Longfellow’s house, Harvard Yard, and Fenway Park

On our final full day in New England, in spite of record-tying hot weather, we focused on Cambridge and Boston.

Cambridge is the home of Harvard (“Hahvahd”) the oldest (1636) and most prestigious college in the land. Taking note of that, we visited the home of its most prestigious professor, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow! Once again we managed to get a wonderful tour guide and our own private showing of a famous author’s house. Daily, throughout this trip, we have had excellent tour guides and super interesting tours. Since Longfellow lived only three blocks from his campus, we strolled over to Harvard to take a look around and visit the famous Coop’s Bookstore where we obtained some ice cream relief from the heat, as well as some Harvard souvenirs.

With the Red Sox in town, and being baseball fans, we could not overlook the chance to attend a game at Fenway Park, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The game was great, featuring a grand slam homer, lots of runs scored, and a capacity crowd. Our final night in New England was a happy one.

As I take my students to Logan Airport in Boston on Thursday, I am grateful for their enthusiasm, cooperation, and friendship. We have become close over the past ten days, and I am very pleased with this “Best of New England” literary tour experience. A good time was had by all.

Goodbye, and God bless you.

Whittier Day

Hello again. This is Dr. Moldenhauer, happy to report on another good day of literary investigations and educational experiences.

John Whittier's Home

Today we focused on the homespun fireside poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. He lived and wrote for most of the 19th century in two towns, Haverhill and Amesbury, Massachusetts. First we visited Amesbury where he lived for most of his adult life, writing poems like “Barefoot Boy,” “Ichabod,” and “Snowbound.” Our tour guide allowed us to take pictures and wander from room to room, observing the very books and reading glasses and riding boots used by Whittier.

After this tour we headed over to the farm of his boyhood, the scene of the 1818 snowstorm which became the basis for his most famous poem “Snowbound.” It is within this poem that Whittier’s dad told his two sons to get outside and shovel the snow, “Boys, a path!” Our excellent tour guide Gus entertained our group for almost three hours, and we were fortunate to see all original Whittier furniture and belongings, enhanced with anecdote after anecdote about the Whittier family. This day could truly be called a Whittier day all the way.

Tomorrow we will visit Harvard University, tour Professor Longfellow’s house, and do our best to cope with the heat that has arrived from the Midwest.

By evening, we intend to be sitting in Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play a game against the Marlins. Thursday is our last day out in New England, and we have had a successful venture for sure.

Whale watching

After visiting Herman Melville’s farmhouse in the Berkshire Mountains on Saturday, it only seemed right to schedule a whale watch boat trip for today. We not only read the literature, we live the literature! So off we go to Gloucester (pronounced “Glawsta”) harbor for the re-enactment of a whale chase. Ours turned out fabulously.

Whale watching boat trip

We sailed out into the ocean, approximately 20 miles away from land, directly between Cape Cod and Cape Anne. (Actually, we were on a 115-foot-long vessel with a 4,200-horsepower engine.) There our skipper assured us, we would see whales surfacing, breaching (jumping out of the water) and blowing (breathing). We did! We witnessed fin whales, humpback whales, and Minke whales, as well as two sharks cruising around our boat. All of us felt like Moby Dick was no longer fiction, but fact!

Spotting a whale

Our gracious local host and tour leader, Dr. Janis Flint-Ferguson, then invited us to a cookout at her house in Essex, and we all enjoyed the pleasant weather and good tastes of New England. Now we are back at Gordon College, sunburned and wind-burned, but happy for the experience.

Tomorrow we will travel to John Greenleaf Whittier’s boyhood farm in Haverhill and his own owned home in Amesbury. Whittier wrote “Snowbound” and “Barefoot Boy” among many other homespun, fireside poet selections.

Frost and Longfellow

Kristen Koepsell here again. After a long day of travel yesterday (Saturday), everyone was thankful for a day of rest, appropriate for a Sunday. Most of us slept in, met for a leisurely late breakfast in the conference room of our dorm, then worshiped together with a few psalms, hymns, and brief devotional thoughts given by Dr. Moldenhauer.

The afternoon was spent steeping ourselves in the life and work of Robert Frost, with a bit of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow thrown in. On the drive to Frost’s farm in Derry, New Hampshire, we took turns reading and discussing some of Frost’s poems, including familiar works like “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Birches.” Our guides through Frost’s home and farm regaled us with fascinating tales from his life and work; unlike other historical homes, we were allowed to take pictures in this house! The home was significantly accurate to the 15 years that the Frost family lived there, thanks to the memory and insistence of Frost’s daughter Lesley. Frost’s home is also an excellent example of the New England style of building a “big house, little house, back house [often the woodshed], barn.”

