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While I would never consider myself an avid journaler, or diarist, or whatever; I have on several occasions in the past kept a journal, and felt those pangs of guilt that come with neglecting that journal.  I like being able to look back at a period in my life, and get reminded of things that happened that seemed really important at the time, or things that made me happy that I’ve forgotten about, but then again there’s the hassle of recording these things every day–who has time/inclination for that?

Yesterday I went to Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott, with Gentleman Scholar and our Canadian Friends.  I’ve been on this tour before, but it rules so hard that when Canadian Lady told me with wide eyes that she never realized that Little Women was based on real people and that there was a house she could visit, I insisted that we get ourselves there post-haste.  The tour guide told us that Louisa frequently expounded on the importance of keeping a journal, not only for writing practice, but also to re-read and gather stories from.  Clearly, it worked for her.

Canadian Lady and I got to talking about our mutual experiences with journaling over lunch, and I started thinking that perhaps it’s something I should undertake again.

When I was very young, Globe-Trotting Friend showed my this diary she had that had about five lines for each day.  the point was, as I understood it, to keep you on task by limiting the amount of writing you can do at a time.  She mostly just wrote down the facts: today I did this, this, and this.  I found this troubling, and decided that I simply couldn’t be limited like this, so I went out and bought a diary the was just blank pages.  I kept it semi-faithfully for a few months and then abandoned it.

Then I read a Babysitter’s Club book where Mallory finds an old diary and uses it to solve a mystery.  This diary was full of intrigue and romance–fascinating stuff.  I went back and re-read my boring and now embarrassing memories, tore out the pages, and promptly started lying to my diary, inventing all kinds of crushes and mysteries that made my life seem  far more exotic than it was.  I later re-read that, found it equally embarrassing as the true stuff, and threw that diary away.

Then I read The Secret Diaries, and became obsessed with keeping a diary in code.  It was only then that I could truly let go and say what I wanted to actually say, I decided.  This was a few years after I read Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl for the first time, paying particular attention to the naughty bits, and deciding that there was no way in hell I could ever keep a diary honestly because what if someone decided to publish it someday, I would be mortified.

I promptly taught myself to write in Runic (not knowing at the time that any Tolkein fan could probably translate), and faithfully recorded my angst-filled final years of high school.  Every morning, in American Government, I would write until the bell rang.  I would usually start up again in one of the two study halls I had.  I honestly have no idea how I had so much to say, but I hated everything right about then, so I’m sure that found its way in.

Five years of professional coffee making have rendered my ability to write with a pen both painful and unreadable, so my journaling has fallen off completely, though this blog has kind of taken its place.  Unlike most bloggers, I try to have a point, rather than just writing about my day-to-day, so I’m missing all those minute details, but I think what comes out is a great deal more readable.  Knowingly writing for an audience can’t ever be the same as writing just for yourself, but in my case, it may be better.

I finished off my day yesterday with a first-time viewing of Notes on a ScandalNetflix sent it out two weeks ago, and I wanted to watch a movie.  It’s funny how things just sort of work out like that.  It certainly made me think twice about all these new notions of journaling I’d been having five hours before.  I’m still torn.  I’m torn between wanting to be able to look back at an honest account of my life in ten years or something, and complete laziness.  Augusten Burroughs once praised the patience of his long-term boyfriend by saying something like, “I have to spend six hours a day writing about myself to stay sane, that’s a lot to put up with.” I doubt I’d even be able to spend six hours writing anything, but it’s a scary prospect to consider how wrapped up a person can get in him or herself.  Do I really need that much time inside my own head?

I’m still deciding.

I honestly do not know how many times I’ve read Little Women.  It must be getting close to ten times, and I’m currently listening to an audio version in my car, which is also very good.  I’ve read Invincible Lousia— a Newbery award-winning biography of Louisa May; Little Men; Big Guy, Little Women, which is a rather amusing book about a girl who is obsessed with Little Women, and then four girls move in next door to her who are almost identical to the characters; and I attempted to read A Modern Mephistopheles— Louisa May’s take on the Faust story after she claimed she was sick of writing  “Moral pap for the young.”

Jewish Friend claims that her childhood visit to -OrchardHouseConcord2CMAOrchard House is one of her happiest memories, so we were both pretty pumped for this one.

The Alcott family moved around a lot.  Bronson Alcott was a noted transcendentalist and educational reformer, neither of which paid any money at all, so it fell on the women to earn as much as they could.  He started the Concord School of Philosophy in the backyard of Orchard House, and it still stands today.  We tried to go in, but Skidmore College has reserved it for the day to host a lecture on the Great War.  After we asked, we were told that we could stay for the lecture if we wanted.  We opted out, but Jewish Friend snagged a nice leather bookmark of which she was inordinately proud.

