Seven thousand military boots with flags representing each of the American service members killed since September 11, 2001.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, Will and I visited Fort Adams State Park. The timing was serendipitous and we benefitted by being able to see a Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, put on by Operation Stand Down Rhode Island. As we walked inside the walls of the fort, we saw a memorial display of military boots, each adorned with a name placard and an American flag, honoring service members killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

I could not walk among the flags and boots for long.

As a result of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan since the Trade Towers attacks, around 7,000 American soldiers have died. OSTDI is right to draw our attention in such a dramatic way to those who died. I would like to draw your attention to additional numbers, such as the estimate of around twice as many private contractors who also died while providing support to the Americans. Those private contractors don’t get the honor or the benefits that military people get, though they serve in the same theatres. And if we are kind enough to feel empathy for all of the people who died, then consider that of all nationalities involved, at least 480,000 people have died in these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. And “In addition to those killed by direct acts of violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.” We could layer boots across the grounds of Fort Adams a couple feet deep, if we were able to honor everyone in this way.

I was drawn to the display immediately, and walked into the center of it, picking up cards attached to each boot, with photos and information about the service members from South Dakota and Kentucky and Ohio who gave their lives to their country and died at age 24, 27, or 19. It was suddenly too much and my chest heaved for breath as tears began streaming down my face. I marched out of the expanse of flags and over to the walls of the Fort. Will quickly followed and helped me get interested in Fort Adams history, in order to let the pain go.

Inside the walls of Fort Adams.

Is this a boiler? The remains of the Fort are very interesting and in my mind, beautiful.

Greenery takes over when the soldiers are no longer here to sweep and whitewash.

Fort Adams occupies a peninsula at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. The fortifications in the bay are the only ones in the area to have seen action against an enemy. The first earthen fort was built on this location in 1776 to protect the people who lived on and used the harbor, and also to prevent enemies from using the harbor as a base. Though there were fortifications and cannons placed all over the bay, it was not enough, and in December 1776 the bay was captured by the British. They successfully held off a major, months-long attempt by combined French and American forces to retake the bay in 1778. Then the British voluntarily evacuated in 1779 (like my cat, I guess, it just had to be their idea before they would leave), and the French took over. Put a pin in that, and I’m going to bring it up later. Major Tousard, a Frenchman who had fought there and lost an arm in 1778, was commissioned by the US Army and oversaw restoration of the defense structures. He reopened the fort in 1779 and christened it Fort Adams, after President John Adams. The current structure was completed in 1857.

Outside the Fort we walked to the tip of the peninsula and watched some college sailboat racing competitions.  It seemed too windy of a day for sailing but the water was filled with sails. The teams were 100% women and the racing was so fast it seemed reckless. After completing their loops, they hurtled their boats into the marina and practically skidded sideways up to the docks. I would have thought the speed and daring was dangerous, except that with only a little observing, I could see that these women knew exactly what they were doing. It was not reckless at all. I am impressed.

A tall ship replica.

A pet peeve of mine: when communities decide to approach the litter problem by removing trash barrels.

Will had been trying to introduce me to as much Rhode Island-ness as possible, and thus when we came across a stand selling Del’s frozen lemonade, we had to get some. Other RI traditions he ate while I was there included coffee milk, lobster rolls, and johnny cakes.

The beach at Kings Park. On a warm day with no agenda, I could have so much fun sifting through these shells for hours.

A monument to French nobleman and General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. Now there’s a mouthful.

At the waterfront of Newport in Kings Park, we found a statue of American gratitude to General Rochambeau, who led the French force that helped the colonies to win the Revolutionary War.

Trusting in a tourist map and a nearby information sign, we hunted and hunted for the next lighthouse. If anyone at home is still playing lighthouse bingo, this is #8! We couldn’t see a lighthouse anywhere, but for the hell of it decided to follow the maps even though it was clear we were only walking out along a pier to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. It was quaint and interesting, so we ended up wandering around and admiring the place and…guess what?! We found the light! The Lime Rock Lighthouse was renamed in 1924 for Ida Lewis, the lighthouse keeper who became famous for many rescues she managed while working at Lime Rock.

Never would have guessed it without seeing it, but the light is mounted to the back wall of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, above the dining room. I wonder how many Yacht Clubs can claim to also be lighthouses?

Since it was nearby, we also stopped at Goat Island, connected to land by a bridge. Goat Island was the first piece of land purchased for the purpose of building fortifications for defense of the bay. We did not see any remaining defense structures. Today it is a tamed location with a marina, restaurant, and condominiums.

We were after lighthouse number nine, so we went to Jamestown and visited Beavertail Lighthouse next. On the way we made a quick stop at Fort Weatherill State Park. There we got a great view of Castle Hill that we had been so recently standing upon, and a better look at Castle Hill Lighthouse, mentioned in my last post. My apologies for the blurry photos in zoom. For the entire two-week trip I relied only on my iPhone, having left my Nikon at home accidentally. I did remember to bring the Nikon battery charger, but alas, the gesture was entirely inadequate without the camera itself. 😦

Gorgeous coves at Fort Weatherill State Park.

View of Castle Hill Inn and the Castle Hill Lighthouse.

Poor resolution image of Castle Hill Lighthouse that we had spotted earlier in the day.

At the parking lot for the Beavertail Lighthouse, I examined a giant metal ball that looked a lot like a WWII mine. I’ll have to assume that someone has checked it out and it no longer carries a charge. Actually, it’s probably just a giant rusted float. Then we made our way to the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park.

Brave? Dumb? Actually, just convinced that a thousand other tourists stood here first, and if they didn’t trigger it, I wouldn’t.

Approaching Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse.

The Beavertail Lighthouse was first erected in 1749 and was the third lighthouse in the country. That wooden lighthouse burned down. Have you noticed how frequently I’ve mentioned that the first – and usually the second – lighthouses were destroyed, but then the current one has been sitting there for 150 years? I guess everybody figures out right away that to build a lasting structure on the coast, one needs to spare no expense or quality of materials. Anything less will be ruined. The sea isn’t mean, she’s serious, and you need to take her seriously. When you do, the lights are allowed to stand. Anyway, the one here was built in 1856.

Beavertail Lighthouse, built in 1856.

Remember how I said that the “British voluntarily evacuated in 1779” up above? Well, history of Beavertail Lighthouse website mentions that while the British were leaving the bay in in 1779, the lighthouse building was damaged. No further information. But doesn’t that make you wonder? Where is the rest of the story? If the British left their occupation of Fort Adams because they had made a strategic decision, then did that decision involve damaging structures on the way out? Were the Americans confused about what was happening and fire on them on their way out? Was there a battle? Was there an accident? Oh, History. There is so much you continue to hide from me.

The foundation of the original wooden lighthouse, erected in 1749, still stands.

Will and I kept noticing rocks and wished that Tara was with us so we could ask geology questions.

A fisherman stands alone and fishes off Beavertail Point, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Then we found a classy restaurant in Newport for dinner and still the night was not over. Will had a surprise, but he wasn’t sure if I was still game. Should he tell me? No, I love surprises! Lead on! The last thing we did that night was private dance lessons, followed by an hour of group dancing with beginners. Oh gosh it was so much fun. I know nothing about dancing but I’ve always wanted to learn. Though one night of dancing is certainly not enough to know how to dance, I did discover that when put to the test, I still want to learn to dance.

Ok, seriously. Can you believe all that was in one day? My last post plus this post? Wow. Maybe I’m not old yet after all.

Statue of William Ellery Channing, Unitarian preacher of the early 1800s, born in Newport, Rhode Island.

We packed so much touring into our next day in Newport that I’m going to split it into two posts. We began at Touro Park to see the Newport Tower, the remains of a windmill built approximately 1660. The round stone structure is beautiful, and I am reminded that arches are one of the strongest structures humans have ever built.

Newport Tower remains standing after nearly 400 years. Maybe because of the strength of the arches.

Inside the tower is also interesting. You can see Perry through an arch.

After exploring the tower, we stayed in the park for some time. There are multiple monuments surrounded by examples of period architechture. We admired the statue of Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was instrumental in bringing the Japanese into commercial and diplomatic relations with the West in 1854. The bronze bas reliefs on the pedestal reflect scenes from Perry’s life.

