Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Floating Down Swan River, Cape Cod

Cruising down Swan River on Cape Cod, deep enough only for a kayak or a flat bottomed paddle boat. You wind along watching herons, and gulls, and the occasional artist and easel on the green banks.

Marshes, where the critters live, and kids with pails of clams waving to you from a dock, where they live.

You aim for the narrow opening under the bridge that runs under Lower County Road. Eventually, after a few more gentle twists and turns, you are rewarded by the a sight that certainly should not be unexpected, but somehow is…the place where fresh salt breezes smack you in the face and the water becomes wide, and deep, and suddenly choppy. Nantucket Sound. All yours. Or so it seems for a moment.

But you dare not leave the safety of the slow-moving river in your little craft. You have to turn around and go back.

In another minute.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pres. Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site - Plymouth Notch, Vermont

The boyhood home of President Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, is currently undergoing renovation.

On August 23, 1923, President Warren G. Harding died, and Vice President Coolidge, who was up here at his parents’ home on vacation, received the shocking news from Washington. A few minutes later, Coolidge placed his hand on the family bible. His father, a notary public, administered the oath of office, making his son President of the United States. The simple protocol was undertaken by the light of a kerosene lamp.

This quiet, rural farmhouse entered history. Even “Silent Cal”, looking back on the event, understood the remarkable greatness and poignancy of the moment.

"It seemed a simple and natural thing to do at the time,” he wrote, “but I can now realize something of the dramatic force of the event."

The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site is comprised of 560 acres and several buildings, all preserved as they were, including a general store, barns, church, and the dance hall that was referred to as the Summer White House of the Coolidge presidency. That one’s a little hard to imagine, isn’t it? You’re just going to have to see for yourself. But not this season, there’s too much work to be done. Put it on your calendar for next year, after they’ve got it all spruced up for you.

For more on the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rockport Beach Roses

When the Scots poet Robert Burns wrote “My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose” in 1794, he likely did not envision something as common and prosaic as wild beach roses growing off the rocky coast of Rockport, Massachusetts, pink and white, thriving in the sandy soil, stung by salty breezes.

But, he did mention June, and the seas, and rocks melting with the sun. Close enough.

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

Friday, June 18, 2010

You Are Here: The Pioneer Valley

You are here: driving down Route 5 (that’s “root”) crossing over the state line from Vermont to Massachusetts, and entering that other less official geographic entity of The Pioneer Valley, where the mighty Connecticut River holds court in a wide river basin rimed by blue hills, carved by the last glaciers that pulled out oh, let’s see, some time ago it was. Leaving fertile farmland, and a mess of dinosaur footprints. Have a look at this previous post for more on that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sankaty Lighthouse - Nantucket, Massachusetts

Here is Sankaty Head Light, on eastern end of Nantucket. Almost three years ago, it was moved back 405 feet from the eroding edge of the cliff on which it stood for nearly 150 years.

Built in 1850, the brick and granite Sankaty lighthouse (pronounced “sank-ity) was constructed in the village of Siasconset (pronounced “sconsit”), to serve a most perilous stretch of water, where numerous wrecks occurred off Nantucket. It was reportedly the first lighthouse in the U.S. with a Fresnel lens, brought from Paris, and was in its day the most powerful light in New England.

It was converted to electricity in 1933, and the original Fresnel lens removed in 1950, replaced by a modern beacon. (See the original lens on display at the Nantucket Whaling Museum). The light was automated in 1965.

Safely pushed back from the edge of oblivion, now at 250 feet away from the bluff and rather close to the fifth hole at the Sankaty Golf Course, the lighthouse remains an important part of the community, especially to those devoted volunteers who raised money to see their lighthouse safe.

For more information on Sankaty Head Light, have a look here.

And also for more history of this lighthouse, with some great stories about the lighthouse keepers, and a lighthouse ghost, have a look at this website.

This site provides information on the moving of the lighthouse, and also offers a book on the subject.

Note: The photo above was taken when the lighthouse was in its original location, before the move.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pledge of Allegiance Marker - Westfield, Massachusetts

Monday is Flag Day. Here on the Westfield, Massachusetts town common is the Pledge of Allegiance on a great big plaque in front of the ship’s mast flagpole, just for handy reference.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brigham's - Springfield, Massachusetts

Here an early 20th century photo of Brigham’s, the downtown Springfield, Massachusetts clothing store. The photo is on display at the new Springfield history museum, now established as the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, an excellent museum which we’ll certainly discuss at another time. We visited Brigham’s in this earlier post.

