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If you’ve been following the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge, you know that I’ve been going around to many towns and cities in the state. In fact, I’ve visited many more than I’ve blogged about already (I’m behind, but catching up). I just thought you’d like to see where I’ve made it to so far. As you can see, there’s a lot of white still there, and many more towns to see. I’ve made it to 65 out of 351, so this is going to be a long journey! I’ll be periodically updating the map for you to see.
For the second year in a row, I used the day after Thanksgiving not to go out and buy things (although I actually did a little of that) but to use it as a time of contemplation. Last year, the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge started after I went to the Peace Abbey in Sherborn to meditate, read, walk, journal and get grounded. I knew I wanted to do that again, and I was searching around for a retreat center that I could go to, but since the Peace Abbey is now closed, I was having a hard time finding a place. I then thought about how I could go to one of the many beautiful libraries in Massachusetts and do my retreat at a small town library. I wanted one that I didn’t have to drive too far to, but that I hadn’t been at yet. I chose the Dover Town Library, which is the town next to Sherborn.
It’s a beautiful, newly constructed library in a historic, old building. They have a nice reading section with many comfortable chairs. They even had coffee and desserts available (not that I could eat any of them, as they were all gluten-filled). I spent about four hours there, and I just alternated back between journaling, drawing, meditating, reading, and looking at my plans for the future, and seeing what I really wanted to do with my life in the coming few months. It was very grounding to get away from the busy-ness of my current life, and to start listening to that little voice in my head that had great dreams and wants. I think that we don’t listen to that voice in ourselves nearly enough. Usually, we can’t even hear it over the cacophony of the roar of our lives.
So, when was the last time you heard your inner voice?
On my way back home from my Dad’s birthday gathering in Upton where we visited Northbridge, I had a little bit of daylight left and thought that I had enough time to actually visit another town before it got dark. In looking at my route home and figuring out which towns I hadn’t visited yet, I set my sights to go through Hopkinton and visit Ashland.
I managed to find the town center, as it’s not on a numbered route, and found a really cool town clock/sculpture that was in the middle of town. Just as I was about to take my picture with it, the railroad crossing signs started flashing and ringing, and a huge train came through town. You can see it in my picture behind me. It wasn’t a commuter train, but an long haul working train. There was a cool little train station that had been converted to doctor’s offices, so I can image a time when the trains came through and stopped for people. I don’t know if you can still get a commuter train into Boston from here, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere in Ashland the MBTA has a stop.
It was a nice downtown, with a lot of while buildings. Not terribly busy on a lazy summer evening at dusk, but you had your standard pizza shop and municipal buildings. There were kids riding there bikes, and while there was a decent amount of traffic, it didn’t seem that busy. Again, this was a town center that was not on the main route to somewhere else. Next to the library, there was a cannon and a monument to a time capsule that they had buried at the town’s 150th anniversary in 1996. It was to be reopened on the 200th anniversary in 2046.
So, when have you planned for the future that you don’t think you’ll see?
On a beautiful summer’s day, I went over to my brother’s house in Upton to gather for my father’s 80th birthday. It was a very nice day and we went out for ice cream with the family at a local ice cream stand. My nephew, who’s six, really enjoyed it. Now, I got to Upton fairly frequently for family events, and as we were all there and already in the car, I said that it might be nice for us all to go and see the place where my father’s mother was born in the village of Whitinsville, which is not far from there in the town of Northbridge. It was also another opportunity to check off one more town on my list.
I had been to Northbridge before, at another time, and found the address of the house where my grandmother was born and lived as a young girl. Her family had moved to Maynard, Massachusetts (my home town) from Newfoundland around 1890, and her two brother’s were born there, but they moved to Whitinsville just before my grandmother was born, and then moved back to Maynard where she met and married my grandfather.
Whitinsville is the biggest of the many villages of Northbridge, and it’s where most of the town offices are. It’s not on a main route (you have to take the Main Street off Route 146 to get there), so it’s not really on the way to anywhere in particular. The mill there used to be very large and supplied spindles to other mills. It’s another one of the places that used to be quite prosperous when the mills where in full swing, but now is looking to reinvent itself. It’s in the Blackstone Valley National Historic Corridor, and you can see many sites from the start of the Industrial Revolution in the area.
So, have you ever visited where your family came from?
After the busy hustle and bustle of Provincetown, I wanted to get some exercise and a bike ride in before it got too hot, and as Provincetown is at the end of Cape Cod, the only place to go was to the next town of Truro.
North Truro, actually. Truro is very long and skinny, and it was about a 12 mile round trip to North Truro, and given that this would be the longest I had biked in many years, I didn’t want to over do it. It’s beach are and mostly flat and exposed to the sun, so I didn’t want to burn too badly, so I figured I’d take it easy. There were many cottages and complexes along Route 6A, and I could feel a much different pace from Provincetown. I was thinking that this is the Cape that most people think about when they come here. It’s quiet, non-rushed, and nothing to do but sit on the beach. I stopped at Beach Point and just sat and watched the waves and seagulls. As I’m really working on being more present and to slow down, this was a great practice for me. I’ve found that I need to be in vacation mind more, where there’s nothing much to do, and I don’t feel like I’m on the way to anything. This was where I was then, although I know I had to bike back.
I think that we all need those places where we don’t have to do anything.
So, where do you get vacation mind?
A video blog of my trip this summer to Provincetown!