Mounted on the cast iron fence surrounding the pedestal were two plaques. One in Japanese and one translated. The title in English is The 2012 Shimoda TOMODACHI Declaration. I recalled that name from when I was staying at a Navy base in Japan, and said to Will, “Oh hey, Tomodachi is the name of the operation in which US service members helped out the Japanese after the tsunami wiped out the nuclear plant.” I kept reading, and rather than find a different use of the word tomodachi, the plaque referred to exactly what I was thinking of. It’s a Thank You from Shimoda City, acknowledging the beginning of Japanese-US relations 150 years previous, due to Perry’s work, and the continuing good relations today. Since I’m always pointing out Indian perspectives in an attempt to shed light on the nuances of our relationships, I think it’s only fair to point out that our “good relations” with Japan today are a result of the Japanese choosing to be an extraordinarily polite and accommodating people, after being bombed and invaded (and still occupied) by Americans. I do not at all assume our countries are friendly without deeply complicated undercurrents. Anyway, it was fun for me to recognize the name Tomodachi.

Naval Officer and diplomat Perry. You can see the Tomodachi Thank You plaques.

Scenes from Perry’s career.

Interesting handles of this flower pot in the shape of fauns, sitting on the heads of goats.

From there we walked to the Touro Synagogue, down lovely streets filled with late spring colour on the trees and in flower gardens.

We stopped first at the small Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, since it was on theme. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this cemetery, called The Jewish Cemetery at Newport. Another author, Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) wrote about the cemetery and the synagogue. It is the first Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island, acquired in 1677. Abraham Touro had the first protective wall erected, and his brother Judah Touro established a trust to care for the cemetery upon his death in 1854.

Colonial Jewish Cemetery was locked so we couldn’t go in for a better look.

We arrived at the Touro Synagogue just before a tour began, so we quickly paid and ran up the hill to listen to the tour guide tell us about the site, the oldest synagogue in the United States. We sat in the pews and listened while the older man intoned, and it was clear he was used to teaching and used to people listening. He invited questions, and I tried to re-state in my own words something he had said, to make sure I had understood his point. He was not at all pleased with my attempt, and moved on with his story. I felt like I was 9 years old in Bible School again. It was very sweet and funny.  Even though he denied my description of the story, I still think what he explained is that since Jews in the 18th century had been welcomed in the Netherlands, when Jewish emmigrants were looking for a new home, they hoped for a warm welcome from the Dutch colonists on the American east coast. It didn’t go as well as hoped, but there was enough tolerance to allow a Jewish community for some of early Rhode Island history. The Jewish community grew in Newport, and in 1763 this house of worship was dedicated. I can promise you that the guide would explain it with different words! 🙂

Interior of the Touro Synagogue.

The inside of the synagogue is gorgeous, but we were not allowed to take photos from inside. We were invited to stand outside, at the doorway, and photograph into the building, however. The architect knew nothing about synagogue construction, and it is assumed for the interior that he relied entirely on the guidance of members of the congregation, some having only recently left their Jewish communities elsewhere. The tourguide told us to notice two important things about the outside: first that its orientation is east (facing Jerusalem) rather than perpendicular with the street, and second that it is built to blend in with the colonial construction of the time, and not stand out and probably irritate the other settlers.

Facing east, and thus at an angle compared to the other buildings.

The lovely site includes the Loeb Visitor’s Center, the Touro Synagogue, and an inviting garden between them.

In 1781 a Town Meeting was held here during a visit by George Washington. Later, when he was President in 1790, Washington wrote a letter to the Newport Hebrew community that the whole nation should be proud of. I had never heard of this letter, but copies are provided free of charge at the visitor’s center. The text includes this,

…happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

How much less of a country we are today because our leadership embraces, rather than rejects, bigotry and persecution.

Our next stop was to find Castle Hill Lighthouse, the 7th lighthouse of the trip. We parked at the Castle Hill Inn parking area, and crashed the rather posh grounds, walking across manicured lawns, past white lawn chairs filled with paying guests, and up a hill to a spot where we could see the lighthouse above the bushes along the rocky beach. It was windy and cold and we didn’t stay long. We were near Fort Adams State Park, and we went there next. I’ll talk about the rest of the day in my next post.

Castle Hill Lighthouse as viewed from Castle Hill Inn.

Looking toward the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge

One very silly idea I’ve had about visiting Rhode Island is that I wanted to drive from one state border to the other, and time the trip, to see what it felt like to drive all the way across the state in one shot. I had asked Will if it could be done in less than an hour, and he said it probably could.

He chose a diagonal route that would make sure we gave Rhode Island the benefit of the doubt. I started the stopwatch on my phone, and took screenshots of the route too.

Beginning of journey. The blue dot marks the location of my phone.

Middle of the journey. We are rapidly moving through Rhode Island.

Viola! We cross the Massachusetts border in less than an hour.

We crossed the state in less than 40 minutes! That is so funny to me, a longtime resident of the Western United States, where you can drive for hours and hours and still be inside the same state. It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive for me to go visit Tara at school, and we both live in Oregon. Last Fall I went to see the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, which is 5 1/2 hours away.

Beginning stopwatch

Ending stopwatch.

Our other explorations that day were more along the lines of what we had been doing already: finding points of interest, historical sites, lighthouses, and monuments.

I was interested in The Towers, a massive gate of sorts, over a road in Narragansett. It was completed in 1886 as a design element to complement a new casino. Since then the casino burned down, but The Towers was saved. It is now used as an event space. Will and I went for a closer look, and found all the doors open. So, naturally we walked right in and found the place being prepared for a wedding reception.

The Towers in Narragansett, Rhode Island

The seashore is to the left. The Casino was originally to the right.

This is inside the arched part over the road. A lovely setting, and views of the ocean, for a wedding reception.

This old clock is in The Towers. It makes me think of Alice In Wonderland.

We visited the Point Judith Lighthouse next. It is our sixth lighthouse on this vacation so far. Though the first lighthouse was erected at Point Judith in 1810, a storm with an 11-foot surge rushed in and wiped out the tower and the keeper’s home in 1815, although miraculously the lighthouse keeper survived. The third and current lighthouse was completed in 1857.

This active Coast Guard site keeps the lighthouse behind a fence.

View over the Atlantic from the parking area.

Point Judith lighthouse is painted brown at the top, and white at the bottom, for a daymarker. The light has a 15-second pattern which is: 5s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off.

We explored Watch Hill next, the southwesternmost point of the state of Rhode Island. In truth, after Watch Hill is when we undertook the Cross The State Journey I mentioned at the top. You can see how that makes sense by looking at the first map. In Watch Hill we found more monuments and another seafaring community taking pride in its mariner history. One monument caught my attention because it is of an Indian. It contains no explanation and no context at the monument, so I was compelled to look it up and investigate.

An Indian monument in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

On the back of the boulder is a plaque reading “In memory of Clement Acton Griscom.” And the inscription of the artist Enid Yandell can be found in the bronze. With these clues I looked it up and have some questions answered, but not all. The image is of Chief Ninigret of the Niantic tribe indigenous to the Rhode Island area (the Narragansetts), holding a blackfish in each hand. The Chief was a clever strategist and unapologetic. He is said to have given his lands to the colonists (aw, what a kind thoughtful man, to just hand over his homeland as a gift to the invaders), but under whatever circumstances that led to this “gift,” it saved his people from the same levels of decimation as other nearby tribes. The Puritans then emboldened, asked him for permission to try to convert his people to Christianity, and Ninigret told them, “Go make the English good first.” OH, snap! The monument was erected in 1916 by Mr. Griscom’s widow in memory of the shipping magnate. Originally it was part of a horse-watering trough, with water from the fishes’ mouths filling the trough.

I love so many things about this statue. It honors an Indian relevant to those exact lands, the artist was a woman, and the piece of art had a practical purpose. The one thing I could not find anywhere is why Frances Canby Biddle Griscom commissioned the piece, and what it has to do with her husband. I’m tempted to imagine that the widow was free to spend her money however she wished after her wealthy husband’s death, and she was making a statement about things she was passionate about. Maybe Mr. Griscom loved Indians and women and horses, too. But it’s more dramatic to think of Frances getting to stretch her wings as an independent woman without having to ask a man’s permission.

We then made our cross-the-state journey mentioned at the top, and returned to Providence for the evening. It was going to be the first night of WaterFire for the year. I had never heard of it, but was eager to find out what it was all about.

