Travel Journal: Emily Dickinson’s Home Sweet Home

On the main street in the town of Amherst in the western Massachusetts, there’s a house painted in ocher ( deep yellow to somewhat light brown) with a lovely big yard. The house with number 280 known as the Homestead, was Emily Dickinson’s home sweet home. Emily spent her adult life here writing poem upon poem  and between 1858 – 1865 were her productive years. She is my favorite female poet and who inspired me plenty through her works. The Dickinson family has been an important member of Amherst community for a long time. Emily’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, had an advanced way of thinking regarding the education equality for men and women during that era. He was among the founder of Amherst College that was opened in 1821. Emily was born on December 10, 1830, at the Homestead. She had an older brother, Austin, and younger sister, Lavinia.

The Homestead was one of the main interest I wanted to visit in Amherst. I had that chance when I accompanied my daughter who had her first campus orientation as a freshman at UMass Amherst. It was my solo adventure and I loved it. The weather was perfect with blue sky and abundant sunshines. The visitors who visit Emily Dickinson’s Homestead have to come from the part of the house that used to be a kitchen. The old stove and chimney are still visible there. In the room that also function as the gift shop were poem books, books about Amherst history and its famous people, some postcards etc. In the room next to it was where they displayed several things used to belong to Austin Dickinson and his wife, Lavinia Dickinson and their close family friends. I looked around at the things being displayed while we waited for our tour to start.

Our tour guide was a pretty young lady who was an English major student at Amherst College. Her specialty was Emily Dickinson’s poems and her life. The visitors weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the home, so as we were guided from room to room, I tried to remember the lay-out of the rooms and their senses. The first room we entered was the spacious parlor. There were paintings of the Dickinson’s children when they were younger, a beautiful fireplace and some furnitures. Then we were lead to Edward Dickinson’s study which had a more subdued and serious ambiance than the parlor that was painted in a cheery yellow. The study had tall book shelves with some books shown relating to Edward’s profession who was a prominent lawyer in Amherst. After that, we went up to the 2nd floor where the bedrooms are located.

Emily Dickinson’s bedroom was neat and immaculate. It was after 10 AM when we entered her room and the sun was shining through the windows making the room lighted up with such energy. I could imagine Emily sat on her writing desk and wrote the letters she sent to her sister in law and closest friends. Her many poems must have written in that room too. The house surrounding was an ideal place for a poet like Emily with its wonderful yard with small garden and so many trees, it was a marvel to enjoy. However, I wouldn’t sure if what I saw during my visit to the Homestead was what Emily saw, for the big trees standing now must have been young ones back then and not as big and grand. But I saw several robins like the one she mentioned on her poem:

The robin is the one

That interrupts the morn

With hurried, few, express reports

When March is scarcely on

After the Homestead, we visited the Evergreens which was the home of Austin and Susan Dickinson. Emily’s brother, sister in law and their three children lived just next door reflected the closeness of the Dickinson’s. The house exuded high class and the family’s important status in Amherst. Inside, there were beautiful paintings and other artworks, a grand piano, and many things that showed how preserved and intact the Evergreens is. After I finished my visit to the Homestead, I walked several blocks away to pay respect to Emily and her family. Their graves located close to Amherst Center or the downtown area. Emily’s family used to live in another house on Pleasant Street which located next to the graveyard. Little Emily has witnessed so many funerals because of it that impacted her in her works. When I visited the graveyard, it was very quiet and peaceful, even though less than 1/4 miles from it is Amherst’s main street that’s always busy. People left souvenirs on Emily’s headstone to honor her. A lot of them were pens to memorialize her as a poet whose words are still loved and enjoy until today.

