In the last few months, I have had reasons to take two trips by myself. Both of these trips relate to study that I am doing for my master’s thesis on Edward Taylor, a colonial poet. I will tell you about one of them.
Shortly after my husband died, I planned to make a trip to Vermont and New Hampshire, but I managed to talk myself out of the trip, quite easily. Some anxiety about making a long trip up the turnpike and through New York City became my reason not to go. As a result, I missed the turning of the fall foliage that year and the opportunity to visit friends.
A fearless traveler and a fabulous navigator, my husband knew the location of everything. He loved the map rather than the navigation system in the car. He read a map easily, whereas when I look at a map, I see hieroglyphics. Several times on trips, he asked me to read the map to give him directions. I looked dubiously at the map with all the little red, blue, and black lines with route numbers and small exit boxes, town names and national parks symbols, because I do not have the natural instinct for map-reading. If I could not find what he was looking for, he would snatch the atlas from my hands, fold the map in half while steering the car at 70 miles per hour in the hammer lane, and glance down at the map. He always knew where he was, unless he didn’t.
At any rate, I depended on him when we traveled. I followed his hulking form through the airport as he determinedly manuevered through the security lines to get to the airline gates. In the city, he whipped in and out of traffic with the ease of a cabby, dodging bikes, pedestrians, detours, running yellow lights, and finding parking spaces with skill. No fear. Just determination and confidence.
But now, I have to travel without the benefit of having him, his map-reading skills, and without his confidence. Fortunately, I have a navigation system in my car upon that I depend heavily; I just hope, as I drive, that there are no detours which do not appear on the screen.
So, back to my trip. I ventured north to Massachusetts to a town called Westfield, where I discovered the amazing Anthenaeum which housed documents in its archives which I needed for research. The time I spent buried in books and speaking with the archivist enthralled me. Running my fingers over Taylor’s own mid-18th century style handwriting thrilled me. Visiting the colonial cemetery where Taylor is interred, reading the epitaphs of many who lay in the sod moved me.
From there, I ventured up to Vermont to visit some friends, which turned out to be an easy trip until the GPS said, “Turn left on Acton Hill Rd.” I did. Acton Hill Road is a logging road that winds its way to the top of the mountain and ends in a flat area where towering power lines carry electric around the area. The GPS told me this was the right road, but when I came to the top of the mountain, the road merged into the woods. I immediately thought of Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” and decided this too would be a road not taken…by me anyway. Back down the switchback logging road I went, and after twelve miles of traveling around the area I eventually arrived at my destination, defying the “recalculating” voice of GPS.
I visited my friends in West Townshend, who have turned a one room schoolhouse into a sweet little home. The family ministers to the villagers in a very small and very old church. The pastor there showed me papers in the church archives with interesting notations about church business, none of which related to my course of study, but nonetheless, fascinating.
I left the village as the first snowstorm was descending into Vermont. I headed out to New Hampshire to a tiny little village called Hill, nestled in the north central part of the state. The mountains are awesome, and though I missed the fall foliage, I saw so much beauty. The colonial towns with their squares, their once bustling white churches now antique stores and small cafes, and their general stores with quaint signs in the windows announcing the soups of the day along with diagonal parking all made the trip enjoyable.
My experience emboldened me a little bit. I managed to arrive home with no incidents or accidents, and I was the happy owner of pages of notes on my subject as well as good memories from visiting friends.
I cannot claim that I am now a fearless traveler, but I have a little more confidence. I must say that I never complete a trip without a prayer of thankfulness to Almighty God for protecting me and keeping me safe as I traveled many miles alone. I am learning that traveling by myself is a journey in itself, but some days nothing beats a really good drive.