Wednesday, October 26, 2016

At Home in Massachusetts, Part I

Before William, Maria, and I got on the plane and flew to Boston, I reflected on what this journey meant to me, on my hopes, questions, interests, and speculations. It's a visit I have been dreaming of since I was eleven years old, and planning for about five years. Now it's happened, and I can hardly believe that my dreams have become realities, some even better than imagined, and that I have thousands of photographs, and many more memories of New England, of friends, history, impressions, scents, emotions, tastes, sights. It would probably be a prudent thing to pause, and reflect before I jump into writing this all down... instead, I am going to botch the grammar and word tense, overuse the words: Autumn, leaves, quaint, historic, cozy, and thankful. Nonetheless, they will be repeated earnestly, sincerely. I will add minutiae that I hope will reconstruct moments, events, that I wish I could simply relieve. Part guidebook, part diary, a lot photo album, plenty of scratching the surface, deep thoughts, and other musings. I adored this dream come true. Blogging is my partial brain scan, with my heart & soul photobombing the image... it's bound to be a bit ridiculous.

Boston smells like fish-n-chips. On the plane, looking over the Atlantic and approaching the airport, we peered into the scene below us, already recognizing that nothing was familiar. We saw much older buildings, islands, inlets, and I began to think about first impressions, and our senses, and I wondered, What will it smell like when we step out of the terminal? Will I smell the ocean, the way we do when we land in San Diego?

Our one checked bag was easily recovered from baggage claim, and we were stepping out of the airport, looking for the curb where we would be met by Jennifer. Traffic, luggage, the bewildering way we feel when we've practically time-travelled... my thoughts were plenty occupied, when, suddenly, I was hit with an overpowering aroma. It was so prevalent and insistent, it stole my focus from everything, and I blurted, This is amazing, their ocean smells like seafood! Literally, my brain formed this beautiful, if illogical, conclusion, and I could practically see the harbor of Boston, which smelled of amazing fish-n-chips, chowder, cod stew! I never want to forget my first impression of Boston.

And then we were in the car, with Jennifer, my dear friend. And we were driving through the city, under the harbor! The traffic was terrific, which is to say it was busy and the roads were a jumble, and we saw Massachusetts plates and those hackney signs, and even the Pike was fascinating with its Pilgrim hat symbols. Toll roads, a new skyline, then no skyline, because the trees take over. And those trees! Those colors! The traffic was terrific, because it slowed everything down, so we could see it all, all of the new things, and strange things, and Jennifer could point stuff out: Fenway Park, the Charles River, Boston University, the new New Balance building, WGBH Boston, and the beacon at the summit of the Old John Hancock Building, which broadcasts light patterns as weather forecasts: Brilliant.

Maps were what first made me dream of New England, that and being charmed when I learned that Augusta was the capital of Maine. It was too charming to resist. I love maps. I read maps like novels. Maps calm me, fuel my imagination, take me away. And, having poured over maps of New England, I was prepared to drive in and out of towns, through cityscapes, congestion, passed miles of strip malls... basically what I know of the Interstate 5 corridor between San Diego and L.A.: Urban Sprawl, and commercial chaos. It's not that way! And I am still awestruck and tickled to think of it. Minutes outside of Boston, a forest begins. The trees grow abundantly, tall, in multitudes. We saw no more city things, only those Pilgrim signs clued us into knowing we were not a thousand miles from civilization. The moon appeared, and stars, the trees aglow, and for miles and miles it felt like we were on a country drive, scenic, natural, tranquil, civilized.

Our first morning in Massachusetts we were waking up amidst all the beauty and wonders that we saw flying over, the day before. From about Lake Erie, east, we'd gazed on a painting. A landscape painted in swaths and laced trails of brilliant orange. Here, on the ground, in our friends' home, all of that color, and warmth of welcome, was even more vivid and wonderful to behold. I felt so at ease and enchanted, if our entire stay were in their home, garden, neighborhood, I could not have been disappointed. The backyard sloped up into trees, oaks, maples. The rocks and sunshine beckoned us, come, explore. We found more of Jennifer's bunnies, a gnome, or two. Beneath fallen leaves is the groundhog's den. Everywhere... acorns, and acorn caps, which are essentially the epitome of natural fascination, and charm. I gathered them like a covetous squirrel. We gazed on lichens, moss, twigs, nooks. We wondered at the brilliance of hues in the leaves, on the ground, everywhere.

Evergreens, and slowly changing deciduous trees made a lovely contrast to the yellows, oranges, flaming reds. Some trees showed the entire spectrum of shades, and you could see the effect of fall washing across the foliage of a single tree. The question of whether this was peak or passed peak was pointless to me. Whether it was better last week, or last year, I did not care. This was our best fall, the peak of our enjoyment was ours to relish for ten days.

And in ten days in New England we...

Visited Boston, and the Public Garden, Boston Common, The Granary Burying Ground, and ate at the Parker House.

We met fellow chicken blogger, Lauren Scheuer, Marky and Angel, and her hens, of course! We explored a midden, played with string and tools, made art, laughed, and became friends.

We stepped aboard the Mayflower II, walked through time into Plimouth Plantation, bought corn flour from the Grist Mill, and even saw the real Plymouth Rock... quite a spectacle! We paid our respects at the Miles Standish Burial Ground, where the children visited the markers of their ancestors, John and Priscilla Mullins Alden.

We followed wild turkeys through Jennifer and Ken's neighborhood, made fairy houses, built our first pumpkin stack.

We walked through Salem, stopped in Peabody, and drove on to Portland, Maine. We explored the coast of Maine, all the way to Camden. And walked a breakwater to the lighthouse in Rockland. We found Bath, and Red's Eats. We discovered rocky shores, forts, more lighthouses, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and more cemeteries than I can count.

We visited Concord, Walden Pond, Lexington, Orchard House, Nesting, and had a delicious and memorable dinner at Bullfinches. Squeezed in a visit to Westborough, the farm, two more cemeteries. We saw rowers on the Charles River.

I'll get to all of that. I hope. For now, Jennifer and Ken's home, and some of the pleasures we enjoyed there...

{Goodness... what a triumph, getting some of this in order, and posted. Mind you, this is only the first half of our visit at Ken and Jennifer's!}


Sylvia said...

Love it, Natalie! More, please!!

nikkipolani said...

That last photo was well chosen -- a perfect representation of your joy!

Jennifer said...

It already feels like a dream -- did we do all those things? Were you all really here? So wonderful to have these photos, these words, these moments to remember (not to mention a beautiful pumpkin stack to welcome me each morning and night). I miss you.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Oh, thank you, Sylvia. Just the littlest encouragement is all I need.
I can hardly contain my happiness and urge to share what we enjoyed.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

If I could bring you with us! Only sharing our joy could make our memories better.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

All those things, and more! I don't want to forget, for the details to slip away.
I miss you, too, friend.