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A New Transcendentalism, or simply American Gothic - SITFOB style?

J and I took the kids canoeing yesterday - something we’d talked about doing since we moved to this area three years ago.  It’s fun to be a tourist in your own town, and to enjoy things that other people travel distances to do.

We had two canoes – the boys in one, girls in the other – and paddled just 1 1/2 miles downstream to the Old North Bridge. We were limited to two paddles per canoe, so J, the older two kids, and I paddled and LW8 and LM5 were our “nature spotters”.   On the way we saw lots of turtles, Canada geese, and ducks with ducklings.  

About halfway to our destination, where the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers merge to form the Concord, is Egg Rock.  People may think Egg Rock is significant because Emerson, Thoreau, etc. are said to have hiked or canoed here to discuss deep philosophical thoughts, but, really, it’s significant because they recognized the importance of the rivers and were respectful of the memories of the Native Americans that white settlers had displaced. 

This plaque, erected at the 250th anniversary of Concord’s founding, says:

The simple words inscribed on the rugged face of the rock, where the rivers meet, will serve to remind us and succeeding generations of a people who have vanished from the face of the earth, leaving scarcely a trace of themselves, except a few arrow-heads and stone pestles, and, here and there, a mound or a heap of clam shells.

We continued downstream, now on the Concord River.  Once at the Old North Bridge we pulled ashore to exchange prisoners … I mean, the boys rode with me on the way back to South Bridge, and the girls were with J.  Despite a few sprinkles and the threat of a storm, and having to work a bit harder going upstream, the trip back was uneventful.  Well, my canoe seemed to want to travel in a Z pattern, back and forth, instead of straight down the river; I have to attribute that to weak arms and lack of technique.

Weak arms.  That brings me to the next part of this post (and a hope to tie in more of a literary reference … not that Emerson and Thoreau aren’t enough!).  I’ve noticed how untone my arms have gotten since I stopped swimming (untone? not tone? atonal? flabby?!?).  Yes, I could (and should) start swimming again, but I have another plan.  I’m painting most of the second floor this summer, and am working that roller like it’s a piece of fancy gym equipment.  Just wait – between canoeing, painting, and the occasional swim, my arms will look like Michelle Obama’s by September … or, I’ll just wear long-sleeved shirts!

I’ve been listening to The Time Traveler’s Wife on audiobook while I paint.  While it doesn’t keep the paint off my face and arms (ceilings are a bear to paint!), it sure helps to pass the time.  I’m just about done with the audio (and don’t want it to end), and wonder what to listen to next.  Options include:

  • Backseat Saints
  • The Wife’s Tale
  • The Swan Thieves

I’ve also thought about picking up To Kill a Mockingbird, which Sandy from You’ve GOTTA Read This says is FANTASTIC on audio (Sissy Spacek narrates).  Cast your vote for one of these, or give me another suggestion (I have a lot of ceilings and walls to cover; it’s a great summer for audiobooks!)

15 comments to A New Transcendentalism, or simply American Gothic – SITFOB style?

  • All three are great choices for audio. Now canoeing for a few house sounds like a great way to spend the afternoon. Were the kids saturated with “just think, Emerson [Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott] may have sat in this exact spot” comments? I know *I* would have been thinking about all the Concord literary greats. Not to mention the possibility that a Revolutionary War soldier or two may have stood right there too.

  • Sounds like a fun way to spend the day! I remember the first time I tried canoeing – I was a teen-ager and with a group of friends and we ended up going around in circles.

    I know just what you mean about the arms – I don’t go sleeveless anymore.

  • Your family canoe trip sounds fabulous (and I can more relate to the untoned – atoned arms….alas, I have taken to wearing 3/4 length sleeves)

    I thoroughly enjoyed Swan Thieves, but then I seem to be on an “art” reading kick lately. I am hoping to listen to Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird, thanks to Sandy’s lavish praise.

  • You are amazing. I love to paint but not ceilings. Of course you are six inches or so taller than I am.

    I think we both should listen to TKAM audio. I am not a big one for audio books, but I think this one sounds appealing!

  • Your atonal arms are in good company. And since I’m not about to paint our house, I’ve gotta figure something out.

    Your canoe trip reminds me of the yearly float at Mitch’s family’s reunion. Picture 25 people floating down a river in canoes…well, more like 20 people floating and the few type As in the family insisting that we should be paddling.

  • Recently we met up with some of my family in Las Vegas, and one of the first things my six-year-old niece did was hit the bottom of my arm and yell out (in the middle of a crowded casino), “Look, it jiggles!” Ack! (My sister, in between rolling on the floor laughing, advised her daughter not to say such things in public…)

  • My kids call them “bingo arms”, as in the old ladies that wave their arms screaming bingo, with all that stuff underneath swinging back and forth. The horror of the flabby arms. If I just spent a few days a week on mine, they would perk right up but here I sit.

    Anyway, I have listened to The Swan Thieves on audio, and it is fine but comes nowhere NEAR TKAM. In fact, I am wondering why I deleted TKAM from my iPod. It just needs to stay there for spontaneous re-reading. Sissy IS Scout.

  • I think painting will do wonders for your arms … I should probably work on toning mine as well but we’re out of room to paint!

  • Sounds like a great family weekend, Dawn. Don’t even talk about flabby arms. And I am getting used to “staycations.” My only canoeing has been at Six Flags (back when they had it eons ago).

  • CLM

    I think the painting will definitely work one arm but you will have to be careful to use both! I am not sure that is easy with painting, not like tennis where two handed is sometimes better!

    Your name came up this afternoon when I looked at a house with my sister and nieces. The rooms for the girls were of unequal size and I told them how your children were all switching rooms this summer. They did not like that idea at all (and rejected the house too, although we were mostly window shopping).

  • What a delightful little excursion!

    Re: Mom arms-I don’t hide them, I flaunt them :) Much like the other remnants of my pregnancies, I look at them and reflect on the wonderful memories my children have brought me. My youngest loves them…every time he sits next to me he wraps his arms around them. Honestly, I don’t think I’d trade them for anything!

  • Our family had the opportunity to go canoeing about a month ago at a picnic, but unfortunately, we got rained out. We are making plans to go back and give it a try soon though! I am so glad that you had such a nice time out there!

  • Looks like you all had a great time canoeing! Good luck with the arm toning. I could use some of that.

    I vote for the sissy spacek narration!

  • Looks like you had a great time. Serena and I went canoeing a couple of years ago…yeah, that was an experience. If we could’ve stopped laughing (because we were spinning around in circles) for a few minutes, we might have seen more of the lake. LOL

  • I can also agree that the Sissy Spacek reading of TKAM is wonderful.

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