Tag Archive for: Concord

Lessons from a Year in Isolation

by Paula Gail Benson

A year ago, so much of the life we were used to changed
as we learned that Covid 19 not only was deadly, but spreading rapidly. I have
a vivid memory of meeting with church council members and making the decision
to “postpone” our bi-annual presentation of the Living Last Supper. At the
time, we hoped this would be for a few weeks or months. We have not yet

During this past year, I found myself retreating into
more solitary pursuits. I rediscovered the joys of reading books in series,
which I had not had time for in the last few years. In addition, I learned
about television programing and movies available on Apple and Prime.

Some of what I discovered took me to historical paths,
I previously had not explored. I had seen several movies and series about Henry
VIII and Elizabeth I, but I knew little about Henry VII and the War of the
Roses. Watching The White Princess, about Elizabeth of York, and The
Spanish Princess
, about Catharine of Aragon, both based on books by
Phillippa Gregory, gave me a different perspective about English history and
the Tudors. In addition, going further back in time with the Brother Cadfael
stories, based on books by Ellis Peters and played by Derek Jacobi, made me appreciate
modern conveniences and customs in comparison with the medieval lifestyle.

Recently, my viewing had shifted to American history.
I discovered April Morning, based on a book by Howard Fast, that told
the story of a young man’s experience when the British troops marched from
Boston to Concord and exchanged fire with a group of colonists in Lexington,
known as the “shot heard round the world.” I tried without luck to discover
where the movie had been filmed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Boston
for a conference. I went early and stayed late to do some sightseeing in the
area. The movie featured so many locations that were familiar to me from that
trip. In particular, I had taken photos of the stone walls along the road from
Lexington to Concord. After the colonists had so many casualties in Lexington,
they stationed themselves behind the stone walls to fire on the British troops
as they returned to Boston. Following the movie, I looked back at the photos I
had taken of those walls, having a new regard for the history that had taken
place around them.

Previously, I wrote here about watching What the
Constitution Means to Me
, a filmed version of Heidi Schreck’s Broadway play
based on her teenaged experiences of competing in the American Legion
Oratorical contests for scholarship money. Having judged a local American Legion
Oratorical, I appreciated very much seeing the perspective from a competitor.

Over the weekend, South Carolina held its statewide American
Legion Oratorical competition. Unfortunately, due to Covid 19 continuing restrictions,
the national one will not take place this year.

I was pleased to be asked to participate as a judge for
South Carolina. My church hosted the competition and I found myself back in the
room where so many decisions had been made to cancel activities a year ago.

During the competition, in explaining how the
Constitution is a living document, one of the students spoke about the events
that took place around Lexington and Concord. It was wonderful to hear that a
young person had spent a year in isolation as I had, learning from the past and
appreciating its impact on the present and future.

In spite of our year
in isolation, we go on—still learning and applying the lessons of history to
our current time. Hopefully, next year will bring the opportunity to return to travels
and gatherings.

Literary Boston

by Paula Gail Benson

going to follow in the footsteps of my blogging partner Dru Ann Love and write
about my experiences on a recent trip to Boston. It’s a city I’ve always found
captivating in books.

I was young, I read Esther Forbes’ Johnny
and was enthralled by the young apprentice studying Paul Revere’s
workmanship. Later, I discovered Robert B. Parker’s Boston-based, single-named
detective, Spenser, through a television series. I avidly read Linda Barnes’ mysteries
featuring cabbie and sometimes investigator Carlotta Carlyle. Not to mention
Hank Phillippi Ryan’s novels about Boston investigative reporter Charlotte
McNally and her Jane Ryland thrillers; some of Toni L.P. Kelner’s Laura Fleming
series; and Dana Cameron’s Anna Hoyt stories that take place in colonial Boston.

Boston’s Public Garden, a line of bronze ducks represent the characters from
Robert McClosky’s Make Way for Ducklings.
A plaque explains that the story made the Garden familiar to children
around the world and I have read that the ducks’ bronze surfaces never need to
be shined because so many little bottoms come to sit on them.

Emerson House in Concord

up, I found Boston’s neighboring town of Concord fascinating for its collection
of literary figures. In high school, I read about the three Peabody sisters:
Elizabeth, an educator and book store operator, who introduced her sisters to
their famous husbands (artist Sophia married Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mary
became Horace Mann’s wife). Ralph Waldo Emerson lived in Boston and Concord,
and Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord and wrote of its local Walden Pond.

far as I was concerned, the most famous Concord resident was Louisa May Alcott,
whose Little Women had been a
constant companion for me and seen me through good times and bad.

was extremely fortunate to find a tour that went to Lexington and Concord,
showing us not only the Revolutionary War significant sites, but also the homes
of Emerson, Hawthorne (Wayside Inn), and Alcott (Orchard House).

Orchard House

Orchard House, made even more real Meg’s garden wedding and the attic where Jo
wrote her novels. Yes, this was the place where the four March girls grew to
become Little Women, and I rejoiced in seeing a spot that had so long filled my

our tour guide was experienced enough to make a story of the journey. He traced
the route that Paul Revere had taken, showing us the monument at the place
where Revere was captured, and even pointing out the house that belonged to the
Merriam family (of Merriam Webster fame).
Revere Monument near Concord

I also
learned also that a large portion of modern day Boston was created by years of
immigrants (many of them Irish) working to fill in habitable land around the
harbor. The hotel where I stayed was in the Back Bay. I thought the name
unique, but quickly learned it was used to describe many of the area’s buildings.
An Amazon search led me to discover a William Martin novel titled Back Bay, which traces the history, and
is now on my reading list.

the most invigorating thing I discovered about Boston was the
pride in the sense of history so clearly exhibited among its inhabitants.
Everywhere I went, from Fenway Park to the TD Garden to the harbor to the
theatre district, people told stories about the past and pointed to monuments
that commemorated important persons and events. The city was vibrant with
memories of the past and hopes for the future.

I walked near the end
of the Boston Marathon course and thought of the bombing victims. May we all continue
to hear and tell the stories of Boston and to remain “Boston Strong.”