This trip into Salem, however, had special significance as I was going to meet with a friend I'd become acquainted with through blogging many years ago. Emily and I have lived parallel lives, both having lived in Pleasanton, California, but not quite at the same time. Also, both having lived in England, but not quite at the same time. We always felt a real connection, we both shared the same passions and interests, and meeting her after all of these years was extraordinary and long-overdue! We walked around Salem, on a lovely October day, and talked non-stop. We just "got" each other, and it was incredibly refreshing to find that in another person. It's like finding a long-lost twin or kindred spirit.
One area that we walked around was Pickering Wharf, Derby Wharf, and Salem Harbor. That part of Salem, for me, always brings Nathaniel Hawthorne to the surface of my mind. I love places that bring literary history to life! Both Salem and Concord, Massachusetts always do this for me (incidentally, Hawthorne lived in both places, and is buried in the latter).
Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in the Custom House in Salem, as he was the overseer of the port from 1846-1849. In the Introductory of The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne goes into the great detail describing this building and wharf across the street from it. I love that I'm so familiar with the Custom House and the area surrounding it so that I can vividly imagine all that he is writing about.
Of the eagle sitting atop the Custom House, Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter, "Over the entrance hovers an enormous specimen of the American eagle, with outspread wings, a shield before her breast, and, if I recollect aright, a bunch of intermingled thunderbolts and barbed arrows in each claw. With the customary infirmity of temper that characterizes this unhappy fowl, she appears, by the fierceness of her beak and eye, and the general truculency of her attitude, to threaten mischief to the inoffensive community; and especially to warn all citizens, careful of their safety, against intruding on the premises which she overshadows with her wings."
The Friendship of Salem, docked in Derby Wharf
I love the way Hawthorne works the English language. He is truly like an artist with clay, as he molds his sentences and paragraphs. The Scarlet Letter ranks in the top ten of my favorite books, but I must admit that I cannot be in a wandering mind sort of way when I read him. I must keenly concentrate and devour every word, otherwise I lose all meaning of what I just read. You can easily get lost in a single beautifully-worded, but very long, Hawthorne sentence. He is one of those kinds of writers, and I am always glad of when I take the time to read him the right way because I take so much away from it, but it can be exhausting. You are rewarded greatly, however, if you are willing to put in the effort. Some quotes from our man, Hawthorne:
"No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true."
"Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it."
Outside the house of seven gables.
Doorway of a home in the neighborhood of the house of seven gables. That doorbell is to die for!
"Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
"What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!"
Another shot of the house of seven gables.
Brick sidewalk in Salem in fall.
"In our nature, however, there is a provision, alike marvelous and merciful, that the sufferer should never know the intensity of what he endures by its present torture, but chiefly by the pang that rankles after it."
"We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so at the moment after death."
"Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world."And here is Emily and I on Derby Wharf. It was a beautiful day, spent exploring a beautiful city, with a beautiful friend. She and I are currently scheming to get her moved to New England, because, of course, she loves it as much as I do, and life would be sweet with this lovely lady living nearby. Meeting her was like being with someone whom I felt I've always known, and I hope she and I will walk the streets of Hawthorne's Salem together again soon!
Of course I couldn't leave Salem, especially in October of all times, without a little of reminder of that kitschy Salem side that I love so dear, as well. I wore this shirt, proudly, with my witch hat on Halloween.
And I will leave you with some not-so-widely known trivia about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He added the "w" to his last name in his early-20's in order to disassociate himself with his ancestor, John Hathorne. John Hathorne is famous for his role as a leading judge in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. He was the only judge who remained publicly unrepentant for his role in the trials. He was known as the Hanging Judge. I think I'd want to disassociate myself too!
And, P.S., I have seen John Hathorne's signature on my own three ancestors' (Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Pease, and Elizabeth Hart) arrest warrants for witchcraft, and therein lies my distant tie to Nathaniel Hawthorne.