We first walked along the parks and walks along the Providence River.

As darkness collected, we found a comfortable place to sit and watched the crowds increase with the night.

In the center of town, floating braziers are anchored all around the Woonasquatucket River, right before it converges with the Moshassuck River. Aren’t those names great?! When we arrived, the braziers were already loaded with wood. When it got dark, mood-creating music from around the world boomed through the crowd. It grew chillier and darker and finally black boats filled with people dressed all in black came silently drifting through. People from the crowd came down to the waterfront on our right and lit torches and stood waiting. The boats passed in front of the holders of the fire, and had their own torches lit. One boat had a man twirling fire poi. He stood confidently in black and spun the fire balls around himself, with flames reflecting off his bald head. It was so dramatic.

Holders of the fire prepare to light the torches held by people in boats.

Fire poi!!

Waterfire in Providence is a very big deal. The event bills itself as an art installation under an arts promotion and awareness organization, with the ceremony I saw as its centerpiece. As the summer temperatures warm the nights, it becomes more popular and more braziers are added, lengthening the display across more of the city’s downtown rivers.  There are 100 braziers in the middle of the season. It seems that almost as many local people get excited about volunteering to help as watching it, and in that way it has been an ingenious way to rebuild the life of downtown Providence, and bring in millions of tourists.

The chill of the night lessened a bit once the fires blazed in earnest. From the shore I could actually feel their heat. The crowd was quiet; either silent or talking in low tones. We listened to the beautiful music and watched the reflections of the fire. Some small boats came through with people who had clearly purchased a ride for 20 minutes or so, and sat back in each others’ arms with glasses of wine while they were propelled between flaming braziers by Venitian gondolier-types. It was enough to sit and watch for hours.

When the braziers were really going, I could feel the heat onshore.

Reflections of lights on water is enough to mesmerize me. Here you can see the fire poi again.

The central location downtown was beautifully lit not only by the fire, but also by the lights in the buildings.

As I mentioned before, I spent two weeks of May in New England with my friend Will. So far in my blog story I’m halfway through the trip, and right in the middle we scheduled two days for us to do solo stuff. So he went home to Rhode Island and I began looking up old friends from when I used to live in Massachusetts.

For this trip I forgot to bring my camera!! Argghh. So I used my phone when I could. But when I’m meeting friends for lunch or dinner, I tend to pay attention to them and forget to pull out my phone. This is as it should be. Thus, for two whole days, the only photos I took are the ones you see here. I managed to forget to get photos of nearly all of them. Ah well.

I spent a lazy morning at the hotel in which I downloaded all my photos from my phone to my laptop and answered emails and made phone calls and all those things that had been neglected for a week. Had a long chat with Tara, which is always nice. They were getting ready for finals, but also planning for a summer geology field class out in the desert of eastern Oregon. Tara wanted to borrow camping gear. No problem.

In the afternoon I met my friend Fish from school. It was great to spend the day together, and except for some brisk wind, it was a pretty nice day. We bought ice cream and walked and talked all the way to Jamaica Pond.  I got to hear about Fish’s trip to South America, and their work volunteering to be a guinea pig for some fascinating brain research. Then we sat on the shore and watched wind blow over the water till it was time to leave for my next gathering of friends. The first time I remembered my phone was when we were almost back at my rental car and saying goodbye, and Fish pointed out the beautiful homes on the streets of Jamaica Plain.

A beautiful home in Jamaica Plain.

I made it on time to the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where Mads works. He came out to meet me, then took a break from work and we shared a cup of coffee and caught up. He finally got a chance to tell me in person about falling in love with his wife couple years before, and about getting married, and I really am dying to meet her. She is still in Sri Lanka and has not yet been able to come to the U.S., but it should be soon! I got to hear about his emotions and observations about being a new dad. He had actually reached a point in his life where he didn’t think he would ever get married, much less be a father, so it is an immense change in perspective he is going through. Mads is loving every minute of it (except for the pain of separation), and it filled my heart to see him so happy.

When it was time to leave for our 6pm dinner reservation in the North End, we left together and met Romain at an Italian restaurant they had heard good things of. I’m sure you remember me mentioning Mads & Romain before, because they are two of my best friends in the whole wide world. We met in school and clicked, and formed some kind of mutual admiration society, where each of us thinks the other two are amazing. I speak for myself, anyway. I never stop feeling blessed that these two so obviously value my friendship. We had a wonderful time at the restaurant. The wine was perfect, the food was out of this world. We laughed and told stories and hugged and pretty much entertained the wait staff. One of them remembered to pull out the phone – thank goodness!!

Father Romain has been an assistant pastor at his church for a decade, but had just accepted a new job with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yes! The same VA that I just left in the Fall. Romain was prompted to make this choice because working as a Chaplain for the federal government will provide a steady income and benefits such as paid holidays, paid sick days, and discounted health insurance, maybe even a pension if he is able to work for the government long enough. These things were not available in his previous job.

Romain and me. I truly love this man. We adopted each other and call each other cousin. 🙂

We asked the waiter to take a photo of all 3 of us.

After dinner we said goodbye to Romain, and Mads decided the wine was so good he wanted to buy a bottle of it. We found a place called The Wine Bottega nearby, and I circled the block while Mads shopped. There is no parking in this part of Boston, forcing me to keep circling. In fact, while we were eating, I got parking ticket because the place I had earlier chosen for parking was actually resident parking. Drat! Soon he came out to meet me. He had tricked me by saying that the wine was for himself, and instead gifted both bottles to me. “Why two?” I asked, “You can keep one for yourself!” Mads answered, “But what if you really like the wine? Then you will certainly need another bottle!” ha ha ha

The Colonial Inn was built in 1716, but has been used as an inn since 1889.

The next morning I met Romain for brunch. We had discovered that my randomly selected cheap hotel was only one village over from where he lived in Carlisle. He insisted on meeting me the next morning, so we met and he took me to a wonderful place in Concord called the Colonial Inn. I received an impromptu tour by our server, who took me through, room by room, explaining how old the place is, what the rooms were used for originally, and even how one counter that was originally built to be a bar, has been restored and is now being used as a bar again. It’s cramped and dark, and tucked away inside, and I just love the idea of getting a pint at a place that was serving pints 100 years ago. Henry David Thoreau’s grandfather owned a part of the property for almost 40 years. I was shown the guest register, that Inn staff like to leave open to different pages, so that guests can see the signatures of famous historic visitors like Margaret Sidney Lothrop, J.P. Morgan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. We finally settled down to eat and the food was outstanding.

Since we were in Concord, and I admitted that I had not seen the battlefield before, Romain insisted that we make a quick visit to the site of the battles of Lexington & Concord. This is another part of the story I was telling in my post about the Freedom Trail. Remember there was a secret council meeting in Concord about the resistence to British control? Paul Revere’s famous ride was an attempt to get from Boston to Concord, ahead of the British Regulars, and spread the word of their advance. He got captured before he completed the trip, but Revere and many other riders went through the countryside warning people, and they played a significant role that night.

Anyhow, so when the Regulars arrived in Concord in April 1775, the American Minute Men were ready for them and challenged them. Were they treasonists or freedom fighters? The age-old question. It was the beginning of the American Revolution, and it changed the path of history. The Minute Men faced the Regulars across the Old North Bridge, and the ensuing battle resulted in the first instance of Americans killing British Regulars. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed this was the critical turning point that began the revolution, and called it “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

Standing on the Old North Bridge over the Concord River.

The Old North Bridge leading to a monument to the battle, erected in 1836.

Burial site for two unnamed British soldiers who died at this site. The inscription reads, “They came three thousand miles and died, to keep the past upon its throne: Unheard, beyond the ocean tide, their English Mother made her moan. April 19, 1775”

Minute Man monument tells some of the legend of the characters in the battle, and then notes “Here began the separation of two kindred nations, now happily long united in peace.”

We did not have enough time to really explore the place, as I had committed to another friend. It’s a beautiful and important place to visit, and I will make a point of going there again some day.