I was on my way up to New Brunswick to do some family research, and because of dentist appointments and other things, I didn’t get to leave until 5 p.m. on the day before the July 4th holiday. As you can imagine, the roads were very crowded with people heading up to New Hampshire and Maine to vacation. I knew that the highways would be a parking lot in the Greater Boston area, so I figured I’d try to go the back roads to get around them. I went through Medford, Melrose, and then finally snaked my way up to Saugus. I’ve passed through there on Route 1, which is another of your typical big box store type highways, but I’d never been to any other part of the town. As I was just driving part of the way to get to my hotel, I wasn’t in a hurry and figured that I’d stop to get a feel what the town is like.
I stopped in the center of Saugus, and had a long conversation with a friend who needed to discuss a family issue. After that, I got out and walked around. In the center of town, there’s a big monument with streets going around every side of it. There are your typical churches and other municiple buildings, in addition to the ubiquitous pizza places and other non-chain store fast food places. It was actually pretty busy as far as traffic, and I don’t know if that is because of the day or if it’s normally like this. It was a beautiful sunny day and the pace seemed to be both busy and laid back at the same time.
I left the center and found my way out to Route 1, which was surprisingly close with the Square One Mall right there. It was back to the hustle of the drive!
So, Where have you found yourself both busy and laid back?
On the way out of West Stockbridge to get back on the highway, I noticed a sign for West Center Road and Alford Center. I had never even heard of Alford. Since there was a road here, I figured it wasn’t too far off. When I came back after my reunion weekend, I decided to take a side trip to Alford.
It was a little further than I though, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when you’re in that rural area of the state. It was a very pretty area, and it seemed like the type of place that’s a destination, as you wouldn’t go through it to get anywhere else. When I finally got to the center of town, it was just about as quiet as the roads I had been driving. In fact, in the 10 minutes that I hung around and walked the town center, there were only about 5-10 cars that passed through. It’s sort of what my father would call “a wide place in the road”. On one side, there’s the church and the cemetary, and a small building that I think is the town offices. On the other side is a building that houses the library (I think it said that it’s open from Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with a function room. There was a sign outside announcing a monthly community pot luck.
Upon looking at the website for the town (and the Wikipedia site), I see that it’s the third smallest town in the Commonwealth in terms of population (with 300 or so people) and only Monroe and Gosnold are smaller). The town has its own police, fire and public works departments, but does not have its own post office, and there isn’t cable service in town. They are right next to some bigger towns (notably Great Barrington) so they can get what they need from working with other municipalities.
So, do you know what skills you don’t posess and where to get them?
In the ever engaging pursuit to visit all 351 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’m always looking for an excuse to go to some place that I’d never been before. In the first week of June, I went to my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As I was driving out there and going the length of the state, I thought I should use this opportunity to get off the highway and visit a new place. A number of years ago, I hit a traffic jam right at the New York-Massachusetts border and got off the highway to go around it, and drove through West Stockbridge, but I didn’t stop. This time I was determined to actually see what was there.
I got into the town center and stopped, as I figured this was a good enough place to get out my lunch. I walked around the block (there’s not too much here!) and saw most of the town with seems to be centered on the Housatonic River. Right next to the river, I found the type of store that is so ideosyncratic that it could only be in a town like this. Charles Baldwin and Sons is in an old mill building right next to the river, and it’s been in business since 1888. Right now, it sells lots of little knick knacks and other things that would fascinate a 4 year old. The most interesting thing about it is that they are famous for their vanilla extract. They’ve been making it for over 100 years and a few years ago Martha Stewart mentioned them in her magazine and their sales went through the roof. They still have the old fashion cash register, but they also sell on line. In addition to vanilla extract, they also sell a lot of other different kinds. I got root beer, pistachio, and black walnut.
Across the street is the hardware store that’s been around almost as long, and was founded by AW, the brother of Charles Baldwin. They tend to stay loyal to what they do well here.
So, what skill do you have that your good at and you keep improving?
After my afternoon of visiting Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Amesbury, and Salisbury, I drove up the New Hampshire coastline to see the sights that I’d always wondered about. It’s only about 18 miles from the Massachusetts to the Maine border, but I took my time, stopped on the ocean and got stuck in traffic at Hampton Beach with all the ice cream, fried dough and all the other stores that had mobs of flooding the place with bikinis and testosterone. I finally made it to Portsmouth and checked out the harbor and the downtown, but I was on a mission today. I soon got back into my car and got on I-95 to head back to Newburyport for dinner.
I’ve been to Newburyport many times in my life. In the summer, they have a big festival called Yankee Homecoming and there’s a big road race that I used to compete in all the time. They’re a lot of really great homes this used to be a big trading and whaling city, and the homes lining Route 113 were massive like when families had 8 kids each and you had to have space for the servants to live. The downtown are is mostly brick and was one of the first cities to actually restore their architecture instead of knocking it all down. It’s right where the Merrimack River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, so the river is quite wide at this point.
There were plenty of people around, and everyone was shopping, eating, and having a good time. I got a great meal at The Purple Onion and then went down to the waterfront to just enjoy the calm of it all. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was starting to set in the west, so I just enjoyed the people watching.
As it was warm, I also moved to a shadier spot on a lawn by the riverfront and noticed all the people having a picnic, playing frisbee, or just lying in the grass. As those who know me well can attest, I’m not one to normally just sit and contemplate. I’m an active guy. But between the activities of the day and my being slightly under the weather, I really enjoyed just hanging out. This was a new learning for me. I’ve got to do this more often.
So, when have you gone someplace and learned something important about yourself?