Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Return to The Mount...

    The last time I visited Edith Wharton's home in Lennox, Massachuestts, The Mount, was in 1970.  I have always been a fan of Wharton's writings - The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome ( The last, a book that was required reading in my high school literature class.)  When I visited in 1970, The Mount was a sadly neglected remnant of the Gilded Age,  a time of great wealth and privilege in America.  This era lasted from about 1870 to the start of the first World War.  It seemed as if The Mounts days were numbered and it would slowly slip into obscurity.

Late Afternoon Light at The Mount
   This was, thankfully, not to be.  With the help of a enterprising new director, the funds were found and The Mount was brought back from the brink.  I visited it recently to see the transformation for myself.  A friend, visiting from Utah suggested, on the spur of the moment, that we make the 2+ hour drive from Boston to the lovely Berkshire village of Lennox and I jumped at the chance.  My cousin declined to go, too far to drive, too late in the day but after all, this is the year I have tried to revisit special places near to my home in Maine so off we went.
   We got a late start and heavy traffic delayed our arrival to 4:15.  We missed the last tour but since it was close to the closing time of the house, we got in free.  There also was a jazz concert planned for 5:00 pm on the terrace, also free, so after a run through the beautifully restored house, we walked the exquisite gardens that were bathed in glorious late afternoon light.  With soft sounds of the jazz quartet playing on the terrace, it was a magical hour.    Had we left earlier we wouldn't have had this amazing experience.  The lesson here is, when the spirit moves you just GET UP AND GO!

   My friend told me about a book she was reading, Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Re-Read 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School by Kevin Smokler.   This certainly fit into the theme of this year's travel and I've already ordered Ethan Frome to re-read.  It isn't just a nostalgic return to some romanticized past but a way to reflect on your own personal growth and transformation during the ensuing years.  I saw the Mount with totally different eyes this time and the wisdom I glean from Ethan Frome will be different as well I'm sure.  We can reflect on the person we've become by looking at how we revisit our past experiences.  A worthwhile enterprise I think. 


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