I hopped in the car and sped off to find my friends Dave & Lois. Dave was my advisor when I was attending school at Brandeis. They are both retired now and living in a new place, so I was able to see it for the first time. The property they live on has an agreement with the college next door that they can use the dining facilities, and since it was so convenient, we agreed to meet and walk over to the cafeteria. The food was tasty and the company was lovely. We sat outside, but it was another warm sunny day and not Lois’ preference. After our meal, she went inside for protection from the UV rays, and Dave invited me to see one of his favourite places, also near their new home.

We went to Cutler Park and walked for a couple hours. It was a great talk and it was such a relief for me to be outdoors again finally, after so much time in a car, or in restaurants. The exercise felt good. Dave told me all about his new interests, how he liked the new place, how his kids were doing. He asked me a ton of questions about my future plans and what I hope for someday in a romantic partner. Dave is a great resource for encouragement and inspiration. I think I need to run all my future career prospects by this guy from now on because he has so many ideas.

When we eventually made our way back to the car, we followed the loop around the lake, and were passed by cyclists getting their exercise. One of them heading in the opposite direction zoomed past us and right away I heard the skidding of tires across dirt and rocks as the brakes came on sharply. I turned around to look, hoping the cyclist wasn’t about to crash.

“Crystal?” he asked. I was astonished. Who on earth would know me at Cutler Park? I live 3000 miles away. This guy was head to foot in cyclist gear, complete with helmet and sunglasses. In other words, totally unrecogniseable.

“Yes!” I said, delighted to be recognised in Massachusetts, even though I had no idea who it was. “Who are you?”

“Chris, from Brandeis!” he answered. Chris is a common name and I was at Brandeis 12 years ago, and…

“I need help. Chris who, from Brandeis?”

So he explained. He was a former co-worker in the Brandeis IT department. In a previous post I mentioned that I modeled for work, but that was only a couple hours a week, so I also helped the IT department create and manage websites for the school. With some context, I immediately knew who it was! Chris and I had a brief, pleasant exchange, and he zoomed off on the bike again, passing us three or four more times on the loop before we made it back to the car.

Amazing. I still can’t believe he recognised me after 12 years and outside of the Brandeis campus.

We watched a fly fisherman at the shore of Kendrick Pond.

A lovely view of swans and a brick steeple above the trees.

This is how happy I was to be walking at Cutler Park. {Photo by Dave Jacobson}

My last visit of the day would be all the way back to my old homeland, to see my dear friend Susie in Ashburnham. Those of you who have followed me for years may remember that I dyed my hair pink during the entire time that Susie had active cancer. She kicked cancer’s ass and I went back to a blonde streak. There is a brew pub close to her house, so we walked over there to get a pint before they closed. The weather had been warm and lovely all day and I was excited to do some more walking.

Susie confirmed that cancer has been undetectable for so long now that the frequency of her checkups can be reduced. She told me some of her perspective on the whole deal, how she never thought the power of love and prayer was what got her through, but instead the fact that she became a warrior woman and fought cancer with all the hatred and disgust she could muster. I love this woman. She is as real as it gets.

I was thrilled to hear about the latest from her oldest son, and how he completely has his shit together and is about to do a study abroad program. Her daughter who is similar to Susie: gorgeous on the outside, expressing kindness and empathy every day, which disguises a hardcore warrior woman on the inside. Her youngest is filled with a hunger for life. He is mischievous, polite, thoughtful, obnoxious, and funny all in one young man.

By the time it got dark it was time for all of us to get ready to end the day. I hugged everyone goodbye and hopped into the rental car for one last journey. I went to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to pick up Will, and off we went to the next chapter in the New England vacation.

Elisia’s exit reminded me of the old days when my group of friends rode the Fitchburg train together.

Boston is so close to my old life, when I lived in Fitchburg and rode the commuter train to school in Waltham. After exploring Boston for a day, the next day Will and I spent the whole day traveling old routes, walking old paths, gaining new perspectives on old vistas.

First we took Route 2 out to Fitchburg. I pointed out the spot where I was pulled over for speeding, and Massachusetts forgot to ask me to pay the ticket for FIVE YEARS. I became disproportionately excited to see the Exit 32 sign to Leominster. When I lived out here I rode the train to school every school day for three years. I got on the same train at the same time every morning, and rode into the city with all the same people. We got to know each other. I even did my Masters Thesis on how fear and feelings of safety are managed on the commuter rail train when packed in there with strangers. My very best friend at that time was Elisia, who lived in Leominster. She has a lovely English accent and we were all delighted the day she told us the highway exit to her home was number 32. We made her say it a dozen times. We giggled with glee and found opportunities to ask about Exit 32 (prounced in Lissy’s English accent) whenever we could, from then on.

A 2005 photo of the house when I lived there.

What it looks like now. Not much change. A new fence, solar panels, a bigger tree, and neglected garden and lawn.

Our first stop was my old house. The old neighborhood looked almost exactly the same except that the trees along the street were larger. The landscaping around my old house looked ratty and unkempt, and there was a For Sale sign out front. I was sad that none of the trees or lilac bushes I had planted had survived. There was a new fence in the back yard and solar panels. I recalled shoveling snow from that driveway so many times.

We drove around the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It has tiny pockets of commerce scattered around the outskirts leaving the center almost desolate. No people walking, and many empty buildings. When pawn shops and consignment shops for children’s clothes are on main street, it’s a sign that people are shopping somewhere else. My two favourite sightings from my past were the library, and of course the train station. It’s a sad town and I felt validated for never liking it while I lived there.

Walden Pond, from the end where the train passes close by.

We returned to Route 2 toward Boston and stopped at Walden Pond, made famous in Henry David Thoreau’s book. While traveling to school I had looked out the train windows at the pond, twice a day, day in and day out for more than a year before I realized which pond it was. Then I read Walden again, despite not liking it the first time I read it, and realized that Thoreau even mentions the train.

Will in the pond. It was a hot day and the cool water felt good on our feet.

I splashed around, getting water on my head and back, and cooling off. {photo by Will Murray}

The pond today is a park, visited by nearly 500,000 people a year. It is open to swimming, fishing, and boating, and is surrounded by trails. Though Thoreau kept fit by jogging around the lake every day, visitors who want to emulate his experience are asked not to run on the trail that follows the shore, but to keep their running activity to the trails farther away.

Will and I explored the brand new beautiful visitor’s center, and then made our way to the pond. The pond is always more serenely beautiful than I expect, for so famous a tourist destination. Today it is protected land, and I get the sense that it is more forested and more lush than when Thoreau lived there. There are many easy trails to follow and we followed them. On the far side of the pond, Thoreau’s cabin no longer exists, but there are granite stones set to show where it used to be. Nearby is a large mound of rocks left by people in remembrance. He wasn’t living there at his death, but close friends the Alcotts (including the famous author Louisa May) laid the first stones at the site after his death. It began a tradition.

The site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin. You can see the pile of rocks to the left.

A large pile of stones carried by admirers from around the world. Many contain messages from those who left them.

As we prepared to leave, I gave the all-day parking pass that we had purchased to the next car that pulled in to the lot. It was a small car packed with kids that looked around the age of 20, and they were so grateful for the pass. I try to do this whenever I can, handing over a parking pass when there is still time left on it. I think having to pay to park a car is annoying, so I cheat the system. I’m such a law-breaker rebel!!

Next we went to the campus of Brandeis University, where I received my BA and MA in 2007. It was 6pm and nearly empty of people. I was surprised to find every door unlocked. We wandered across the entire campus and you can bet I marched us right inside every building I wanted to explore.

First of all we went into the art building. My first two years at school I knew the Art building because of my job. I modeled for the painting classes. It was good money ($10 an hour – the highest pay available to a student on campus) for very little work. I am not shy about my body and found it interesting and challenging to find new creative poses and then to hold perfectly still. The students were amazingly kind and grateful, and always let me watch them work during breaks. Finally I had completed enough required courses that I had room for an elective, and I took a beginning oil class. The classroom was just as I remembered it, except for a new ugly ducting tube on the ceiling.

Art room Spring 2019.

Painting of art room. Fall 2006.

We walked through the Student Union building where I had talked with Anita Hill the year before she became a professor there, and where I had heard Thomas Friedman tell us why the World Is Flat. (At the University I also heard lectures by Howard Zinn, Azra Nomani, and President Jimmy Carter – it was a good place to hear people.) Up the hill we passed the library with floors that sink down instead of rise above ground level. We climbed the stairs at the Brown Social Science Center, up to the Anthropology Department. It’s still an old, outdated building, but filled with many happy memories. The halls smelled the same. Many of the professors I knew are still there, I could see, from bios posted on a bulletin board. I wrote a note on a paper towel from the bathroom and left it for Laurel, the woman in the office who keeps everything running. I said “Hi, I miss you all.”

