the country, from around the world, wish to visit; simply to claim they have seen, or crossed, or boated on the Mississippi.  And while the scenery may not be as dramatic as the Matterhorn, numerous Swiss cousins (once – fünf Frauen am Fluss) have enjoyed a day spent along the river, watching barges work their way through Lock 4 at Alma.

Starting at the confluence of the Mississippi and the St. Croix Rivers (Hastings, MN and Prescott, WI) the Mississippi becomes more than just a navigable waterway, it takes on the monumental task of separating governmental units, state-by-state, as it flows south to the Gulf.  But, before Hastings, west and north, the Mississippi wends its way through fields, prairie, and forests to humble beginnings at Lake Itasca.

While history books, written from the perspective of the white immigrant, attribute the discovery of the headwaters to the Henry Rowe Schoolcraft expedition in 1832, this small beginning of a massive waterway was known and sacred to Indigenous People for millennia.  And, it must be noted, Schoolcraft reached his destination only with the aid of an Anishinabe guide.

Poet Mary Oliver, whose poems always present the perfect blend of words to describe our world, offers us this observation:  “It is the nature of stone to be satisfied.  It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.”  Each time I stand on the sandy shore where a small stream flows into Lake Itasca there is a sense of awe.  Regardless of the number of people laughing and splashing from one side to the other, I recognize I am in a holy place.  My 21st century, rational mind knows that the droplets sprinkling in the sunlight may cease to exist as flowing water; diverted to human consumption, agricultural irrigation or simply becoming part of a natural evaporation – precipitation cycle.  But there is also the real possibility that the very water that I see flowing over the CCC-placed stepping stones, water that will touch millions of lives before a wide river slides muddily past New Orleans, will finally blend with the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  That connection with an entire continent transforms each visit to Lake Itasca into a spiritual experience.

Travel

Pink Dashes for Dogwoods

lavendar mums

You will have to imagine (as I didn’t snap a pix) large pink dashes in the center of the lane not the center line but in the center of each driving lane.

During a Labor Day weekend visit to Tennessee for a family wedding, I learned these “road blushes” mark Knoxville’s famous Dogwood Trails.  The trails date back to 1955 (nearly as old as me) and cover more than 85 miles, winding through 12 different neighborhoods.  A portion of the trails is just steps from my Aunt and Uncle’s front door.  For those visiting in early spring, the dogwoods are plentiful on the rolling Smokey Mountains and intermixed with azaleas, flowering crabapples, Japanese cherry trees and a myriad of Planting Zone 7a blossoms.  Riotous color after dreary winter days to be envied by gardeners in our hardy Zone 4b

But not to be outdone by southern cousins, Dad’s Mums are just starting to bloom as I returned to the North Country.

Knitting · Travel

Denmark – Not to Be

green grass, small stone houses, mountains, blue sky with white clouds
A picture perfect day on the Faroe Islands
Rowan Tree Travels and fibercraft

It feels like every suspense novel ever read, every film noir ever screened, this waiting to learn of what will be and will not be in our ongoing Covid saga.  This morning’s email made it official — the Rowan Tree Travel Fiber Adventure to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands has been postponed – AGAIN.

The tour planners, Heather and Suzie, have carefully monitored EU travel requirements, health notices for specific stops along the way and they have even gone so far as to take a trip to Scotland to assess just how difficult international travel might be in these strange times.  (Suzie’s blog offers her travel musings along the way with an array of photos such that the reader can almost feel the crisp highland air.)  But in the end, with cases of the Delta variant on the rise in the US, the frequent testing points mandated while traveling, the uncertainty surrounding quarantine procedures in situ for anyone testing positive, and time delays required for laying low upon arrival, even when healthy, all became just too many variables to manage.  The fun of adventure and exploration lost to the stress of pandemic travel.  So I am no longer counting the days and will stay Minnesota bound.