Mending Wall

After following the beautiful path around one of the farm fields, walking past the rock wall that inspired the poem “Mending Wall,” the group decided to head an hour further to have dinner at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. Longfellow did not live there, but stayed there once after the death of his second wife and one year later, in 1863, wrote the collection of poems “Tales of a Wayside Inn.” Dinner was excellent, and our server Yvonne a delightful bit of local color. And after dinner, we were treated to a quick tour of the inn by Kurt, including two bedrooms rumored to be haunted! But none of us saw evidence of any ghosts…

Tomorrow we embark on a whale-watching tour, in honor of Melville.

Dickinson and Melville

Heading west today to Amherst and Pittsfield, we traveled quite a distance out into the Berkshire Mountains.

Our first stop was the Homestead, the house of Emily Dickinson, where she very reclusively compiled over 1800 poems during her lifetime. We also toured her brother’s house next door, continuing to receive excellent guided tours. After partaking in the Taste of Amherst in the downtown square, we headed further west to Pittsfield.

This is the Melville home where he lived for 13 productive years, composing the famous white whale story of Moby Dick. We were shown the very window where Melville sat looking out toward Mount Greylock, the highest point in the Berkshires, and a surprisingly good replica of a distant whale, swimming along the top of those mountains.

Mount Greylock

Tomorrow we will have a chapel service and then head out to Robert Frost territory, touring his farm and homestead. Returning via the Wayside Inn, we will stop to see the home where Longfellow spent some time.

Monday is our whale watch venture out into the Atlantic in honor of Melville.

God is good, and we have had excellent weather on our travels.

Walden Pond and more

Today was a wonderful day of sunshine and surprises. We awoke and ate our nice hot breakfast, as usual, in the Gordon College cafeteria. Heading southwest and trying to skirt Boston commuter traffic, we arrived in Concord, Massachusetts by 10:00 a.m.

Our first stop was the Louisa May Alcott house (called The Orchard House), with a guided tour. The surprise was a special trip upstairs to see the four Alcott girls’ bedrooms and even some props that the girls used for their invented plays. Most visitors only see the downstairs. Our guide lady (Hope) truly loved the Alcott family, and she told us numerous stories of this famous Concord family.

With an hour of time to use, we drove over to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where the four great Concord authors are all buried. We all took pictures of the graves of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Alcott.

Next we journeyed over to the Old Manse, the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne for three years time while Emerson was living abroad. There the guide let Kristen play the 1864 Steinway piano, much to our surprise and delight. Normally, guides say things like, “Don’t touch anything or take any pictures.” Then, upon my asking (pleading, actually), she allowed us to climb the flight of stairs into the attic rooms of the third level. These are the rooms where Henry David Thoreau stayed when he visited the Emersons, and again, most tourists never see them.

Old North Bridge

After those special favors we walked outside into the sunshine of 75 degree temperatures and strolled down to the bridge that spans the river in their backyard. Now our attentions shifted to historical events rather than literary writers, because this is the very place where the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. “Here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.”

We’re not done yet! Our next thrill would take place about a mile and a half away as we arrived at Walden Pond, the scene of Henry David Thoreau’s great experiment of living alone in a hut for over two years. We walked all the way around the pond (1.7 miles), and then a few of us jumped into the lake to swim! Those who had forgotten their swimsuits were left to envy those of us who remembered them.

Walden Pond

All things considered, it was a wonderful day of sunshine and surprises. Tomorrow will take us to Amherst to meet the poet Emily Dickinson.

Visiting Salem

Hi, it’s me, Dr. Moldenhauer again. Our travel course in New England continues.

Today we visited Salem, Massachusetts, the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is also the “witch city” where 19 people were executed in 1692 for suspected witchcraft.

Our main interest was in the House of the Seven Gables, however, the very home where Hawthorne played as a boy, and the subject of one of his famous novels.

House of Seven Gables

After touring it, we ate lunch and stood in line for the next tour, an interesting explanation of the Salem shipyard and a 1700’s era sailing ship tour.

Across the street we visited the Salem Custom House, the place where Hawthorne claimed to have found the the scarlet letter “A” which became the infamous symbol of another famous novel. The day was warm and sunny, and we used our remaining time to wander around the town center.

Upon our return to the Gordon College campus, several of us put on our swimming suits and took advantage of a nice swimming beach and pond that is situated on this lovely college campus. After the swim, we all played a game called farkle. My team lost.

Tomorrow will be a full day of author chasing in Concord, Massachusetts. We intend to visit homes and sites and graves of four famous authors who lived there: Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. If the weather is nice, we may jump into Walden Pond for a swim in Thoreau’s honor.

