Today I finished chapter six of nine of the book about my bike trip and human trafficking. But that's not what I want to write about.
Most of what I would have written today I've already covered in the Lexington post. Yesterday, though, I traveled to other historical sites nearby to Lexington Green. I could have visited them on my way back from Lexington but, quite frankly, I had gotten lost. So back to Concord I went to visit Author's Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau are all buried; I also found out that the Alcotts and some other famous people are buried there, like the guy who designed and built the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and, though I didn't know it until later, I saw the graves of some of the men and their families who were directly involved in the first battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. I also went to the Old North Bridge where much of the fighting that first day occurred, which is the highlight of the Minuteman Historical National Park, and the Old Manse right next to it--the Old Manse made famous by Hawthorne's collection of stories, Mosses from an Old Manse, where he lived for a few years and that Emerson's father, the parson, built and raised young Ralph Waldo in.
I clearly was not the first person to pilgrimage to Author's Ridge. Pens, pencils, and paper were left at the base of each writer's stone. Emerson's stone was literally a stone: just a big chunk of rock that seems to have been picked up from somewhere and placed there. Some of the mementos are no doubt from admirers, but I can imagine that some were left by budding writers seeking to follow in the big three's footsteps (I acknowledge the Alcotts and their place in literary history, but they do not match the power and influence of the big three).
Why did I go there? Well, first of all, because I can. As a writer I love that I live in a place so full of literary history, a place where it is possible to label Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau as "the big three," a place that, because of them, is alive with words. On my hometown's Main Street, right next door to our Town Hall, sits a church where Emerson and Twain among others have preached. About a 45-minute bike ride could bring me to the Wayside Inn made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his collection of poems, now called "Longfellow's Wayside Inn" serving as a restaurant, inn, and museum; a lovely little place. Not far at all from the Old Manse and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is Walden Pond memorialized by Thoreau. Simply put, it's friggin cool to be able to visit all these things whenever I darn well please... and to do so on my bike is even better because the big three, Thoreau especially, would no doubt appreciate my spirit.
My post on my trip to Lexington said, if I remember correctly, something along the lines of, "If a writer can't write with such vivid images and historical force behind him, then he isn't a writer." That remains true. If seeing where Hawthorne and Emerson and Thoreau spent time and wrote and seeing their final resting places, so close to each other, cannot inspire words to swell up inside of me then I am not a writer.
Besides, I think it absolutely necessary that every writer or artist of any kind take at least one pilgrimage of some sort in their life. Maybe that means flying across the ocean to the Louvre or maybe it means taking a few hours out of the day every so often on a bike to visit the stomping grounds of the big three Concord men. Or maybe it's visiting a grandmother's grave that you have yet to actually see. Whatever it is, the act of pilgrimage is so crucial to what a writer/artist does. Now that I'm writing this I can't exactly say why but I know it's true. If a writer thinks that he can isolate himself and just sit down and write then he is entirely mistaken. Indeed anyone hoping to become successful should surround themselves with the spirits of those gone before. Indeed anyone hoping to have personal, emotional, and spiritual well-being should pilgrimage--I am an individualist through and through yet I acknowledge that all of us do not feel whole, often leaving a part of ourselves in the past in regret or love, or simply living life without knowing what it is that can make us whole. We must pilgrimage. Mine just happened to be to some cool place called Author's Ridge.