The tour of Orchard House was top notch.  Our tour guide spoke in a clear resonant tone and knew her stuff.  She answered questions thoroughly, was approachable, and engaged us as tour participants rather than just talking at us.  The tour begins with a video of an actress pretending to be Louisa May, which I thought would be really lame and stupid.  It honestly wasn’t that bad.  She provided a biographical sketch that wouldn’t have fit into the house tour very well, and didn’t do that stupid faux English accent that so many people do when they’re imitating 1800s  folk.

This same actress, or a different one, may also make appearances at the Colonial Inn, just down the road.  The bartender told us that some chick pretending to be Louisa May shows up there from 12-5 on Sundays and parades around offering answers to questions and posing for photographs.  We didn’t see her, but I’m intrigued by this notion, and I think it would be hilarious if they had a second person there pretending to be Thoreau reading in the parlor, and then he and Louisa May had strident showy conversations.

I can dream.

The Alcott women were just as fascinating as the men, well, man.  They were all very similar to their characters from the book.  May Alcott “Amy” was a success full artist, and her drawings can be found all over the walls of the house.  She was also six feet tall and married a man 15 years younger than she– well done, May.  Beth was so painfully shy that she would knit mittens for the neighborhood children, but was too scared to actually hand them out.  Instead she left them on the front steps.  Anna Alcott “Meg”, was the pretty one, just like the book, and never actually lived in Orchard House, though she was married in the parlor.

I love Orchard House.  I want to go back.

I mentioned a while ago, that Jewish Friend and I went superfunadventuring to Salem for a trip to the House of the Seven Gables.  More recently, we made a daytrip to Concord, MA to visit Orchard House, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s estate.  The plan is to embrace this summer of underemployment and use this deluge of time wisely– fill it with learning.  The response to my photos from the Concord trip was almost overwhelming, and many people commented on how much fun it seemed to be (and it was!). It occurs to me that maybe people who are interested in this kind of thing, don’t know what all we have at our disposal here in the Northeast.

Since I’m a nerd, and have a lot of time on my hands, I made a list– what I think is the definitive list of literary tourism in this part of the country.  I’m going to hit as many places as I can, and do a little write-up of each.  Since I’ve eaten almost all of the mac and cheese Providence has to offer, I have to have opinions about something.

Here’s the list:

Massachusetts:

Concord:

Orchard House— house where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women and lived for many years.

Ralph Waldo Emerson House— self-explanatory.

Walden Pond— Pond where H.D. Thoreau camped out and wrote smug essays.

Wayside— Another home occupied by the Alcott family, and the only home that Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in outside of Salem.

The Old Manse— Place where R.W. Emerson lived before settling in his later estate.  Also, Mosses from an Old Manse by Hawthorne…

Amherst:

Emily Dickinson Museum— Self explanatory

Fall River:

Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast— Not exactly literary, but a lot of books have been written about Lizzie.  If you stay there overnight, which is grossly overpriced, you must vacate your room at 11, 1, and 3 so the proprietors can run tours through it, but they serve you a breakfast similar to the one the Borden’s consumed on that fateful day– hilarious.

Pittsfield:

Melville’s Arrowhead-– You can find Melville stuff all over this area, plus there are two annual marathon readings of Moby Dick, one of which allows you to stay on an actual whaling ship (if you book early).  Arrowhead is the estate where Melville and his family settled and lived for 13 years, during which time he wrote extensively.

Springfield:

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden— Awesome.

Connecticut:

Hartford:

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center— I really don’t care for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I have no idea what else Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, but what better way to learn?

Mark Twain House and Museum— My parents have find memories of Twaining in Hannibal, MO, but all they have there is his boyhood stuff.  In Connecticut, you get Twain as adult, and can view his beautiful 19-room Victorian estate.

Lenox:

The Mount–Edith Warton’s country estate– huge, beautiful, designed by Edith Warton.  Sassy Redhead has visited this place already, and seems very happy in pictures.

Cambridge:

The Longfellow House–occupied by H.W. Longfellow from 1837 to 1882.

New York:

Tarrytown:

Sunnyside— Home of Washington Irving.  I’ve wanted to visit Tarrytown since I was about 9-years-old and first read Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great.  In that particular book, Sheila Tubman, menace to Peter of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing Fame, leaves NYC for a summer in Tarrytown.  A friend of hers lives in Washington Irving’s old house (which is clearly not true, but really cool, I thought).  This was the first time it dawned on me that you could go to places where authors had lived and wrote, and I’ve been desperate to go ever since.  The fact that I’ve lived this close for a year and a half is something that I’m not very proud of, but it is what it is.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery--I’m not terrifically excited to go to a cemetery, but these old ones can be pretty cool. Also, you can’t do a literary tour without Sleepy Hollow– for reals.

Cooperstown:

Fenimore House--Just what it sounds like.  Apparently, there’s a Cooper house in New Jersey too…

Vermont:

Dummerston:

Naulakha (Kipling House)-– Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while living in the mountains of Vermont.

Shaftsbury:

Robert Frost Museum–Just what it sounds like.  I don’t care much for Frost, which is why this is last on the list.