"On my way to town...
I'm dropping pebbles in my tracks;
I will not get lost when I come back
And when I get to town
I will go straight to market
When I get to town
I will do my best 'til the sun goes down.
And come the end of day,
I'll look for the stones I dropped along the way."
~ Kate and Anna McGarrigle, On My Way To Town
Continuity and presence are what comprise the spirit of pilgrimage. And here, following some sanctified time to recharge strength and soul, I am thinking of the colors of my paths as they wind and progress. For the most part, rations and rests are scavenged between obligations. Once in a while, my errands enjoy the tones of discovery with circuitous steps connecting serendipitous stopovers. For me, the shops, libraries, cafes, and decorated streets are all entwined. “Going to market” is not limited to any purchase (of any particular extent); the gleanings also include sites and ideas. Nourishment, discourse, and perspective.
Darting among mazes of streets and subways, exteriors and interiors, solitude and company, there is a unifying sense of motion. Even the rhythm of moving from shop to shop reminds me of contrasts between these social interactions compared to the passive isolation of so many of our culture’s currents and habits. Along my routes are the blessings of friends, spontaneous conversations, and chats with the shopkeepers who procure- shop talk. Indeed, there are always treasures to bring home- aside from the items sought (or perhaps the surprise find). And among the gems are stories to recount and remember. Procuring provisions of mind, body, soul, and craft always reminds and assures me of the unfathomable wealth of the creative spirit. You have to get out to really notice this. Here are some images from a few of the places that are along many of my journeys.
Here, in one of the central districts of Boston, is the architectural patchwork of Downtown Crossing- dating back to the early 17th century.
My walks from South Station to the Boston Athenaeum library always follow Bromfield Street, where the Bromfield Pen Shop beckons:
Packed into the small shop is an astonishing supply of inks, writing instruments (note the feather quills in above photo), and notebooks. The photo below shows the workbench for pen repairs.
I call this 200+ year old library "my Eden," and the plaque at the entrance to the 1st floor reads:
"Here remains a retreat
for those who would enjoy
the humanity of books."
Part of the thrill of the search for inspiration is in navigating the levels between the floors.
Out to the rooftop terrace.
Downstairs for tea, good food, and fellow readers- to send me on my way via the narrow streets of Beacon Hill.
Across the neighborhood from the Athenaeum is the very busy Charles Street. The shop in the picture below is Rugg Road, another friendly and well-stocked stationer.
Kindred souls along the way- and we each have stories.
Now to Harvard Square, for more browsing and procuring. When I worked at the University Archives, this was the gate I always used. The motto reminded me of going home to Maine and helping out wherever possible.
Below is a fine read, from Houghton Library:
Bob Slate, Stationer- on Massachusetts Avenue
Slate's comprises aisles and aisles of writers' treasures, amounting to a cornucopia of all manner of marking instrument and surface (bound and loose leaves alike). The best selection of notebooks and journals I have seen on this continent.
On this particular occasion I caught up with a fellow writer, and we made one of our errands to Arlington to attend to some typing matters...
This shop is just two blocks north of the Cambridge-Arlington line.
Shop talk and a few minor adjustments with Tom, the shop owner. Tom animatedly recounted how joyous his customers are; much more so, he felt, than the average consumer upon the purchase of a new computer.
Trying out a variety of candidates before Richard makes his choice (below). We all had a great time. The machine is named "Erika," and they're an item now.
Additional errands (and cafés- for journaling, of course) usually bring me back downtown- to the grand Boston Public Library. Exhibits, the Great Reading Room (below), and the inner courtyard (bottom image) are my stops at the Library.
Having found what was needed, so that I can continue pursuing what is necessary and vital, it's always a pleasure to savor the route with a few recorded thoughts before making the journey home. This is just one stage of travel along a life's pilgrimage. Indeed, the mosaic is all made of jots, words, and images.