A Look at New England: Haunting, Hoarding, and A Million Ways to Find Peace

One of the great benefits of living in Vermont is enjoying all the fruits of New England. Until moving here, that simply meant lobster rolls and local craft beer, two things I love! But hanging around, traveling across some of the other states, I’ve come across some neat finds. During a particularly tough time both in my personal life and for the nation, as death just seems to be everywhere lately, I found various forms of peace at each New England destination I visited. I’d like to share those places with you now.

The Bridge of Flowers, Massachusetts

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, local attractions, outdoor parks, pedestrian getaways, gardens, gardening, flowers, New EnglandOn my way to Connecticut with a friend, we stopped at a popular Massachusetts attraction, the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. It was exactly what it sounds like, a walking bridge covered in a massive garden with over a hundred different kinds of flowers and plants to view and learn about. The bridge is made possible by a local non-profit group of gardeners, The Bridge of Flowers Committee.

Built in 1908, the bridge was originally used by the Shelburne Falls Trolley to help deliver heavy freight, as well as transport passengers and local goods, such as milk. After the invention of the automobile, however, the railway company that built it went bankrupt in 1927, and the bridge that was once known as a social and commercial connection for the residents was reduced to an eyesore overgrown with weeds.

Bridge of Flowers, Massachusetts, Shelburne Falls, Pedestrian getaways, outdoor parks, gardening, gardens, local attractions, New EnglandThe idea for what would become the Bridge of Flowers was envisioned at first by a tired, busy housewife in 1928. Striving to care for her family after her husband had become an invalid, Antoinette Burnham had the idea of transforming the old trolley bridge into something beautiful, something that residents could enjoy on an afternoon walk. In support of his wife’s vision, Mr. Burnham wrote an article to the local newspaper that sparked the whole thing into motion.

In 1928, the Shelburne Falls Fire District purchased the bridge for $1,250 and in 1929, the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club organized donations of $1000, 80 loads of loam, and several loads of fertilizer to put together what is now The Bridge of Flowers. It was obvious to me, as dozens of people were walking this bridge on a casual Thursday afternoon, that it remains a prized gem to the residents of Shelburne Falls.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, local attractions, outdoor parks, pedestrian getaways, gardens, gardening, flowers, New England

While the bridge very obviously invoked a feeling of peace within all who walked it, I found much more of my own inner peace searching for ghosts in Connecticut.

A Haunting and Hoarding in Connecticut

hoarders, hoarding, mental illness, shed, artists workshop, Connecticut, Watertown

Wandering through Watertown, Connecticut was as creepy as The Bridge of Flowers was beautiful. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, I love me a good haunting. Apparently, Connecticut is one of the most haunted states in the country. When I found this out, I was all over it.

So what did I demand of my friend and tour guide of Watertown? That we go to a graveyard, immediately.

But before we could even get to the cemetery, however, we came across something that to me felt way more haunted. Below is a picture I snapped of what appears to be an artist’s outdoor workshop. That’s what I thought, at least, only to discover that it actually belonged to a hoarding neighbor. The cluttered shed of miscellaneous abandoned objects actually fascinated me in the way The Little Mermaid Ariel probably felt about her little cave of treasures (that mermaid was totally a hoarder, by the way). But learning the truth about what it was gave me chills, as though I was looking upon the physical manifestation of a torturing mental illness. Very eerie.

hoarders, hoarding, mental illness, shed, artists workshop, Connecticut, Watertown

The cemetery we visited was actually quite beautiful. Regarding the instances of death and illness that have been so present for me the last two months, both in the media and my personal life, this walk through the Watertown cemetery brought me a sense of peace. Sometimes it’s important to get a close look at death, to read the tombstones of people who have been buried for over a hundred years and feel the earth a little more firmly beneath your feet, the breeze a little more cool against your skin, and be thankful for your presence in your own living body right here, right now.

Watertown, local, cemetery, death, graveyard, peace, love, statues, sculptures, tombstones, Connecticut, Haunting, haunted

 

Watertown, local, cemetery, death, graveyard, peace, love, statues, sculptures, tombstones, Connecticut, Haunting, haunted

On that note, enjoy your weekend and all the other blessings of your life.

