I’m Nobody, Who Are You?

First, can anyone answer this question: What were the civil engineers thinking, building a four lane divided highway such that random surface roads intersect with it but there are no stop lights to handle those intersections? And don’t even get me started on the necessity to ensure that highways have proper drainage…

Anyway, after a calm and peaceful harrowing and terrifying ride up New York’s Taconic State Parkway through thunder, lightning, and sheets of rain, we eventually arrived at our AirBnB in the tiny little town of Conway, Massachusetts. Conway is not particularly close to anything, but we chose it because it lets us backtrack to Tanglewood tomorrow (hopefully) and it gave us the opportunity to explore the Amherst, Massachusetts area today. 

Last night we pulled in later than we’d hoped, and so we fairly quickly headed up the road to Shelbourne Falls, MA to procure some dinner. Shelbourne Falls was a cute little town, even though we were only there for a hot minute. The “full service grocery” our AirBnB hosts had suggested had closed 20 minutes before we arrived, so we decided to eat out as a Plan B. We headed back across the bridge to where there appeared to be more restaurants, but found an adorable little natural foods coop instead. So we ate our most organic meal of the trip to date back at our AirBnB. By the way, for reasons I don’t understand, it appears that Annie’s Alfredo & Cheese is no longer available at the groceries where Mike shops in New Jersey, but we were able to get it at McCusker’s in Shelbourne Falls. Both girls were fans! 

This morning we slept in and took our time getting moving. All of us needed a break from the constant go-go-go feeling. So I spent some time making a plan for the next couple of days, booking lodging in Connecticut since my aunt and uncle’s contractor ran over-time and we cannot stay with them as planned, and watching reruns of Party of Five as I worked on crocheting Julie a (pussy) hat on which she can pin her Junior Ranger badges.

As a former English major and high school English teacher, I’ve always been a fan of that reclusive enigma, Emily Dickinson. 

Many years ago, Elizabeth received a picture book about Emily Dickinson she’d always loved as a birthday gift. 

So today we toured Emily Dickinson’s home, as well as the Italianate house next door that her father built for her brother as a bribe to keep him from relocating out to Michigan. 

Our tour was excellent, and even Julianna was able to recount five facts she learned about Emily Dickinson (I helped her a bit with articulating #2).  

  1. Emily didn’t usually leave the house at one point.
  2. Emily Dickinson’s father actually sold the house and moved out of it, but when it came back on the market later, he was able to buy it back and moved the family back in when Emily was 24 years old.
  3. Emily Dickinson didn’t have any children.
  4. Emily Dickinson never got married.
  5. Emily Dickinson’s room had a tiny portable desk she sat at to write poems.

The Dickinson house has only been a museum for the past 20 years or so. Before that, the house was occupied by different families and used by Amherst College for awhile. Slowly but surely, the museum trust has been working to restore some of the rooms to look like would have during Dickinson’s time. One thing the tour guide said that stood out for me was that much of Emily’s turning inward seemed to be that she was content with her work but that she needed the time and the space to write as she saw fit. Apparently this room, her bedroom, was her refuge, but also gave her an excellent vantage point for observing the larger world coming and going on the Boston Post Road located just outside her front windows. I’m not sure if the tour guide intended this, but as she spoke I couldn’t help thinking of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

After our tour, we picnicked on her lawn, which was just all kinds of awesome — to be surrounded by the grounds that inspired so much of her work. 

Somehow the subject of cats — and Julianna’s love for them — came up on the tour as well. Our tour guide noted that Julianna would have gotten along well with Emily’s sister, Lavinia, who also loved cats. As the tour guide noted, Lavinia loved cats, and Emily wanted to assasinate them. 

I think that view of Emily might be a little too severe, however. How could someone who did not at least appreciate cats pen this poem?
She sights a Bird—she chuckles—

She flattens—then she crawls—

She runs without the look of feet—

Her eyes increase to Balls—
Her Jaws stir—twitching—hungry—

Her Teeth can hardly stand—

She leaps, but Robin leaped the first—

Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,
The Hopes so juicy ripening—

You almost bathed your Tongue—

When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—

And fled with every one—

Then this afternoon we headed to the Eric Carle Museum. Honestly? The building has a lot of potential, but overall the museum is still clearly a work in progress, and while some of the displays (especially of children’s book illustrators’ work alongside artists they counted as influences) were neat, the price seemed awfully steep ($22.50 for a family) for the three galleries that were on offer. Hopefully this will be a must-see site by the time I’m visiting New England with grandkids, but right now, I could have skipped it.  That said, they do a good job providing activities for the kids. Julianna spent quite awhile reading picture books and writing a postcard to Eric Carle. I did, however, grab some cute photos.

Our current AirBnB overlooks a ravine with a stream, but it is not air conditioned. Thankfully, our lovely hosts dropped a large fan by within about 10 minutes of me requesting one, and that has helped considerably. In the future, I will be looking carefully before I book to see whether air conditioning is included in the descriptions (it’s not the heat so much that is an issue, but the humidity is driving me a bit nuts), but that is entirely my fault, and not the fault of my hosts. Nevertheless, I was able to sleep comfortably last night once the sun went down and the fan had time to do its job. 

Tonight Mike made a lovely dinner of chicken, salad, asparagus, and rice pilaf. And the girls are now doing the dishes and not even really complaining — to us — about it. I snapped photographic evidence of that miracle. Note, however, that I didn’t say they didn’t bicker about it. Julianna did pop in to apologize for the bickering. As she said, “You know how that goes between sisters.” Apparently Emily knew that as well:

One Sister have I in our house – 

And one a hedge away. 

There’s only one recorded, 

But both belong to me. 


One came the way that I came –         

And wore my past year’s gown – 

The other as a bird her nest, 

Builded our hearts among. 


She did not sing as we did – 

It was a different tune –     

Herself to her a Music 

As Bumble-bee of June. 


Today is far from Childhood –

But up and down the hills 

I held her hand the tighter –         

Which shortened all the miles – 
And still her hum 

The years among, 

Deceives the Butterfly; 

Still in her Eye 

The Violets lie 

Mouldered this many May.         


I spilt the dew –

But took the morn, – 

I chose this single star 

From out the wide night’s numbers – 

Sue – forevermore!


2 thoughts on “I’m Nobody, Who Are You?

  1. Hi Blaines, Somehow I lost the post I hadn’t yet finished to tell you how wonderful reading of your travels has been! So proud of Elizabeth and Julianna, who really find the meat of the experiences they’re having and put them into wonderful descriptive posts. The ones that really mean so much to me are of course experiences near and dear to me – I grew up in Fall River, MA, went to UMass/Amherst (where Robert and I met – it was the only UMass campus at the time), and so knew much about Amherst’s most famous citizen; visited the Newport mansions, went to Newport Jazz Festivals, and swam the beaches there in the summers; visited Plimoth Plantation as a child, only about 1/2 hour from my childhood home; hiked in Acadia; have been to Mystic, Tanglewood, Rockwell home and museum, etc. etc. So glad you enjoyed Southern New England and “down east”; I’ll try to be more faithful and respond after I read each blog. R and I send hugs and kisses to you all for safe and exciting travels!!! Barbara and Bob Koppel


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