The Homestead
The Homestead
The yard of the Homestead
Emily Dickinson’s Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts
The Homestead yard and garden
People left souvenirs on Emily Dickinson’s headstone.
Emily Dickinson’s headstone
The Evergreens
The gate to the Evergreens.
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Snaps from A Road Trip: Eastham

Having a road trip means stopping occasionally when something interesting is seen. That also means turning around when the thing we saw was being passed quickly. During our trip to Cape Cod in Massachusetts, we passed by a windmill on U.S. Route 6 and I just had to see it closely. So we turned around and I wandered for a while. As I suspected, the windmill is a very old. In fact, it’s actually the oldest windmill on Cape Cod. It was built by Thomas Paine in 1680 in Plymouth. Plymouth was the first European Colony in America. The windmill then moved to Truro in 1770 by ferrying it on a log raft across Massachusetts Bay. It must have been quiet a task! The windmill then moved again on an ox cart to Eastham in 1793 and 1808 was set up on its recent location on the Village Green. The windmill worked to grind the grains into flour. The surrounding scene around the Green was typical of a New England small town, picturesque and calm. It was fortunate that the weather was amazing when we passed Eastham and I got to take several of the most wonderful images of the windmill. I wished we could stop by longer and had some picnic on the Green. It must’ve been wonderful!

 

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Point of Interest:Lighthouse Point Park Carousel

There’s something about a carousel that you can always love. The carousel at New Haven Lighthouse Point Park is like that, you’re going to love it as soon as you see it. The carousel was built in 1916 by the Murphy Brothers in their workshop in Savin Rock, West Haven. It is one of the unique and charming American folk art still exists. It used to be an outdoor carousel, but then when after years of effected by the sea water and weather, the carousel became deteriorating. In the 1980’s, the mayor of New Haven set up a community action organization to take care of the carousel. After it was cleaned, repaired and restored, the carousel was placed in the pavilion near the lighthouse. It is now among the National Register of Historic Places. There is a small fee of 50 cents to ride the carousel. The music they play when the carousel moves is lovely and sweet to your ears.

The music is played on an organ made by Stinson Organ Company. A mini organ with a miniature of George Washington holding a baton can be seen as part of the carousel  decorations. There are also paintings of beach scenery, mermaid, sail boat, lighthouse and some nature scenery in New Haven adorned the top part of the carousel. There are 72 figures on the carousel that are placed on 20 arrays on a 60-foot platform (about 18 meters high). Each horse is different. It has different color, character and details that make each of the horse unique. It also named and the name is posted on top of each horse. When you look up, you can see the name of the horse you ride. Maybe you ride Thunder, White Lightning, Ocean Light, Wild Heart, Jumpin Jack or Bella Vista. Public can rent the pavilion and also the carousel for private party, such as a wedding or prom. I would love to attend a party here at night, when the carousel lights glimmer while the whimsical music from the carousel plays and the sound of the ocean is heard outside the building. What a marvelous night it seems!

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Travel Journal: The Charm of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside Home

In this part of Tarrytown, you won’t find the Headless Horseman mentioned in Washington Irving’s story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In this part of Washington Irving’s story is his Sunnyside home and what an exquisite home it is. I took the kids on one weekend to this small cottage that garnered the artsy-touch of Washington Irving. The house is nestled behind some wooden area behind the gift shop. We were welcomed at the gift shop with the rest of the visitors to buy the ticket admission. Then at a certain time, a tour guide wearing a hoop skirt in small purple flowers motif and a knitted hair cap with two long purple bows, greeted us and took us to Sunnyside. Along the path that we walked through, we passed a huge tree that is more than 300 years old. It guards the surrounding like an ancient grandfather. The short distance that we took was filled with the guide’s stories and informations, not to mention, the twittering of the birds.

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The house that Washington Irving called home used to be a farmhouse owned by a Dutch-American man, that he bought in 1835. When we came upon the house, I was stunned. Sunnyside is not as sunny as I thought it would, perhaps it’s because of the  wisteria vines that draped the house that Washington Irving himself chose to plant. When we came, the wisteria has already bloomed, so what we saw was more like overgrowth rather than something beautiful. The entangled, crisscrossing vines, toppled on top of another, give  the house an added flair of an antique building. The influences of Dutch-Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Scottish Gothic, was proof of how deeply Washington Irving understood about the architecture of Sunnyside. The guide took us inside the house and we went into room by room, including Washington Irving’s study where he acknowledged as the Father of American Literature. Sunnyside is a quaint house with a beautiful view of the Hudson River, that one time noted Charles Dickens as its guest.  Each corner of the house possesses its unique story just like the master of the house, the great Washington Irving.

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