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Reckless Abandon: Climbing Mountains in Vermont

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

If there’s one thing you learn while traveling, it’s that something that has one meaning in one place can have a totally different meaning somewhere else. As in, telling someone that you’re “going for a hike” in Ohio means that you’re going on a slightly rigorous nature walk, perhaps with a little workout involved as you head uphill for one brief moment or climb over fallen trees. Yeah, that’s not the case here.

Going for a hike in Vermont means that you’re climbing a mountain, straight up. And that’s exactly what I did.

Hikes in Vermont are categorized mainly by three levels of difficulty: a green circle for Easy or Beginner, a blue square forIntermediate, and a black diamond for Difficult. I’ve heard that there are double black diamonds out there, but I honestly don’t even want to think about what that entails. For our hike, my boyfriend and I chose “Stowe Pinnacle Trail,” which was in the blue square level of difficulty. This being our first hike, we didn’t want to over exert ourselves, but wanted a bit more of a challenge than the equivalent of snowboarding the Bunny Hill at a ski park.

Did I say that right? I meant A BIT of a challenge. A BIT of a challenge is not what we got.

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

The trail was only 1.65 miles and started out with these cute little plank bridges that crossed over muddy areas and tiny ravines. It was sweet, really, and I was delighted taking pictures along the way of our adorable adventure into nature. Soon after my first snapped pics, however, the trail started to incline. No big deal, we were prepared for that.

Soon the inclines weren’t ending though. There were no more breaks of level ground to catch our breath, and we had already finished our first of two water bottles. Rationing our sips of water for only when we really needed them, we continued on. The steady incline turned into giant, nature-made stone steps that required the highest of knee lifts to reach. It was at this point that the thoughts started to pour into my head:

“Thank goodness we picked such a cloudy, cool day to do this!” as I wiped sweat from my brow.

“I’m sure we’re at least halfway there…” We had only completed the first 1/5 of the trail at that point.

And my personal favorite, “Who the hell decides to climb Mount Everest?! Those people are crazy and not my friends!”

I’m going to stop ranting about it now, because if any of you go to check out the trail and its reviews, you’ll see nothing but remarks on how easy it is, “even for four-year-olds!” Moral of the story is: There’s nothing like a hike up a mountain to tell you how out of shape you are.

Here are some photos of our hike (you’ll notice that all of the difficult incline parts are absent, because we were too busy hiking our asses off to take photos):

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

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Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Stowe, Vermont, hiking, mountain hiking, mountains, The Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack, New York, Green Mountain State, outdoors, summer activities, summer hikes, Lake Champlain

Lonely or Alone: How Having Nowhere to Be Takes You Somewhere Better

By the very basic laws of physics, Energy is what propels each of us through our days. Energy gets us out of bed in the morning and into the shower. Energy is why we have friends, how we clean the kitchen, and why dogs and cats like (or don’t like) playing with us.

Living in a metropolis like New York City, energy is needed to a high degree. Work hard, play hard, but whichever one you’re doing, you better be doing it hard. There’s a reason why, as my host momma in Italy would say, “New Yorkers carry their breakfast around with them in large cups.” Anyone who knew me back when I lived in Ohio, especially my family, would have assumed that this city was perfect for me. When I’m in my hometown, I thrive on a lifestyle that consists of staying out late and waking up with just enough time to fit in a shower and coffee before I head out to my plans for the day.

Aside from appointments for various checkups with the doctor or dentist, most of my plans in Ohio consist of meeting up with friends. I attribute my constant busyness to the fact that I went to an all-girls private school for most of my life in Ohio, and thus all of my friends come from different schools and backgrounds with which I was taught to network at a young age (if I ever wanted anything cool to happen to me). Consequently, none of my social circles hang out with or even know each other. So if I start my day with friends from my alma mater, I end it with those I know from working at the movie theater. Plans that are made with people I’m tight with because we live near each other can easily end in a night spent with swim team buddies. Needless to say, if my family wants me to join them at a sit down dinner, they know to tell me ahead of time so that I can pencil it in.

Urban sprawl has affected Cleveland so heavily that I spend half an hour to forty minutes driving between whatever I’m doing, making it easy to leave behind one plan for the other. Time flies so fast with my busy schedule that what was at first a 6-day visit in which I was sure I’d have time to visit my grandparents for an afternoon has now become a speeding countdown to my departing flight, one that leaves me calculating and prioritizing who I will see and how. But this wasn’t the case in New York City.

