Saturday, September 28, 2013

Postcards from Concord

In Concord on Thursday, my garden club had a tour of Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived for 20 years, and the place where she wrote Little Women, the book that finally took them from rags to riches — literally, for they were very poor, due to Bronson Alcott's lifelong inability to earn a living. This was only my second visit to this magical spot, even though Little Women is the book I'd choose to memorize if Fahrenheit 451 ever becomes a reality. (On thinking it over, it's probably too popular a choice; others would get there first. So it will be more useful if I memorize The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West.)

After visiting the house (no photographs, please...), we had a tour of the grounds with a volunteer gardener, a gentleman in a rustic straw hat and well-worn gardening clothes. We learned about the apple orchard that had been there when Bronson Alcott took over the property, and the many vegetables he planted to help keep his family fed. The place is covered in wildflowers and weeds nowadays but it's beautiful. And some very small apple trees were recently planted in the same area where Bronson had his. They are the same antique varieties that were common around Concord in the late 19th century.

Here is a view of the house from a patch of goldenrod and other wildflowers:

Bronson Alcott painted the house this dark color so it would blend in with its surroundings. I think it's much more distinctive than the typical, white New England house.

The front door offers a cheerful, welcoming contrast to the house's sober exterior.

While we were learning about the apple orchards, I was distracted by this romantic-looking gentleman reading on a bench on the property. Engrossed in his book, he reminded me of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, and the other philosophers and writers who lived in the neighborhood and probably sat around reading and writing under Concord's trees on fair autumn days.

The gardener reminded us about the passage in Little Women that describes the four little gardens each girl tended, and how their servant, Hannah said she could tell which patch belonged to which sister:
I'd know which each of them gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in Chiny.
This garden might have been Meg's — she had fragrant flowers like heliotrope and myrtle in hers, and a little orange tree:

After I accidentally poisoned myself at lunch, I did a little shopping and walking in town. It was one of those perfect September days, but Concord lends itself to picture-postcard views almost anytime:

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