Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hawthorne in Massachusetts

From June 12-17, I traveled to North Adams, Massachusetts, primarily for the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society meeting on "Hawthorne in the Berkshires." I'd never been to this part of Massachusetts and enjoyed the distinct beauty of the place (felt a lot to me more like we were in upstate New York, its abutting state). The NHS is a great and welcoming group and I've always enjoyed all their conferences I've attended. They tend to be the best professional conferences I get to attend, especially because I always get good comments and questions about my work on Hawthorne.

My husband was able to join me (he did a marathon trip from Ohio to Maine [to visit his sister] to Massachusetts to Pennsylvania and then back to Ohio) so we got a chance to sample the local restaurants and to take a field trip to the Natural Bridge and Mount Graylock, the highest peak in this region.

The Natural Bridge was impressive, a formation of rock that creates a bridge between two natural formations at this state park. The place was used to provide water for a mill but they discovered the natural formation was in danger of being destroyed so they stopped using it for commercial purposes and it's been a state park for a while. There are carvings on the rocks everywhere, some dating to the nineteenth century, although my husband was skeptical that they were that old.

Mount Graylock was also impressive, and the field trip was a good way to end two solid days of conferencing. Before returning home, I drove in my rental car to Cambridge where we stayed for two nights so I could do some work at the Radcliffe Schlesinger Library. The photo below shows not only the beauty of the roads I drove back on (stopping on the way to meet our lovely college daughter who now teaches in Massachusetts) but it also meant to show, as a dot way in front of me (leaving me in the dust, so to speak) my husband on his motorcycle. We drove through three state parks and there were no only "Moose Crossing" signs but also at least one "Black Bear Crossing" sign, which I couldn't get a photo of.

Once in Cambridge, we stayed at Prospect Place, a few blocks from the hub of Central Square, and not far from one of the apartments that I used to live in on the other side of the square while I was in college. This B&B worked out very well for us. It's about a mile and a half from Harvard Square so we were able to take long walks, which were great exercise (and there was a Starbucks about a couple of blocks away, which is always a plus for me).

At Harvard, I took a minute to visit my old first-year dorm (oh, how I disliked it then!) and to walk around the city to my former haunts, including the revolutionary cemetery, which I've always loved. Finally, I made it to the Schlesinger where I spent a solid work day, looking up records and examining manuscripts with a view of applying to its prestigious fellowship for my sabbatical leave year. Though the chances are minimal that I will be accepted, one should never say "no" for others so I'm going to give it the old college try.

Despite an initially stressful screw up on my part at Logan Airport that Thursday when I first arrived, when I left behind the EZPass I had paid dearly for so I had to turn around to get back to the rental building not really knowing my way around, the trip was really productive. It also was a lovely way to spend some summer time in my beloved erstwhile second-home of Massachusetts.

Monday, June 2, 2014


June is finally here and the peony glory is fading. These were some of the last beauties I cut from my garden recently. The peony has to be one of the most beautiful of flowers, and these baby pink ones are my very favorite, especially because of their sweet perfume.

This past weekend was one of the most gorgeous weather-wise in recent memory, especially welcome after a brutal winter that didn't seem to want to end. Though I think that's probably the case every year for me: it always feels like winter doesn't want to let go. I've been in Ohio now for 13 years but I don't think I'll ever get used to winter.

This month is a busy one with a trip to Massachusetts planned for next week for the Hawthorne conference, and then I'll teach part-time for three weeks in the summer bridge program for which I'm faculty co-director. Unfortunately, the summer teachers program that I direct didn't make this summer so I won't be teaching that.

June may be busy but I've been able to keep July and August free of commitments (except for a short trip to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in early July!) to demonstrate to myself that I've learned to appreciate the privilege of having "time off." After all, that precious availability of unscripted time was one of the reasons why I decided to pursue a Ph.D. Work life is already so over-scheduled (and I'm not even juggling human children and a demanding job) that it feels simply wrong for me to over-schedule the summer, the one chunk of "free" time that we have available to us in this profession. It took me a while to learn that lesson, but better late than never.

And I'm very much looking forward to the work of thinking about and producing scholarship during this time, as well as of planning my two new courses in the fall: a new senior seminar that I'm modeling after my Honors classes, and a new Journalism class that will be a first at the college. This latter class is going to be the most work but I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Hail June, then, for all its expectancy of fun and challenge and warm weather. Flaming June is a painting that hangs at the Ponce Art Museum, and one that speaks to all the promised beauty of this month.