Here, a 1948 ad touting the store as carrying “Apparel and Accessories from Head to Foot.” You can buy your L‘Aiglon dress on the 3rd floor.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mother Goose's Grave - Boston

One stop on The Freedom Trail in Boston is the Old Granary Burial Ground, and here is the grave of Mother Goose. So to speak.

It’s interesting that this gravesite is one of the most visited by sightseers. As you can see, there is a pile of pennies at her headstone that fans of history, or nursery rhymes, toss here for good luck.

You don’t really get good luck by tossing a penny onto a monument or a well or fountain, but that never stops us from enjoying the fantasy. Perhaps it’s much the same with visitors to the Mother Goose Grave. It’s also a bit of a fantasy, but that never stops some people from taking it as fact.

Facts are a bit sparse here, but there’s enough to go by. Nursery rhymes have existed for centuries, but “Mother Goose” may have had her origins in 1697 in France through author Charles Perrault, and may even be traced to a poem by another French author nearly 50 years earlier. A book of nursery rhymes published in London in 1780 also relates to Mother Goose, and six years later in 1786, she made her debut in American literature with the Isaiah Thomas reprint of this book. We may assume that “Mother Goose” is not a real person, but rather the personification of the writers of otherwise anonymous nursery rhymes through the last few centuries.

So why the Mother Goose grave in Boston? It is actually the grave of a woman named Mary Goose, who was the first wife of wealthy landowner Isaac Goose. After Mary’s death, Isaac married a woman named Elizabeth Foster. Elizabeth Foster Goose became stepmother to Isaac’s many, many children, and then had many of her own. You might say “she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”

But that’s beside the point. One of Elizabeth Foster Goose’s children was a daughter also named Elizabeth. Daughter Elizabeth married printer/publisher Thomas Fleet, who in about 1720 published a collection of nursery rhymes supposedly made up by his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Goose. Mother Goose’s rhymes were republished in 1765 by John Newberry, and published as noted above by Isaiah Thomas (who was married to a granddaughter of Elizabeth and Thomas Fleet, keeping the Mother Goose franchise in the family).

The nursery rhymes were published again in 1860 when the nation was going through a period of nostalgia for the past (since the present was then looking so foreboding), and resurrected the poems not only of Mother Goose, but the information that the publication of these rhymes had some connection to a Boston family. So the legend was born.

Another interesting aspect to the --fairly tale, we may call it, for that is what it is -- is that though the body of Elizabeth Foster Goose is rumored to be buried here in the Goose family plot, she is not named on the headstone. Only Isaac Goose’s first wife, Mary is listed here. There is no real evidence that Elizabeth Foster Goose is actually buried here. There is no real evidence to believe she made up any nursery rhymes for her children or grandchildren, but only perhaps repeated ones handed down to her from others.

But, don’t let all that stop you from visiting the grave of Mother Goose in Boston. There is another Mother Goose grave in London, I believe. Perhaps they toss pence on her grave there.

For more on Mother Goose, have a look here and here. For the Mother Goose Grave, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quechee Gorge - Vermont

The Quechee Gorge is sometimes called Vermont’s Grand Canyon. This nickname is not so much a comparison of the Gorge to the Grand Canyon, but comparing it to the rest of New England’s glacial gouges.

New England has, for the most part, a fairly gentle landscape. Catching an eyeful of the Quechee Gorge is a jaw-dropper, I suppose because it’s sudden depth and craggy walls are not what you’d expect on your average country drive. It was formed some 13,000 years ago by glacial movement, which left a 165-foot slash in the earth, at the bottom of which lies the Ottauqhechee River, still rumbling along, oblivious to the gawkers on the bridge above.

There are trails here, and a nearby shopping plaza to catch the tourists who, driving unsuspectingly on Route 4 (that’s “root”), yank the car over to the side of the road after crossing that bridge with the surprising view. You might want to come and have a look for yourself.

For more on the Quechee Gorge, have a look at this website.