We walked up all the steps of the Rabb Graduate Center and on up the hill to the Mandel Quad, where I took an Introduction to Judaism class once I realized I was attending a Jewish-centric school. Ha! Can you believe I had no idea until I arrived on campus? I’m so silly. Finally we went over to my other favourite building on campus: the Mandel Center where I took most of my classes for conflict resolution, mediation and peace building. It’s my favourite because that is where I met two of my best friends in all the world, Mads and Romain, who were also in the conflict resolution program.

This statue of Louis Brandeis is hard to resist. I wanted to show him more stuff, but he was focused on making the world a better place.

It began to rain as we walked back down the long hill. I told Will things like, “if you had a class at the Art building, then your next class was up here at Rabb, or the Mandel Center, you would just be late. That’s all there is to it.” I remembered having a law class at the top of the hill, then auditing a society & economy class with Robert Reich (well-known American economist and political commentator) down at the Slosberg Music Hall at the bottom of the hill. I was always late, and the packed theatre room never had seating available, so I sat on the floor with the other students who couldn’t arrive early.

Will and I were soaked through when we found our car at the bottom of the hill. I had spent a week with Will 24/7 and I am an introvert and used to living alone. Prior to the trip we had scheduled in two days away from each other. I drove him to the train station and he caught a train home to Providence. I drove to a random hotel that I had chosen because it was the cheapest in the whole Boston area, ha ha. I planned to visit with friends for two days and then go meet Will in Rhode Island for the final week.

This is one of the best ways I remember Grandma Trulove: camping.

While I was in New England, my Great Aunt texted to let me know that my Grandma Trulove died at age 99 on May 16. It wasn’t entirely a shock because she had been declining, but still came with the regret at not having visited her more often, and a discussion about whether to cancel my vacation and go home for the service. I decided to stay in New England. It was a lucky choice, since I never heard any information about a burial or funeral. That wasn’t entirely a shock either.

Grandpa Trulove married Margaret Louise after divorcing my other Grandma Freda. This happened before I was born, so I grew up knowing her as Grandma Trulove, and no amount of understanding legalities made her less of a grandma to me. She was loving and welcoming and fun to visit. Grandma loved creating with her hands, and all the grandkids benefitted from her hobby of sewing stuffed animals for us. My favourite was a large purple stuffed rabbit, and my brother’s was a stuffed green dinosaur.

My earliest memories of her are from hunting camp, when I was a child. The family, and a few friends, would all camp together during deer hunting season. The kids would play in camp and most of the adults would go off in search of deer. Grandma would stay in camp to hand out Kool-aid or in case we needed a bandaid. We rarely reached out to her, busying ourselves with digging holes in the dirt, stacking rocks, hurling pinecones or playing in the creek, but it was good to know she was right there.

At home in Klamath Falls, Grandma Trulove presided over the kitchen. She would ask me to help set the large table, and then I helped carry serving dishes to cover the whole table in comfort foods. She liked to paint, and crochet, and by combining her talents and special finds while shopping, she filled the bottom drawer of a dresser in the spare room with gifts. I was allowed to peek into the drawer, where already-wrapped gifts waited for birthdays and Christmas. It seemed magical to me at the time, a reminder that holidays were coming, and that Grandma would never forget.

Grandma Trulove in a Christmas outfit. Look at those shoes!

Here she is posing with the Thunderbird. It was probably the day she and Grandpa bought it.

She also loved to write, and we exchanged hand-written letters all my life until her last few years, when shaky hands made the writing too difficult for her. Once she got older, Grandma always apologized for the shakiness of the cursive writing and the lack of more interesting things to say. Of course I was so pleased to receive one of her letters that I never noticed the things she thought were flaws.

When I was a teenager, Grandma and Grandpa begged for me to come and live with them and go to Mazama High School, only a couple blocks from the house. When I married Tara’s dad, they were proud to make the trip and attend the wedding. Their love was undeniable, and I adored them both.

The best times we shared were when she lived in Sandy, Oregon, which was only 45 minutes away from my home in Portland. I enjoyed our visits so much. In minutes she would begin telling me stories of her life. She told me about when she left home in the 1940s and went to live with her sister in Portland, and how the two of them worked hard to pay the bills and loved the handsome military men that would come into Portland. She told me about the hard times too: her difficult marriage while struggling to raise her babies before she met Grandpa. Most of all she loved to tell me about Grandpa Trulove, who had died in 2002, how he was the best friend and partner she could have wished for, how he always took care of her, and how he gave her a comfortable life with vacations and friends. She loved traveling with him, particularly to Hawaii.

“I don’t know what it is about you,” she said on more than one occasion. “As soon as you get here I just start talking and talking. I tell you things I don’t talk about with anyone.” I told her it was my superpower: people just talk to me. And I asked her to tell me more.

Grandma hated having her photo taken, but I begged for this one and she acquiesced. This is with Tara in Grandma’s place in Sandy, OR in September 2007. I gave her that clock as a Christmas gift many years ago. She gave it back to me when she had to downsize. It’s hanging in my living room right now.

She loved to tell me about her kids and her other grandkids – estranged from my family for some reason. Maybe because they were from a different marriage. She was so proud of them all and excited to show me their artwork and family photos. She told me stories about my mother and father when I was a baby.

She was very proud of her life, and not the typical mooshy grandma stuff, but her individual adventures and accomplishments. When she was in high school, she and her best friend used to stop by the local courthouse on the way home from school, just to sit and watch the hearings. She said it was the best entertainment in town. She got jobs to support the family when she needed to, and she got good jobs, taking over secretarial and financial posts for companies and delighting in the well-earned praise that she received. One of her favourite jobs was in Shasta Lake, California and to the end of her life she marveled at her great luck in getting that job. She talked about creating a whole filing system for Crater Lake National Park in Oregon when she and Grandpa lived and worked there as full time residents. The system was effective and efficient, and she became a valuable resource for the Park offices, being called back now and then to help them on a temporary basis, even after her full-time employment had ended.

Grandma Trulove was a voracious reader, even with poor eyesight. She went through books like meals, eating them up and gaining sustenance from them. She kept bookshelves with her favourites as long as she could, and loaned me some of them: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Gone With the Wind, and anything by Louis L’Amour.

Because of her sharp intellect and subtle wit, she was frustrated with her counterparts while living in the retirement home in Sandy, and later in Lebanon, Oregon. She was 92 when she complained to me, “Everybody here is old. All they want to talk about is babies, and their sicknesses and which medications they take. I want to talk about interesting things. There are so many more interesting things to talk about, but they don’t want to.” When she did find close friendships there, it was when she found someone who shared her fascination with the rest of the world.

Grandma’s optometrist was far away in Portland. She needed a good eye doctor because she was legally blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other. “I’ve got to take care of my good eye!” she pronounced. Once I found this out, I took advantage of my employer’s generous family leave policy that allowed me to take a paid sick day to take care of my grandmother. I looked forward to our long days together: the drive to the eye doctor, the waiting room, the visits themselves (she invited me in so I could help explain anything, if necessary), stops for prescriptions afterward, and the long drive back home. She was exhausted by the end of those days, and I was able to keep her spirits up because I was having so much fun.

Grandma and me March 2013 in the waiting room at the optometrist’s office. This is the very last photo I could get her to agree to.

I was broken-hearted when she moved to Lebanon, separating us by 3 hours instead of 45 minutes. That made it much harder for me to visit, and the frequency dropped dramatically. I am sorry about that to this day. My Great Aunt and Uncle live just a few minutes away from the assisted living home, and as a pastor and pastor’s wife, insisted to me that it is part of their church work to visit the elderly in their community. They offered to visit Grandma Trulove, and soon became an active part of her life.

On a visit not too long ago, Grandma was talking about my Great Aunt and Great Uncle, her relatives who had been to visit. I tried to correct her. Grandma was in her nineties and of course things were hard to remember. “No, Grandma, they are from my side of the family. They aren’t actually related to you, but they love you!” Oh my goodness, the look I received. Grandma was almost never angry with me, but that time she made her anger evident. It was as though I was talking trash about her beloved family. She let me know that she was my elder, and she knew more than me, and those two were her family and there would be no further discussion on it! Well, I laughed about it later. But what better compliment than for someone to love your visits so much that she decides you are related!

