Moving Tributes

Allow me to digress a bit here, away from photography and into the not too distant past. I just spent the weekend with family in the Boston area and had an opportunity to visit Concord, Massachusetts, a picturesque New England town. It is here that the “shots heard ‘round the world” were fired and here that the great liberal thinkers of America gathered to debate the great themes and to write the works that defined the American literary scene.

The Shot Heard Round the World

So, moving chronologically, I visited The Manse, the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and at one point rented out to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne and his new wife.

From the upstairs bedroom, Emerson’s father and grandfather looked out their back field and saw a group of farmers on the far bank of the stream, facing off against a contingent of British Redcoats on the near side. The day was April 19, 1775. To their horror, they were witness to the first battle of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Concord and Lexington, immortalized in Emerson’s poem, Concord Hymn.

Standing in that bedroom with my wife and granddaughter, I couldn’t get out of my mind the obvious futility of that action. Who in their right mind would have given even million-to-one odds of those brave men succeeding? Who could have even conceived of a band of simple men and their intelligentsia fellow Brits (technically they were all British citizens) sustaining a revolution that would go on to defeat the mightiest nation on Earth? I chocked up at the thought.

I took a few video segments this weekend with my trusty iPod Touch. Here is one showing the monument erected in 1836, for which Emerson wrote “Concord Hymn ” and coined that iconic phrase. As I panned from the monument to the river beyond, I could imagine the ragtag farmers armed with their crude muskets, facing the well-trained British soldiers.

Now look at this short clip of the monument to the British soldiers who died that day. Note toward the end, as I pan over the marker, you can see Emerson’s house (The Manse) in the background.

Sleeping Hollow Cemetery

Later that day we walked from Concord’s picture-perfect public square to the Sleeping Hollow Cemetery, where the American literary nobility lay buried. We visited the graves of Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne and Henry Thoreau. The cemetery itself is beautiful and well maintained, with rolling hills and walking paths. But seeing the graves of these literary giants brought lumps to our throats.

Most humbling, to me anyway, were the testimonial notes left by other visitors. I teared up reading some of them. One young girl, still struggling with her spelling and grammar, praised Alcott for writing some of her favorite books. An older man left a touching note thanking Thoreau for launching him on a lifelong love of nature. Admittedly, that one broke the dam for me.

This was a family outing. I chose not to have a camera with me, just my iPod. But, I guarantee you those precious memories will stay with me as long as any photographic image.

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