Something I’ve struggled with in my life is maintaining habits on the move. It’s difficult to keep up with routine when you’re out of your element. With family and friends scattered around the country, and my partner and I being childless, we are often the ones on the move — so maintaining my habits where ever I am has been a focus for the past year or two.
Which leads me to the Wonder Walk I took while visiting family in small town New England, land belonging to the Wampanoag, Pokanoket, and Massachusett people.
It’s always a bit nostalgic to visit, as this place was once my home, and for awhile I still considered it home. My relationship with this place is complicated. It’s filled with love, nostalgia, and a lot of anger and bitterness, too.
As a queer person, and one who has moved around a lot, I’ve always felt like an “other” — an outsider. This was regularly confirmed by family and peers while growing up there. It’s difficult to build security in oneself with that looming around. Despite this, after moving away, I latched onto the identity of being from New England. I ached to belong and that’s where I felt the first scrap of that in my life.
Today–as I continue to attempt to heal from the trauma of my formative years there and all of the damage done by well-intended loved ones as we all swam in the thick, messy soup of puritanical values, extremely gendered expectations, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic attitudes of suburban, small town New England in the 90’s and early 2000’s– my relationship with this place has changed. I no longer see it as home.
I could write about this for pages, but I’ll just note that this shift has landed me some place closer to acceptance — acceptance for being an outsider to this place, and from greater cis-heteronormative society in general. For that I feel sense of clarity and a sense of gratitude. I feel closer to self-acceptance and self-love. So, that is the lens upon which I absorbed and contemplated what I saw on this little joyful jaunt. Here are some thing reflection:
I love the massive granite curbs. I think they’re brilliant for maintaining the roads through winter. The plows are not going to crack those like they do all the asphalt and concrete. Makes sense too with all the granite around the region.
It’s a love-hate relationship that I have with the winding roads. They’re gorgeous and they make it easy to imagine how people slowly scattered about and built with no real plans or forethought about faster, more direct means of travel. They also scare me because of how people drive, especially distracted with their cellphones.
Stumbling upon four-hundred year old colonial houses is also a treat. I love to imagine the many lives lived in those walls– if only they could talk. The particular house I’m referring to was that of Hannah Adams – the first woman to have worked professionally as a writer in the U.S. I don’t know much about her except that she was a religious scholar. I imagine she was stern, not going on many wonder walks herself.
Just down the street lived another Adams who was a lieutenant for the British army. He was killed on his doorstep in the 1676 by Native Americans during King Phillip’s War — their retaliation for breaking treaties and encroaching on Native land.
I enjoy imagining what this land looked like then, before the colonists carved out roads and built their wooden homes. Was there a native village here? Was it much swampier? Was the ravine a full creek? A lush off-shoot of the current river winding through? Were there paths leading down to the shores of it? Did they swim here on hot days? Fish here for food?
Despite the colonial history and my own rugged past here, there’s quite a bit of charm. Life is bitter and sweet and ambiguous. Sometimes it can be excruciating to sit in between this paradox– other times it feels like a balm. This truth seems to seep out of the hand built stone fences. It tickles the towering pines and reflects in the way the golden hour sun turns the trees into silly giant shadows; and you can hear it just slightly in the quiet suburban hum of life in the distance.
Thanks for coming along on this walk with me. Check out walks one and two to see how I pair them with audio-visual renditions of the Wonder Walks.
Stay tuned for Wonder Walk #3 videos.
Stay humble, friend,
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