For at least the last decade, Grandma Trulove wanted to die. I think it was mostly because she missed Grandpa so much, and also because of all the “boring old people” she lived with. She had wretched arthritis and her crafty hands were always in pain and not flexible, so all the hobbies she most enjoyed: painting, sewing, crocheting, and crossword puzzles, were lost to her. She was not interested in computers. Television bored her, and though she always had a set, I never saw it on. She told me without hesitation that she wanted to die, every time I visited. With dry humor she would say, “Well, I was at the doctor on Tuesday. He said I’m in good health as usual.” She would sigh. “I’m ready to go any day, but my body won’t let me: I’m just too darn healthy.” She tried to take it into her own hands by not eating, but her care providers at the home were required to make sure she ate every day. That frustrated her too. She just wanted to sleep and never wake up.

Well, Grandma, finally your battle is over and you won. Thank you thank you for loving me, trusting me, and sharing so many of your stories with me.

Time to state the obvious. Bringing guns to the Oregon state Capitol is a bad idea.

Some Oregonian politicians don’t like the bill being presented that will place a cap on carbon emissions. The Democrats have a majority and it is expected that the bill will pass. Republicans are desperate to block it, and have responded by fleeing (probably to Idaho) so that there won’t be a quorum, and the vote won’t be valid.

Up to this point in the story, I personally support the actions. It’s childish maybe, but non-violent and powerful. Although I am in support of a cap on carbon emissions, I admire clever humans who find a way to work within a system and get their voices heard. Fleeing a vote has been done before, but not very often. It’s drastic, and has definitely hit the news now, which promotes a continued discussion. All good stuff.

The problem is fear.

In Oregon and all across the U.S. are these grass roots militia groups that fancy themselves saviors of American ideals. They’ve bought into the Trump-sponsored belief that there are only two kinds of people: Democrats and Republicans, and you can’t safely have both, and one must oppress the other. These militia people are usually country folk and usually align themselves with the Republican party. They are mostly good people who take their kids out fishing and have the neighbors over for a barbecue, and are quick to offer a hand to a stranger with a broken down truck, and donate to a good cause. But mention politics and they transform.

Politics and power trigger within country folk a deeply held fear of losing a way of life, while they desperately cling to jobs that are part of lagging and changing industries. People on TV talk about systems automation and unmanned transport trucks and using hydroponics to grow crops and making burgers in a petri dish, and this is frightening at a gut level, for folks who don’t know the first thing about all that, and have families to support right now by driving long-haul rigs and feeding the cattle, and repairing the combine, and clocking in at work each day. Those people on TV seem like the same people who talk about saving the environment and advocate for gun control.

So it gets all mushed up together and amplified with Fear Sauce in the common consciousness: “The people who talk about regulating firearms are the people taking away the jobs.” and  “The people who want to put a cap on emissions are the people who want to take away our guns.”

“Is that how it’s gonna be? Well you can take away my firearm when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

Fear. It’s fear masked by angry words.

What will the future look like to country families who for generations have lived their lives in a way that seems to be disappearing? It is either frightening, or unknown. And not knowing is scary. It is so tempting to pull out a gun when feeling threatened, especially if you already own one. Or six of them. Legally owning multiple guns is not uncommon at all in rural Oregon.

Ok, so Oregon may be on the brink of economy-changing legislation to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Thursday, soon after the Governor said that law enforcement would be sent out to haul them back to their jobs if they left, the Republicans skipped town. One of the Republicans retorted that he is prepared to shoot any police officer that tries it. (Can’t you hear the fear in that comment?) And then militia groups rallied, convinced that they aren’t being listened to once again, and convinced that the only response left to them is firearms. They announced they will move on Oregon’s Capitol (Salem) to protect the Republicans, even though the politicians declined the offer of assistance. This has shut down the statehouse today.

If the militias want to defend American ideals, they need to focus on the primary one: democracy. Our country wants to be founded on the Rule of Law, not oppression.

Talking through difficult decisions is a skill that politicians need, and a skill that the rest of us need too. Being direct when things are uncomfortable is the only way to work through a problem like being afraid of what might happen. Imagine feeling so disenfranchised that you convince yourself that the only way to be heard is to threaten to shoot someone. It’s an awful situation.

I can’t stand conflict, and I will contort myself to avoid talking about scary stuff, but it never resolves the problem. In fact, come on, say it with me because we all know the cliche: avoiding the problem just makes it worse.

You know one way to avoid a problem? Bring a gun.

Guns scare the other people, yes. It shuts them up for a while, yes, so you can yell the stuff you want to yell. But it does not resolve anything! A protest group at the Capitol is going to be filled with fear, and hiding their fear behind angry shouts. And probably, somebody in their agitation is going to make the wrong move, probably by accident, and all hell will break loose. There won’t be any way to protect lives. Right to life doesn’t apply when there is a fearful mob and loaded guns.

Democracy turns out to be scary. Having to talk about decisions that might change your life forever is scary. Putting it all out there on the table means you might have to give something up. But you’ve got to believe in the process of negotiation and consensus. You’re probably going to have to let go of some things you want, no matter how it goes. You have to give up the idea of zero sum. The only way to win is to listen to each other, and to be brave enough to explain why you’re so scared.

If there is a gun in your hand, that will never happen.

King’s Chapel faces a whirling vortex of wind in Boston’s downtown, at the corner of Tremont St and School St. {photo by Will Murray}

We found out there is a vortex in downtown Boston, right in front of King’s Chapel. It took us all day long to realize this phenomena was specific to the intersection of Tremont ST, Beacon ST, and School ST.

King’s Chapel was originally an Anglican church attended by Royalists (supporters of the British King), but not supported by the Puritan founders of the city of Boston. In fact, when the Royal Governor demanded that land be provided for construction of the church, the Puritans refused. So, he seized some land already used as a burying ground and had a church built. Before he got a chance to worship there, the Puritans found out that King James II had been deposed, so they captured the Governor and shipped him back to England.

The original wooden church of 1686 was replaced with the current church in 1754. Rhode Island architect Peter Harrison (called America’s first architect) built it. The stone chapel does not have a steeple because the Royalists ran out of money. (The Puritans chuckled with glee, and did not buy anything at the Steeple Bake Sale.) It became Unitarian in 1785 under the ministry of James Freeman, and with that the establishment of the Unitarian Christian faith in America.

This was the site of our meeting place for the Boston By Foot Road to Revolution tour we were about to take. The weather was sketchy, but with only one day in the city, we had no choice but to show up in our rain jackets, and wait for our guide under a bank’s entryway while watching other tourists begin their Freedom Trail tours. The wind was astonishing! It whipped through the streets between tall buildings, blowing hats off heads, hurtling discarded Starbucks cups airborne into bushes, stripping tender early season leaves off the trees. Rain flew sideways, making umbrellas useless, even if they hadn’t already been yanked inside out by gusts. I watched as the wind grabbed a woman’s plastic poncho and pulled it nearly off her body. With her arms through the holes, she maintained possession of the poncho, while it flapped madly in the wind and rain above her head, a wet angry flag. When we spotted our tourguide, Linzy, she was surpised to see we hadn’t canceled. The others had.

Bravely the four of us (Will, me, Linzy, and her friend) all determined to go through with it. Linzy walked with us for a 2-hour tour past the physical remains of key moments in the political history of what is today called the United States of America. It’s an awkward story for me because it includes the invasion of my indigenous ancestors, but for today I’ll just set that aside and talk about the white man’s version of the tale.

Linzy told us about King’s Chapel, one of the symbols of the newly settled country, and a place visited by men whose names, like George Washington, appear in our founding mythology. The bell that rings today is one that was repaired by Paul Revere in his own foundry. We moved along the street and only a block away, the wind died down and our umbrella could be used as designed.

Benjamin Franklin is the most famous student from the Boston Latin School.

We walked to the Boston Latin School, founded on April 23, 1635. It is the oldest public school in America, and when it opened, offered a free educated to boys of the community, regardless of what resources the family had. A statue of Benjamin Franklin, once a student there, honors the site of the original school.