In New York, where I lived, I had endless amounts of time and infinite opportunities to see others. The difference, however, was that I didn’t have a 35 minute drive in a car, by myself, blasting music, in which I could recharge my energy for what came next. In the city, everything is everywhere, just piles of everything, calling to you and licking its lips trying to taste you the second you step out onto your stoop. I was asked to smile more times in my trips heading to and from work on the Upper West Side than the accumulated 15 years of School Picture Days I experienced in my early youth. Having the energy to go out in New York required more than just the energy of a social butterfly, because I didn’t just “leave my place” and “arrive at the next,” I had to swim through everyone and everything else in between.

To be honest, I didn’t get excited about going out in the city most of the time unless I was already out. And often even then, I’d slip away and grab a cab before anyone noticed, speed home and text my friends from the backseat that I wasn’t feeling well, that I got lost, that I’d meet up with them later. It wasn’t the nicest thing to do to friends you had plans with, and it’s not something I’m proud of or have ever done outside of the city. But in New York, I was tired. I had no place of rest but my apartment which was still permeated by noises of screaming ambulances and drug dealers yelling “Sour!” I was tired of being seen all the time, of being touched by sitting only in seats that hundreds of people had sat in that day. I was tired of being sung to on the subway when I had no quarters in my wallet. I was tired of always looking over my shoulder and brushing my knuckles against the zipper of my purse to ensure that it was closed after every store or coffee shop I exited.

I didn’t even realize that I was tired of the city until after I had left it. I thought that, in New York, I was never alone. Even if my friends weren’t around, there was energy and busyness on every street; people going about their day, as I went about mine. And I thought for sure that if I had the kind of social anxiety that caused me to escape in a cab mid-outing with my friends just to be alone, in a place where I knew so many people and there was so much happening at my doorstep, I would definitely struggle to make friends and be social when I relocated to Burlington, a city in which I knew no one and that had a population smaller than the average suburb of Cleveland. But instead, something unexpected arose inside of me after only a couple of weeks of moving to Burlington.

All of the space that would otherwise be occupied by strangers and bus stops and tall buildings blocking half the sky became something else to me, something other than the absence of city things. It became room; room for me to breathe, room for me to reach out into. Amongst people, everywhere, all the time, I had felt completely alone, not because I was depressed and withdrawn, but because I was isolated into a corner by my surroundings. By the laws of attraction, every living thing is sending out chemical signals with their thoughts, feelings, and actions; but in New York City there’s no place to go to avoid all that, to collect or recharge. New York is only concerned with making just enough room for millions of bodies to live in shoe boxes and cram into train cars. Meanwhile our energy is being constantly pulled from us by the woman on the sidewalk selling mangos, the cab driver in the front seat yelling in Arabic at cars ahead of him, the noisy garbage truck roaring past as a caddy boss reschedules her nanny in the next office over. Perhaps it is plausible that artists, actors, and writers carve out their survival in New York City by training themselves so well in the act of finding a quiet place in their creative work.

I realize that I come off as cynical in this reflection, and perhaps I’m just not the type of person that’s cut out for a city as big as New York. Many people consider New York City the best place on Earth, and I used to count myself one of those people. But in my time staying here in Burlington, I have slowly started to care less about the act of leaving New York behind because without all those tall buildings crammed together wherever I looked, there’s much more to see in front of me than I had ever imagined, and there is room to reach for it. For the first time since I left Cleveland to pursue a college degree in New York, I’m not terrified to head off to a poetry workshop where I won’t know a single person. I’m not looking over my shoulder so much, or stuffing headphones into my ears, or breaking eye contact. My body is free to do as I please because none of my surroundings are targeting it with unwanted attention. Can you believe that when I go for my morning jog, some people smile at me or wave or say “Hi” as I pass, and it doesn’t creep me out or make me want to put up a wall at all? If you are a New Yorker, you might not.

Knowing no one and nothing about where I am has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. If I make plans to go out, it’s because I want find something new, not escape something familiar. Nothing is familiar. Not yet, anyway. And when I finally do have back-to-back plans that I’ve committed myself to in Burlington, I won’t be dragging my feet to get there.