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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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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Historic Main Street, Litchfield

It’s been a while. So many things to write, so little time. This winter has been too much for us. Too much snow. Too much ice. Too cold. Some days we had to stayed indoor, because of the snowstorms that seemed coming every week. But yesterday was brilliant! The temperature was warm enough that the spring might just peeking out for a bit. There’s no strong and cold wind, and sunshine was abundant. We decided to enjoy our Saturday by visiting a town called Litchfield in the northwestern part of Connecticut. Town of Litchfield was established in 1721 that thrived and prospered during the Revolution era, while other towns in Connecticut were attacked by the British. I love history, and a town that has history like Litchfield is my kind of town. Our first destination was Litchfield Historical Society, but unfortunately, the place was closed until April. On the entrance to the Litchfield Historical Society building was a unique and very interesting door knocker. It’s in the shape of an Egyptian man’s head. After admiring the door knocker and the massive entrance door, I took the kids for a walk around the main street and the town green for sightseeing.

Our first destination was the First Congregational Church that was established in 1829 with the Greek Revival Style. It was the third meetinghouse in Litchfield and said to be the most famous church in New England, being photographed by many. I could see why. The building looked so grand and majestic. Next, we walked pass by a house that used to be owned by Timothy Skinner. He was a treasurer, constable and also a selectman in Litchfield, beside being a Brigadier General in the militia army. Then, we walked back towards the town green and saw the Civil War cannon and monument that was dedicated on July 8th, 1847. Across the town green are rows of stores and among them is the State Court House. Litchfield also known as the birth town of the first law school in America. One of its student was the 7th Vice President of United States, John C. Calhoun. With so many historical buildings that lined up on the main streets of Litchfield, no wonder if this town is a place to be if you love history, or just want to get away from the winter blues while the weather is bearable. The town of Litchfield is spectacular indeed.

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The Noyes Memorial Library (1893), where Litchfield Historical Society is located.

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The First Congregational Church and the 3rd meetinghouse of Litchfield (1829) in the Greek Revival Style.

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The Civil War monument and cannon at the town green.

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The State Court House building (1888).

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The Timothy Skinner House (1787).

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The Tapping Reeve house and law school, America’s first law school (1775-1833).

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The Samuel Seymour House (1784) where Vice President John C. Calhoun once stayed during his time as a law student.

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The historical store blocks in Litchfield.

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Memory Lane at Old Sturbridge Village

Some places are meant to be visited more than once. Because although they may seem the same in shapes, their surroundings may change from time to time. The first time we came to one place, we created some memories. Then when the second time came, to visit it once more, those memories might add or replace by the new ones. When I visited this historical place called OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE in 2002, in Massachusetts, with my family and a couple of friends, I never thought that I would visit it again three times. Back than, we had a lot of fun and since our children were still toddlers, the significant history and other interesting parts of this live museum, seemed didn’t matter much. We only saw the museum as a place to be, nothing more to it. It’s simply recreational. Years gone by, and my younger daughter who was 14 months-old back in 2002, was a 5th grader two years ago. She and her class planned a school trip to visit the same Old Sturbridge Village, and I was asked to chaperone them. I loved to go there again, to catch up what I missed the first time I came. This time, I joined the 5 students under my watch, to learn the same things they would learn about the stories and facts about the place and matters, and to create new memories.

When we visited Old Sturbridge Village, it was just 6 months after Hurricane Sandy wreak havoc in New England. The devastation was still present when we reached this outdoor museum. The damaged and uprooted trees were strewn about, toppled on top one another. It’s eery. That scene was a little bit different when I had another chance to chaperone, this time my youngest’ , just two weeks ago. New plants have emerged and the open space where there used to be some trees standing, were more lush with some brushes and baby trees. We were greeted by so many wildflowers that grow covering the meadows. The water was a little bit high from the big rain before and it reached parts of the dirt road. It was my third times visiting the place, and it felt like going back to a place I knew well. The three boys under my guide wandered here and there wondering about things that attracting them. They tried pumping an old water pump located in the middle of the village. It was hard and they had to be patient waiting for the water to come out. Oh, the joy they exclaimed when after a while the water sprouted out! As we took our journey further, I added another memory to the ones I’ve had before, especially since that day was my son’s birthday. He sure was a happy 10-year old all day.
Daisies & the Dragonfly

Rusted Old Machinery Part

Wildflowers Meadow

Wildflowers meadow

The Covered Bridge & Its Reflection

Old House & The Meadow

The Farmers and Their Cows

Two Sheeps Grazing

A Top Hat, A Suit and A Pair of Slippers

White Picket Fence & A Peony

Turkey

Pink Spiderworth

The Parsonage House Circa 1748

Rustic Doors

The Weathervane

Trying to Pump Some Water

Asa Knight's General Store

From The Window

From the window I saw blue sky.

I saw a white house built by father and son.

I saw hope and struggle from centuries ago.

I saw fear, triumph, history of mankind and will to go on.

Such calmness in still life dated on the stones.

From the window I saw a great story untold many moons before.

(Picture of The Manor House taken from the Mill’s window at Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow, New York)

 

The Manor House from the Mill's window