The Old State House in the center of Boston, and in the center of U.S. history.

My favourite Boston building is the Old State House, built in 1713. The first floor was a merchant exchange and the second floor held offices of government, including that of the Governor, appointed by the English King. Until 1775, the Governor addressed the people from a balcony overlooking King Street.

The Old State House is adorned with the lion and unicorn, royal symbols of the King.

One of the lovely Boston churches.

Eye-catching frame of the Custom House Tower.

The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. The plaza in front of the lion and unicorn is the site of the Boston Massacre. In March 1770, some boys taunted the British sentry until the sentry hit back. This drew a crowd of laborers, sailors, and bystanders, some carrying clubs. Seven soldiers were sent to defend the sentry, and they surrounded the crowd. The mob became cacauphonous and in the melee, the sentry fired his gun. The soldiers thought an order had been given, so they fired into the crowd. Five people died as a result, and many call this the first bloodshed of the Revolution. (Though that’s in dispute, as our tour guide in Salem explained how technically the first blood was spilled in Salem.) Six years later, the Declaration of Independence was read in the very same spot.

A statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall, currently swathed in protective covering during rennovations. {photo by Will Murray}

Nearby is Faneuil Hall, famous today as an indoor market. Peter Faneuil was the wealthiest merchant in Boston, and had no family or heirs. He proposed in 1740 that Boston have a central marketplace, and he offered to fund the construction entirely. The vote passed and the marketplace was built. As an afterthought, he added a second floor for a meeting space. The meeting space was immediately valuable as a public hall for gatherings, meetings, and ceremonies. 277 years later, it is still used in this way: market on the first level, gathering space at the top.

In front of Faneuil Hall is a statue of founding father, Sam Adams. Adams was born in Boston, a relative of President John Adams, and very active in politics. His family owned a company that produced malt used for brewing beer, and today there is a popular beer named after him.

We walked through an older part of Boston, with cobbled streets too narrow to fit a modern car. It’s hard to believe there are still places like this in the U.S.

Looking toward the Union Oyster House, from Union Street. (The Holocaust Memorial is right behind us, but that’s history for another day.)

Linzy told us about the history of Boston.

From there we walked past a hundred authentic Italian restaurants, in Boston’s Old North End. Linzy remarked as multiple tourists passed us with boxes of pastries from Mike’s, that it is where all the tourists go for authentic Italian pastries. “The locals go to Bova,” she added. We made a mental note.

Paul Revere owned this house from 1770-1800. {photo by Will Murray}

A statue of Paul Revere, with the famous spire of the Old North Church in the background.

It turns out, Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, and the famous ‘one if by land, two if by sea’ plan, did not go down exactly as legend has it. Longfellow did the guy a solid for some reason.

During the planning stages of the revolution, there was a secret provincial council meeting in the town of Concord, Massachusetts. A spy network was organized between Concord and Boston, so the council could hear any Boston news. One enthusiastic member of the spy group was Paul Revere. People in Boston found out that British Regulars were planning to go out to Concord and confiscate an arms cache, and then arrest the council members, so the spy network was engaged.

There were two main routes to Concord from Boston, one was longer but entirely a land route. The other was shorter but required crossing the mouth of the Charles River where it emptied into the Bay. The spy group knew the British were about to move, and split up. Revere had been the one who told the sexton in the church about the lantern plan, and he may actually have been the person who went over there and told him to put up the two lanterns to send a signal across the water. THEN, Revere snuck illegally across the river in the night ahead of the British Regulars and that’s when the ride began. Revere and others saddled up and tore along the road in the night, alerting everyone along the way to Lexington. As people found out, they jumped on their own horses and joined the spy group, alerting the countryside. Revere was captured by British soldiers before he made it to Concord, but he did play a key role that night.

The Old North Church, famous for holding the lantern signals.

We ended our tour at Coppy’s Burying Ground. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Boston patriots, including Robert Newman, the sexton at the Old North Church who hung a lantern. There are also unmarked slave graves here. By this time the weather was lovely. We sat on a park bench in the sun, drying out and resting after being on our feet for hours. We bought some patries to go at Bova, then had drinks at the very old Bell In Hand Tavern, operating since 1795 (except during prohibition).

We then went back to where we had parked, to drop off and get stuff from the car. As we left the City Hall Plaza and entered the intersection in front of King’s Chapel, we were bombarded with wind! It was a ferocious wind that nearly knocked us over. All day I had been thinking that the morning’s vortex was a product of the stormy weather, but no, apparently it’s a micro weather force, created by the arrangement of tall buildings and streets.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. See that skinny house between brick buildings?

This home is apparently not small. It faces the brick wall, and here, we are looking at it sideways.

Bell In Hand Tavern. Lovely atmosphere, crazy expensive drinks.

We walked over to Boston Commons and ate our pastries beside the pond, then walked across the channel to the giant milk bottle. The 40-foot wooden Hood Milk Bottle has a tiny restaurant in the bottom of it, closed for the night. We walked back to the North End and chose an Italian restaurant and had a splendid dinner.

Lovely Boston views as we walked through the city. Hard to believe this weather is the same day as the weather we had in the morning.

Lights add sparkle to downtown gardens in the evening.

View of the Boston skyline across Fort Point Channel.

 

High Rock Tower in Lynn, Massachusetts.

On our way out of Salem we made a fun stop in Lynn, Massachusetts, to climb up the hill at High Rock Tower Park. The tower is tucked into a densely populated residential area, and the approach that we used has no parking area (we found street parking). There are no informational or directional signs, so when we found it, then hiked up the hill to see it, I felt like we had discovered something special.

This approximately 5-acre piece of land has held an observation tower since the 1840s. The original tower was burned down in 1865. The current tower is 107 feet high and was built of granite in 1904. Since 2002 the observatory has been open to the public for views of the starry skies, from 8-10pm. It contains a 12-inch Meade telescope and visitors get a good look at the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the great storms of Jupiter.

If a person were to approach from the other side of the hill, there are wide streets and parking spaces. I don’t know why the map app sent us in the back way, but it was more fun. Up on top we found a small city park there as well, with a jungle gym for the kids and grassy lawn to play in. A few parents and kiddies were running around, but it was mostly abandoned. No one was appreciating the beauty of the place, the tower itself, the gigantic boulders of fascinating porphyry rock (a reddish rock with big crystals embedded in it) all over the site, or the incredible views. Will and I did appreciate all of that, however.

View of the sea overlooks Stone Cottage, also part of the site. There is a clear view of Nahant Bay, and the community of Nahant, on an island.

The Boston city skyline appears to the south, while standing at High Rock Tower.

Will then took me to see a ball game in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at McCoy Stadium. That is the home (for now) of the Pawsox (the Pawtucket Red Sox), a team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. Of course seeing a hometown minor league game was fun, but there was the added excitement that we might get to see one of the major league players on the field, while they got up to speed after an absence from the Boston team. Will thought maybe Dustin Pedroia would be playing that night. Pedroia is one of the players who was a star when I was watching a lot of baseball about ten years ago, so it would be super cool to be able to watch him play.

Pedroia would be playing!

It was a warm night. We parked in a neighborhood and walked to the stadium. It felt wonderful to be sharing a small-town experience with all the other happy people walking to the game with us. Once we got our tickets and got inside the stadium, I checked the roster. Yep, Pedroia was on there.

We were hungry and I had fun standing in line for deep fried food and beer, all the stereotypes of baseball you could ask for. We found our seats and settled in. By the time we sat down the game had already started.

The Pawsox played the Gwinnett Stripers, from Gwinnett County, Georgia. I didn’t know anything about either team, but you can learn the players pretty fast by watching them during a game. These days of course you get up-close photos of the players, their positions and their stats up on the marquee every time they are at bat or make a significant play. That helps you learn. Another fun tradition is that each player picks a theme song and a few seconds of it are played as they approach home plate to bat. I learned who the country guy was, the hip hop guy, etcetera.

Hoping for a Pawtucket Red Sox run.

We had a pretty decent view of the field from our seats.

Stripers pitcher fixin’ to let loose.

Even though I only had my phone camera, I thought it did alright with capturing the scene.