Tune in again to find out more about The Best of New England!

Best of New England Literary Tour Continues

It’s Day Two of the Best of New England Literary Tour! I’m Kristen Koepsell, WLC alumna (2003), currently residing and working near Madison, Wisconsin.

This morning we set out in the rain for South Berwick, Maine. On the way, Kayla S. set us up for our visit to the Sarah Orne Jewett House by sharing some details about Jewett’s life. Before the trip we all read her book The Country of the Pointed Firs, and were pleased to make our acquaintance with that lovely country, even if it was shrouded in mist most of the day. We had a personal guided tour of the Jewett house, given by two friendly guides (one with a decidedly New England accent, one without) who were kind enough to give the tour at a time when the Jewett House is not normally open. All of the furnishings of the home are period pieces; much of it is original to the house or to the Jewett family.

After lunch was the Isle of Shoals tour, embarking from Portsmouth (PORTS-meth), Maine. The Thomas Laighten took us nine miles out in the Atlantic and back, past the Portsmouth Naval Yard, several military outposts from the 1700s and 1800s, the only two lighthouses in New Hampshire (on the other side of the river), and numerous houses also dating back two centuries or more. Our turnaround point was the islands themselves, including Duck, Appledore (where Jewett’s dear friend Celia Thaxter lived), Star, and Smuttynose. Yes, Smuttynose, likely named for a dark outcropping of rock that looks like a nose blackened with soot. Though it was still overcast and a bit chilly, the water was fairly smooth and the tour quite enjoyable.

Our late afternoon was spent in the town of Portsmouth, a delightful place boasting its own fair share of historical homes and sites, including St. John’s Episcopal Church, which houses the United States’ oldest pipe organ, brought over in the mid-1600s. Sadly, the church wasn’t open when I went to see this unique instrument. After some pleasant shopping, walking and dining in Portsmouth, we made our way back to Gordon College to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s hometown of Salem, Massachusetts.

Blogging from New England

Hello there. This is Dr. Martin Moldenhauer, professor of English at Wisconsin Lutheran College. I am in Wenham, Massachusetts, staying at Gordon College in a very nice apartment-style dormitory room. Nine of my students are here also, taking a literature course from me, called “Best of New England.” We intend to post blogs on this site in a daily fashion, so do tune back in from time to time.

Old Ironsides

The intention of this course is to teach American authors of renown, linking each one to places of relevance to their lives and careers within the boundaries of New England. For instance, today we visited Boston sites, taking a tour of the Navy ship, the US Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides.” We learned how Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem that preserved this old ship from being scuttled, and she is still floating in the Boston harbor, as we proved today.

We can’t help but run into historical sites too, and we toured the Old North Church where the lantern signal alerted the colonists about the British invasion. We crossed the Charles River and stopped at Faneuil Hall to learn of more Revolutionary War incidents. Later we crossed the Boston Commons, and I told the students of Emerson’s famous step into a mud puddle which prompted his writing of “Nature,” the transcendentalist’s bible.

Today we traveled by van and subway, spending a great deal of time walking in historic Boston itself. We are tired now, but after sleeping we will be ready for a trip up into Maine, where we will hear about Sarah Orne Jewett, the author of “The Country of the Pointed Firs.” We will tour her house and see the very trees that inspired her title. After that we will journed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and hop on a boat for a voyage out into the Atlantic where many islands exist, the very islands Jewett writes about! It might be raining, but as one of my students said, “Who cares!”

I will have some of my students add information to this blog on future nights, and we will probably load a few pictures too.

Tune in again.

Group photo

Dr. Moldenhauer, signing off from just north of Boston

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Our final day in London was designated as free time for the veteran travelers and trustworthy group of Wisconsin Lutheran College students. They could choose their spots among many museums, a Thames River boat ride, Olympic sites, and even shopping.

With one lesson on Best of Britain left, we agreed to meet at the Globe for our final play, Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” performed in the exact replica of Shakespeare’s thatched theatre: wooden benches, groundlings, open roof, and all. To a person, we enjoyed the actual performance just as the Londoners of 1600 would have done.

One last walk over the Millennium Bridge, a late night train ride home to Catford, and our trip to England is almost over. Tomorrow we pack up early and head to Heathrow Airport for our eight-hour journey back to America.

Students in front of The Shard, which will be the tallest building in Western Europe

To all parents and friends of these eight students, I would proclaim my admiration and appreciation for them all. Cooperation and civility were obvious, and they each participated in their own style and manner, making this a fine and successful conclusion of “Best of Britain.” God blessed us with wonderful experiences and safe travel.

This is Dr. Moldenhauer signing off for Best of Britain. Cheers!