Knitting · Travel

Two months & counting the days

sheep and snow crusted rural mountain landscape
© Rowan Tree Travels

Two months from today*, I officially begin my Danish adventure in Copenhagen.  As a small tour company, Rowan Tree Travel continues to satisfy.  They have a great sense for just when I might be edging toward anxiety and need information.  This morning, my in-box held a detailed, 20-page itinerary with a link to their customized travel app (after all “…there is an app for that…”) so I can keep the details on my new phone.  The app also hosts a private messaging service to chat with my yet to meet fellow travelers and fiber-enthusiasts.

This international trip, originally scheduled for September 2020, will be a big first as I come out of our Covid quarantine.  To date, my travels have included only small jaunts — two hours to Eau Claire to visit Mom and my recent two-day excursion up-north with my retired friends, The Directors.  Certainly nothing far away and nothing by plane since February 2020.  And, while I am sure I will cope, it will be strange traveling solo which should make great blog fodder. 

Bon voyage or, as they say in Danish:  “hav en god tur.”

*Although technically my two month countdown for a Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Paris (CDG) to Copenhagen (CPH) flight began July 22.

Reading · Travel

The Directors’ Getaway to the Shades of Green Garden

assorted pots filled with summer plants
Entering Shades of Green Garden – 2021 © M. Brechon

A restless night spent worrying about my first public overnight outing proved needless as the two-day excursion with The Directors was as fun filled as expected.  As the last member of the group to travel so far as to necessitate a motel room, I was also the last to indulge in restaurant dining.  While I did make that first brave step on tax day, this trip required my second restaurant experience.  My friends were exceedingly gentle as I ventured (still somewhat timidly) into our formerly masked, now vaccinated world.  As we wove through the green farmland of east central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, there were stops along the way for wine tasting and shopping, and while this later activity is usually not a high priority for me the company made the day enjoyable.

I attribute my lack of shopping enthusiasm to a career move to Georgia just after grad school.  My next door neighbor was also a northern transplant, a cataloging librarian from Michigan, and she loved to shop.  Faced with unexpected resistance to implementing what I considered standard library operations like offering storytimes for the public rather than only by appointment, I took solace from workplace challenges by joining her at the mall.  (Remember when window-shopping under one roof in a temperature control environment was a new, novel experience?)  When we moved after 18 months on the job, she to Augusta and me to Peoria, I had two maxed out credit cards.  And, while that debt was paid off years ago, there is still a residual caution when considering what I want versus what I need.  Although, on this trip, I was less hesitant at the bookstore and the two wineries as evidenced by the assorted vintages and the stack of new books that filled the boot.

Also on this trip, The Directors (my library loving, book reading, wine drinking group of retired friends) initiated a new but to-be-repeated practice of secret book gifting.  We each brought 1-2 recently read titles, wrapped to hide any clue as to content other than to know we were exchanging books.  After tours of the Shades of Green Garden and delicious home-prepared meals our hostess initiated a quick game of “I am thinking of a number between 1 and 100…” and we picked our surprises.  Each book will guarantee good reading for the weeks ahead, as well as a promise to exchange these gently used reads next time we meet.

Other items of interest · Travel

Underfoot

BeckyB’s “Brightly Coloured” post featuring an earlier photography of a mosaic octopus in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park offered an inspiration for sunny textures under my feet.

Travelogue:

  • Chişinău, Moldova – October 14, 2018
  • Parco Ciani, Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland – September 4, 2018
  • Chinese Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – July 7, 2017
Other items of interest · Travel

Water – Travel – Squares

Mirroring an earlier installment for this quarter’s Squares Challenge by BeckyB — This time from my travels as near as Wisconsin and as far as Italy with water made bright as sunlit waves break on a rocky shore, from a high vista over the river and even higher clouds filter sunlight on the Trans Canada Highway , or white rapids on two rivers half-a-globe apart at sunset.

Travelogue:

  • Lake Superior along the Minnesota shore – 2013
  • Columbia River above Revelstoke Dam, British Columbia, Canada – July 9, 2017
  • Pozza di Fassa, Italy (in the Dolomite mountains) – September 6, 2018
  • Chippewa River from the High Bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin – May 6, 2016