The Stripers started off strong with three runs in the first inning, and another run in the the second. Pawsox gained momentum as they played, and by halfway through the game were clearly putting their hearts into it. That isn’t a way to win a game though. We finally got two runs in the 5th inning, but never caught up, and we lost the game 5-2.

I’m glad I got to see a game there. The team has been sold and is going to move to the city of Worcester in 2021. Once they move they will no longer be the Pawsox. It’s a pretty significant loss for Pawtucket, a small town that really doesn’t have much to brag about, or for the citizens to come together and enjoy.

After the game we hung around for fireworks. It’s a summertime tradition at McCoy stadium. Will’s mom is not a fan of the fireworks I hear, because it makes a lot of noise when many people are trying to get some sleep. I recommend being AT the game for the fireworks, because then all the light and noise go together, and it’s a lot of fun. After the show we walked back along the sidewalks to the car, in among many tired happy families heading home.

A view of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. It is simple, but unexpectedly impactful.

To keep each post somewhat on topic, I hopped around in the timeline. We were in Salem two days. Today’s post is witchy, and yesterday’s was everything else. They aren’t chronological.

After a cold, wet morning on the sea looking for whales, we arrived in the wet afternoon at the city of Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is famous nationwide for being the locus of the infamous Witch Trials. I honestly didn’t know much about them before we went. I didn’t ask Will what he knew, but luckily he was ready to take a close look at the witch history with me, and by the end of the visit I had learned a lot.

In 1692 three girls in Salem Village, ages 9, 11, and 12 began a game of fortune telling. After playing at fortune telling over time they started acting oddly, making strange gestures and sounds. When the 9 and 11 year-olds, the daughter and niece of Reverend Parrish, began spasming and screaming, Doctor Griggs was called. The girls said they had been bewitched by three people: one family’s slave woman, Tituba, a homeless beggar-woman named Sara Good, and an elderly, bed-ridden woman named Sara Osborn. Dr. Griggs diagnosed bewitchment (not sure if the diagnosis came before or after the accusations), and soon after, other girls in the town began displaying the same uncontrollable behavior, and naming the so-called witches in town who caused it. Some people suggest that contributing factors of the hysteria may have included the severe Puritan lifestyle, the harsh living conditions, fear of Indian attack, a smallpox epidemic, belief by many colonists in the existence of witchcraft, and the fact that the slave Tituba used to tell neighborhood children wild stories of beasts and magic that she recalled from her Barbados upbringing (thus igniting their imaginations). Basically everyone was under a lot of stress.

The three women were hauled into court and proceedings began. The two white women denied being witches, though 70-year-old Sara Osborn barely knew what was going on. Tituba originally denied it, but after being harrassed for some time, confessed and said she had done a deal with the devil. She also claimed that there were other witches working with her, after coming to understand that she could get off with her life by becoming an informant. After hearing from Tituba that there were other witches, the whole town became hysterical, believing her story and accusing each other of witchraft. When pressed in court, several other women also followed Tituba’s lead, confessing and naming other witches, in order to receive a lesser sentence. Not only children were seized with fits of hysteria, but adults as well. Not only outcasts were accused, but also upstanding members of society, including a former minister (who had since moved to Maine but was hauled back), and eventually including one of the main accusers, 80 year old Giles Corey. By the end of 1693, over 200 people had been accused and tried, 19 of them hanged, 5 had died in custody, and one was pressed to death (more on that later).

Will found the site of a memorial, and led us there. See the photo at the top for a full view. The memorial is a grassy rectangular area with trees, surrounded by a low rock wall. Inset in the wall are 20 stone benches. Each bench has someone’s name, the means of death, and the date of their death. Each bench has flowers and beads left in remembrance. I don’t know why the 5 who died in jail weren’t honored. I feel the court was just as much responsible for their deaths as for the ones who were actively hanged or pressed.

Benches in the memorial. A cemetery can be seen behind the wall.

There is an engraving for each of the 20 people killed for being witches.

Right next to Martha Corey’s bench is Giles Corey’s bench.

After walking through the solemn memorial, we entered the cemetery nearby. We were interested in the gravestones with the very old dates and the scary skull with wings adorning so many of them. The cemetery is called The Burying Point. It contains the graves of Capt. Richard More, a Mayflower pilgrim and witchcraft trial judge John Hathorne, an ancestor of Nathanial Hawthorne.

A typical gravestone in The Burying Point. Mary Groue 1683

Capt. William Hathorne 1794

Martha Dean December 24, 1732

The next day we finally made it to the Salem Witch Museum and I was finally educated on the story I told above. I had never heard about the part the slave woman played, and I didn’t realize actual trials were held and the people found guilty or not guilty, and I didn’t realize men were charged as witches too. Fourteen of the deaths were women, six were men.

The Salem Witch Museum is beautiful. There is a gorgeous, wizard-like statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem, in a tall hat and flowing robes. However suggestive the statue and its placement may be, Conant had nothing to do with witches or the witch trials. His evocative memorial is misleadingly situated directly in front of the museum by coincidence.

The Salem Witch Museum across from the Salem Commons.

Roger Conant, founder of Salem, has nothing to do with witches.

As you can tell by looking at it, the building was orginally a church. The statue of Conant was erected in 1913 beside the church. In the 1960s it was a vintage car museum.  The building was opened as a Witch Museum in 1972. Sadly, visitors who don’t take the time to read the plaque or ask any questions, often assume the statue is of a witch.

The museum is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. You pay for your ticket and wait with a very large group until they have assembled enough people, then usher everyone into the theatre room at once. There is seating for maybe 80 people in the center of the room on stools or benches. Turns out, you want the stools, and you want to be in the center of the room.

When the program begins, all the lights go out and a recording begins playing, and lights illuminate different static displays along the walls. Each new chapter of the story illuminates a new scene with life sized people surrounding us. Will and I were too close to the side of the room, so we couldn’t see the first three scenes that were above our heads. But soon the story circled around enough that we could see better. As the light moved around the room, we turned on our stools to follow the story.

The recording told the highlights of the story of the witch trials. They also told the story of wealthy Giles Corey. This man was caught up in the accusations of bewitchment and was a loud supporter of the need to punish the witches. He so firmly believed in the proceedings that when his own wife Martha was accused, he believed at first that she was a witch! One month later, Giles himself was accused and suddenly he got a whole new perspective. Once a person made a plea of guilty or not guilty to the court, their property was seized by the government. He wanted his assets to go to his sons, and refused to enter a plea. The court insisted that he plea, but Corey refused. They decided to torture him till he plead guilty or not guilty. They placed 80-year-old Giles Corey on a table, placed a board over the top of him, and began loading it up with boulders. Each time they demanded that he plea, Corey instead shouted “More weight!” and they complied. For two days this continued. On the third day he died.

The final scene in the museum was when the reverend from Maine was on the platform before his hanging. He recited the entire Lord’s Prayer without a single mistake. People at that time believed it was impossible for a witch to do that. But he was already up there, with the noose around his neck, and people were frenzied. They voted to hang him anyway, and Reverend George Burroughs was killed.

There was a brief sumary by a narrator then, and it ended by saying that the people of Salem and Massachusetts realized how ridiculous it all was and apologized and paid reparations, “…and we never gave in to our fears again.” Will and I have been laughing about that ever since. Oh sure, we humans learned from our one mistake once and for all, and were never motivated toward violence due to our fear ever again. Good grief, what a claim.

Off to the side of the theatre is a small actual museum with artifacts and information boards. There was a docent who guided us through and gave us information about famous witches on TV and movies, and on more real life witch hunts, like the red scare, where Americans were outed for being secret communists, the Japanese internment camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned for being culturally Japanese, and the ostracizing of homosexual men due to the HIV/AIDS scare. She concluded with information about real witches today, who have a legitimate religion based in living in harmony with nature.

After that, Will wanted to hunt down the actual spot where Giles Corey was pressed. We think we found it, but there is no memorial to know for sure. We found the location of the jail where the accused were held while awaiting trial, now called The Witch Gaol.

Plaque at the site of the Witch Gaol.

On our walking tour of the city of Salem that morning, we saw The Witch House. It was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who served on the court that found 19 people guilty of witchcraft. He purchased this home in 1675 and lived there all his life. It is now a museum, which opened in 1948.

Home of Judge Corwin, now a museum called the Witch House, because it is the only building left in Salem that has a connection to the 1692 witch trials.

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